A toxic Iranian ménage à trois

My latest take on the Iranian nuclear issue published by New Europe. An adapted version of this article featured in Hürriyet Daily news

The debate on how to tackle Iran’s nuclear ambitions is once again dominating the political arena in Israel and the United States following the assassination of a nuclear scholar in Teheran. With the Mossad most likely behind the targeted killing, it seems Israel has chosen covert warfare as the preferred tactic in hindering Iran’s progress in acquiring nuclear capabilities.

Questions are currently being raised in Washington and other Western capitals whether to support covert warfare and even military intervention. Before the EU enters a potential devastating regional conflict, it would be wise to review the three parties involved.

The regime in Teheran strives to become the ‘top dog’ in the region. Boosted by the fall of its main adversary, Saddam Hussein, the Shi’a regime strongly feels now is the time to emerge as the most dominant player in the Middle East. Moreover, the regime seeks to uphold the idea that Iran is under threat. With the 2009 green movement revolts in memory, the regime seeks to unite its people in the face of foreign enemies, primarily Israel and the US. It needs this spectre of near-war and will continue to feed it with bold statements and displays of power in order to legitimize its own crippling, authoritarian rule.

As the current Arab Awakening shuffles the Middle East, it is unmistakable that the EU should distance itself from Teheran more and more.

Israel, although a functioning democracy, is far from a beacon of European values. The country is engaged in a decade-long occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the current right-wing government seems more interested in pleasing its settler community than reaching out in peace to the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestine papers, released last year by Al Jazeera, elucidate that the Palestinian Authority was eager to come to an agreement. It offered to give up pretty much all of its desired future capital (East-Jerusalem) in exchange for a peace deal, which was rejected by Israel. As the settlement growth is still ongoing at rapid pace, it is apparent that the Netanyahu government is more interested in consolidating support from the ultra-orthodoxShas party than in peace with Palestinians.

In addition, it is no longer a secret that Israel has acquired a significant stockpile of nukes; estimates range from 75 to up to 400 warheads. This was a well-known secret for years until two years ago when a document from a meeting in 1975 between Shimon Peres and the South African apartheid regime was revealed. Peres, then the defence minister, offered to sell nuclear weapons “in three sizes.”

Supporting a nuclear power entrenched in military occupation and resisting peace is not the kind of partner with whom Europe should engage.

The US is also struggling with its own moral leadership. The Arab Awakening has revealed the US has always nurtured dictatorships in the Middle East under the guise of “regional stability”.

Its continuous support for Israel has alienated the Arab street from President Obama. Recent polls by the Arab American Institute Foundation indicate that 90 percent of the Egyptian people believe Obama has not met the standards that he set in his Cairo speech three years ago. Even in Arab states aligned with the US, a large majority of the population does not agree with current American policies. From Morocco to the UAE, less than 10 percent support Obama’s policies.

Entangled in Guantanamo, supporting dictatorships and unable to assert itself as honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama is clearly struggling with positioning the US as a moral leader in a time of crisis.

All three parties concerned are severely flawed. Iran is worse than Israel and the US in regards of dealing with its own people, but that does not make its adversaries great partners by default.

The Arab protesters who are defying dictatorship by taking to the street show an equal loathing of Iran, Israel and the US. And for good reasons. If the EU’s foreign policy is really banking on promoting its European values – such as democracy, justice and peace – it would be wise to follow the example of the Arab protesters and stay out of this toxic ménage à trois.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s