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Guest Opinion Jostling for hegemony

By URI AVNERY

And what if the whole drama was only an exercise of deception?

What if the wily Persians did not even dream of building an atomic bomb, but used the threat to fur-ther their real aims?

What if Benjamin Netanyahu was duped to be-come unwittingly the main collaborator of Iranian am-bitions?

Sounds crazy? Not really. Let’s have a look at the facts.

Iran is one of the oldest powers in the world, with thousands of years of political experience. Once they possessed an empire that spanned the civilized world, including our little country. Their reputation for clever trade practices is unequaled. They are much too clever to build a nuclear weapon. What for? It would devour huge amounts of money. They know that they would never be able to use it. Same as Israel, with its large stockpile.

Netanyahu’s nightmare of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel is just that — a nightmare of an igno-rant dilettante. Israel is a nuclear power with a solid second-strike capability. As we see, the Iranian leaders are hard-boiled realists. Would they even dream of inviting an inevitable Israeli retaliation that would wipe from the face of the earth their three-millennia-old civilization?

So perhaps they traded their nonexistent nuclear designs for their very real political design: To become the hegemon of the Muslim world.

If so, they owe a lot to Netanyahu.

What has Tehran ever done in its 45 years of ex-istence to harm Israel?

Sure. Tehran crowds can be seen on television burning Israeli flags and shouting “Death to Israel.” They call us, not flatteringly, “the Little Satan,” as com-pared to the American “Great Satan.”

Terrible. But what else?

Not much. Perhaps some support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which were not their creation. Iran’s real design is against the countries in the Muslim world. They want to turn the region’s countries into Iranian vassals, as they were 2,400 years ago.


This has very little to do with Islam. Iran uses Is-lam as Israel uses Zionism and the Jewish Diaspora as a tool for its imperial ambitions.

What is happening now in this region resembles the “religious wars” in 17th century Europe. A dozen countries fought each other in the name of religion, under the flags of Catholicism and Protestantism, but in reality using religion to further their very earthly imperial designs.


The US, led by a bunch of neocons, destroyed Iraq, which for many centuries had served as the bul-wark of the Arab world against Iranian expansion. Now, under the banner of the Shiite, Iran is trying to expand its power all over the region. Shiite Iraq is now to a large extent an Iranian vassal. The leaders of Syria, a Sunni country ruled by a small semi-Shiite sect, depend on Iran for their survival. In Lebanon, the Shiite Hezbol-lah is a close ally with growing power and prestige. So is Hamas in Gaza, which is entirely Sunni. And the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are Zaidis (a school of the Shiite.)


President Obama and his advisers realized this some time ago. Their new alliance with Iran is partly based on this reality.
With the advent of Daesh, realities on the ground have changed completely. The shift reaffirms the old British maxim that one’s enemies in one war can well become one’s allies in the next, and vice versa. Far from being na├»ve, Obama is building an alliance against the new and very dangerous enemy. This alliance should logically include Bashar Assad’s Syria, but Obama is still afraid of saying so aloud. Obama and his advisers also believe that with the lifting of the crip-pling sanctions, Iranians will concentrate on making money, lessening their nationalist and religious fervor even more. That sounds reasonable enough.


One by-product of the situation is that Israel is again at loggerheads with the entire political world. The Vienna treaty was signed not just by the US, but by all leading world powers. This seems to create the situ-ation described by a jolly popular Israeli song: “The whole world is against us/But we don’t give a damn…” The present Iranian regime has long since lost its revo-lutionary religious fervor. It is acting according to its national interests. Geography still counts. A wise Israeli government would use the next ten-or-more years of a guaranteed nuclear-free Iran in order to renew the alliance, especially against Daesh.
But such far-reaching considerations are far from the mind of Netanyahu, the son of a historian, who is devoid of any historical knowledge or intuition.

The fight is now going to Washington DC, where Netanyahu will be fully committed as a mercenary of Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Republican Party.

It is a sorry sight: The State of Israel, which has always enjoyed the full unblinking support of both American parties, has become an appendix of the reactionary Republican leadership. One victim of this is the legend of the “invincible” pro-Israeli lobby. This crucial asset has now been lost. From now on, AIPAC will be just one of the many lob-bies on Capitol Hill. An even sorrier sight is Israel’s political and media elite on the morrow of the signing of the Vienna treaty. It was almost incredible. Almost all political parties fell in line with Netanyahu’s poli-cy, competing with each other in their demonstrations of abject loyal-ty. From the “leader of the opposition,” the pitiful Yitzhak Herzog, to the voluble Yair Lapid, everybody rushed to support the prime minis-ter at this crucial hour.

The media were even worse. Almost all prominent commenta-tors, left and right, ran amok against the ‘disastrous” treaty and heaped their uniform disgust and contempt on poor Obama, as if reading from a prepared government “list of arguments” (as indeed they were).
Not the finest hour of Israeli democracy and the much lauded “Jewish brain.” Just a despicable example of all-too-common brain-washing.

One of Netanyahu’s arguments is that the Iranians can and will cheat the naive Americans and build the bomb. He is sure that this is possible. Well, he should know. We did it, didn’t we?
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