The First Word: A tryst with destiny

A sustained and far-reaching campaign of psychological warfare against Iran is critical.

ahmadinejad looks up 298 (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad looks up 298
(photo credit: AP)
Psychological warfare is the use of psychological means of disinformation and dissimulation to confound and confuse the enemy. I once dabbled in it myself in the early Sixties when, with the connivance of a respectable daily newspaper as distributor, we in the Foreign Ministry produced a fortnightly called The Jerusalem Intelligence Report. It was a rehashed and sanitized version of classified analyses on Middle Eastern affairs prepared by the Foreign Ministry's research department, and lavishly laced with toxic and disingenuous "facts" calculated to vilify and malign our adversaries. The Report boasted a respectable roster of subscribers, one of whom was the editor of an Indian newspaper who offered me a job. He wrote to say how impressed he was with the range and depth of the publication and, seeking a presence in Jerusalem, asked if I would be his paper's stringer. What followed was shameless bluffing. In addition to legitimate news stories I would systematically plant apocryphal items, a notable one (inspired by an Arthur Koestler yarn) reading thus: "Under a flag of truce, a secret midnight meeting of Israeli and Egyptian officers took place last night at a remote level crossing in Sinai. The officers took cover when a supply truck loaded with eggs appeared from the direction of El Arish and collided with a freight train carrying butter en route to Port Said. As a result of the crash the truck caught fire. There were no casualties. But the eggs and the butter were fried into an enormous omelet weighing more than a ton on which the officers breakfasted before returning to their respective lines." This lampoon was dispatched on April Fool's Day 1962, and was published as fact. Deceptive and disingenuous operations are, of course, a deadly serious affair. They are complex, intricate and sometimes dangerous, involving many talents, techniques and resources. All sides employ them in war. Iran is doing so now. POLITICALLY AND diplomatically we are very much back in the 1930s as we watch a focused, defiant and fanatic Teheranian dictator, fired by a nihilistic ideology, facing down the mumbling, shuffling and procrastinating appeasers of the European Union and the United Nations. Just as the enlightened world didn't take the Nazis seriously then, enlightened Europe is largely not taking the Islamists seriously now. The one big difference between then and now, of course, is that then we were helpless, powerless and homeless. Now we are not. Now we, too, can play at the same game. In this light, given the enormity of the out-and-out horror the Iranian regime is concocting for us in its demented religious self-intoxication, driven by a theology celebrating a cult of death and a will to vaporize us and conquer the world, our public response seems to me to be asinine. Here stands a Nazified Teheran threatening the Jewish state with nuclear annihilation, and the best we can do is mouth protests as we try to rally a complacent family of nations to our side. Where is the sense of irrepressible outrage, the uncontainable fury emanating from the deepest depths of a people's soul, bled white not once, not twice, but century after century, and threatened now, once more, with obliteration by an insane foe? Where is the voice of national leadership capable not merely of Knesset rhetoric or GA oratory, but of vehemently and compellingly articulating again and again to the whole world the profoundest Jewish truths of our national rebirth, and of our resolve to preserve and protect it by whatever means? A SUSTAINED and far-reaching campaign of psychological warfare is critical to this purpose. Ingenious covert false-flag operations, meaning cunning tactics untraceable to Israel, must be mounted to keep the enemy off balance and make other capitals sit up. Actions must be initiated to put the foe in the dock, literally and metaphorically. Israel's one-time highly evocative image of "Shimshon der nebichdicker" needs to be robustly revived - the image of a people tough as nails yet worthy of international sympathy and backing, confronted as it is by such a foul fiend. And it must be hammered home to the Iranian people by means fair and foul that the distance from Tel Aviv to Teheran is exactly the same as that from Teheran to Tel Aviv, with all that that implies. And if none of this helps, if the Europeans and the United Nations continue to wobble in appeasement for whatever reason - be it because of China or of Russia or both - a day will inevitably arrive when a president of the United States, and/or a prime minister of Israel will have to confront a choice between deploying force to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, or allowing it to acquire them. If the Iranians are allowed to acquire the Bomb, the nuclear proliferation of the Middle East would have begun and, with it, the most dangerous era in modern history. Nobody knows for sure when Teheran will begin its final countdown for the acquisition of the Bomb, so no one can say now whether it will be President George W. Bush and/or Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who will be charged with making the earth-shattering decision to take military action to defang Iran - or their successors. Whoever it will be, whoever will be called upon to make that Kennedy-like judgment, it will be a tryst with destiny. I HAVE seen Israeli leaders, people of extraordinary courage and conviction, in hours of excruciating decision-making stress - like Eshkol in the Six Day War, Golda in the Yom Kippur War, Rabin at Entebbe, Begin at the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor. I have seen the look on their faces when their cabinet ministers and senior officers rise to leave the room once the fateful decision has been made, the sound of the closing door, the hush that follows, the shudder of knowledge that because of the decision just taken people are going to die - that the hands on the clock show that the inferno will shortly erupt. At such moments, just before the fuse is about to burn, when there is still time to ponder, to wonder if the decision is the right one - is it truly imperative? Is there no other choice, some other way out? - at such moments I have seen such people's lips tremble in prayer, people who have never prayed before. And their prayers have been answered. But it must not come to this. Governments must be convinced of Israel's incalculable unpredictability if pushed too far, so that their own best interests are better served by counter actions initiated by themselves first. This nuclear season of discontent will not pass until there is an international grasp that we, the Jewish state, are not merely blowing off steam, that all free nations lie in the path of the gathering tempest blowing from Teheran, and that there can be neither rest nor tranquility for anyone anywhere until this tempest is utterly quelled. The writer is a veteran diplomat and was a member of staff for five prime ministers. [email protected]