Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Iran: Look again, the view might change

Iran: the enemy that almost isn't
Doug Saunders, The Globe and Mail: In that spring [2003], Mr. Khatami sent a Swiss official to Washington to make the peace offer. In exchange for recognizing Israel, cutting off Hamas and proving it had abolished any nuclear-weapons plans, Iran wanted an end to sanctions, normal diplomatic relations with the US and recognition of its role in the region. So what happened? Well, nothing. George W. Bush was president, the Iraq war was just approaching the 'mission accomplished' phase, and nobody in the White House thought it would look good to make peace with Iran... As one State Department official directly involved with the Iranian offer told me, "It was like we missed the biggest Middle East peace opportunity of the decade, just so we could keep saying, 'axis of evil.'"...

"As long as we are monitoring their facilities," IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei said recently, "they cannot develop nuclear weapons. And they still do not have the ingredients to make a bomb overnight." The countries that have actually produced atom bombs on the sly in recent years -- India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -- have done so by refusing to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so there are no inspectors.

Jim Lobe, Asia Times: After eight years of the closest possible relations, the United States and Israel may be headed for a period of increased strain... Iran, with which President Barack Obama has pledged to engage in a 'constructive dialogue,' and the future of its nuclear program will no doubt be the greatest source of tension between the two allies. The new president's commitment to achieving real progress on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may also provoke serious friction. This will particularly be the case should a reunified Arab League launch a major new push for the adoption of its 2002 peace plan, which provides for Arab recognition of Israel in return for the latter's withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands.

The Telegraph [UK]: With co-operation from the United States, covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain... As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result....

Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported 'gas poisoning' in 2007. Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli 'hits'... according to Western intelligence analysts. 'Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past,' said a European intelligence official... 'They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can.'

Der Spiegel interviews former Knesset President Avraham Burg.
Burg: Israel is like an abused child who becomes a violent parent. If there is a collective like the Jews which was so brutally abused, is it possible that this collective will never be able to liberate itself form the trauma? Is it possible that this nation will never get out of this vicious circle?...
Spiegel: 'The Shoah is more present in our lives than God,' you wrote. That sounds like blasphemy.
Burg: How can the truth be blasphemous?... When you use the Holocaust as a total example to compare everything against, by the end of the day you annihilate so many things. You say to yourself, Gaza? Well, it was not nice, but it wasn't the gas chambers, either. This is the logic: Because nothing is the Holocaust, everything is permitted.

Roger Cohen, The New York Times: I inquired how he felt about the chants that punctuate life in Iran. "Let them say 'Death to Israel,'" he said. "I've been in this store 43 years and never had a problem. I've visited my relatives in Israel, but when I see something like the attack on Gaza, I demonstrate, too, as an Iranian."... Perhaps 25,000 Jews live on in Iran, the largest such community, along with Turkey's in the Muslim Middle East. There are more than a dozen synagogues in Tehran; here in Esfahan a handful caters to about 1,200 Jews, descendants of an almost 3,000-year-old community...

I asked Morris Motamed, once the Jewish member of the Majlis, if he felt he was used, an Iranian quisling. "I don't," he replied. "In fact I feel deep tolerance here toward Jews." He said 'Death to Israel' chants bother him, but went on to criticize the 'double standards' that allow Israel, Pakistan and India to have a nuclear bomb, but not Iran... One way to look at Iran's scurrilous anti-Israel tirades is as a provocation to focus people on Israel's bomb, its 41-year occupation of the West Bank, its Hamas denial, its repetitive use of overwhelming force. Iranian language can be vile, but any Middle East peace -- and engagement with Tehran -- will have to take account of these points.
Image source here.