Rhetoric out of Israel heats up before talks with Iran
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked controversy in Israel when he secretly made a visit to Moscow and had his aids lie to the Israeli press.
Netanyahu could have urged Russia to stop selling anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, weapons that would make an Israel air strike more difficult.
Another possible reason for the visit is that Israel wanted to discuss the details of the disappearance of a Russian cargo ship in the last month and the contents of the ship which may have included arms destined for Iran.
Netanyahu may also have wanted to inform the leadership in Moscow of an inevitable strike by Israel on Iran in the coming weeks or months. But these topics are nothing more than speculation.
Reports from inside Israel show that a significant number of Israeli troops have been ordered to the northern border shared by Lebanon and Israel.
I as well as many others believe that if Israel was to strike Iran a form of asymmetrical warfare would ensue, which would include an attempt by Nasrallah and Hezbollah in Lebanon to carry out successful attacks against Israel.
The tension on the Israeli Lebanese border has been building for weeks, not only because of the increased Israeli troop presence on the Israeli side but also rockets being fired from Lebanon into northern Israel.
The US and Israel will soon be carrying out joint military exercises after which the US will be leaving behind a air defense system. This air defense system would be essential to defense against retaliation for any attack carried out by Israel.
All of these developments come just weeks before talks are set to begin between Iran and the West concerning the Iranian nuclear program.
It is clear that the US and the West will come to the table demanding that Iran halt their nuclear program. However it is not yet exactly clear what Iran’s demands will be.
It is likely that Iran will attempt to shift the discussion away from its own nuclear program and demand disarmament of the entire region, which would include Israel.
A recent development that could jeopardize the coming talks before they start is the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he wants tougher sanctions on Iran immediately.
In the Prime Minister’s words, “If not now, when?”
He also recently made a public statement saying expansion of settlements to the West will not come to a complete stop.
The EU while they have said that they support strong sanctions as well as possible military strikes, but only if the diplomatic option is fully exhausted.
The main game that Iran is playing right now is desperately trying to buy themselves more time. They know that once they have the missile capability and the nuclear fissile material for a nuclear weapon, the game will be over and the West will treat them as equals.
Meanwhile the West is attempting to rush through the diplomatic process as quickly as possible, without losing the apparent legitimacy of the talks. In short the diplomatic process has to appear just through enough to justify military strikes. Iran, in proposals that they handed over to the US and others last week stated that their nuclear program is not up for discussion, however they said they were interested in discussing global disarmament.
The ultimate question in this complex scenario is how Iran would react to military strikes by Israel or any element of the West. While there is no doubt that the leadership in Tehran has contingency plans in place for strikes on their country, whether “surgical” or broad scale, they have kept these plans out of the public eye, no doubt hoping to give would be attackers pause before striking.
One consequence of military strikes on Iran would be to legitimize their nuclear program, because once they were hit they could make an appeal to the international community that they were under threat and therefore needed a nuclear weapon as a deterrent.
As if things were not complex enough, there seems to be a power struggle going on at the very top of the leadership in Tehran between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The first sign of this struggle was when Ahmadinejad dismissed intelligence official Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, who was well respected in Tehran and replaced him with an inexperienced loyalist, Heidar Moslehi. Ahmadinejad has since gone on to nominate what many in Tehran are calling, “inexperienced, Ahmadinejad loyalist,” many of whom come from the Revolutionary Guard.
This power struggle complicates the coming talks. If the power struggle continues at the top, there is no way of knowing if any hypothetical diplomatic agreements will hold any weight in the real world.
Also the US simply needs to understand just what it is that the Iranian regime wants, because while they would benefit from having a nuclear program, there is a chance that they would agree to a large scale bargain and table their nuclear program, however where it becomes complicated is that many of the compromises would have to be made by Israel. And the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv at the moment does not bode well for such compromises to be made.
In other words the US and Israel need to get on the same page in order to have successful talks.