When Binyamin Netanyahu stood before the US Congress last week and delivered a series of warnings about the dangers of the United States forging a deal with Iran over its development of a nuclear energy capability, it was yet another spectacle of the absurd from the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu has predicted an Iranian nuclear weapons capability with comically regular imprecision, his doom-laden prophecies stretching back to at least 1992, when the Iranian regime was, according to this would-be Elijah, allegedly five years away from the bomb.
|Iran is neither a nuclear threat or the new Third Reich. But it is stoking a sectarian war in Syria.|
While Netanyahu insults the rest of the world’s intelligence with these claims, he also actively contradicts Israel’s own intelligence. In 2012, just after Netanyahu had delivered yet another of his preposterous displays, this time to the UN General Assembly, complete with that infamously absurd infographic claiming Iran was 70 percent of the way to constructing an atom bomb, leaked cables show that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad were saying the exact opposite – all of their own evidence pointed to Iran developing a peaceful nuclear energy programme.
So why is Netanyahu hell-bent on convincing the world that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and, furthermore, that it is actively committed to the destruction of Israel? The answer lies in a combination of what is undoubtedly a sincere belief that Iran having any kind of nuclear capability would severely undermine Israel’s own illegal regional monopoly on having nuclear weapons, a key aspect of its regional dominance, while it’s also used by Netanyahu and the pro-Israel hawks among the US political class as a means to weaken Hamas’s only current ally in the region.
Amidst all this talk about an Iranian nuclear capability and its alleged threat to world peace, as Netanyahu put it, something is lost, namely the actual threat Iran poses to those within the region, most notably not Israel. It was almost sickening to sit and listen to Netanyahu, a war criminal in his own right, responsible for the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza just a few months ago, and the representative of a highly aggressive state that is currently illegally and brutally occupying and annexing Palestinian land, conjure the Iranian-backed Assad regime’s slaughter in Syria and Iran’s sectarian interference in Iraq for his own squalid purposes.
The Syrian people currently fighting for freedom will, like the Palestinians, find no friend in Netanyahu. However, discarding Netanyahu’s cynical intentions, it is completely true that Iran constitutes a serious threat to the region in numerous ways.
What about Syria and Iraq?
The rehabilitation of Iran among a significant section of the US political establishment may very well be good for the Iranian regime, with the always quite marginal, but not entirely insubstantial, threat of the US ever conducting or supporting any military action over the nuclear issue now fully abated. But it’s quite a different story for Syrians or Iraqis. While some of those on the political left see US rapprochement with Iran as being akin to “peace in our times”, there will be no peace for Syrians. The Assad regime is only able to conduct its near-genocidal war against the Syrian people not only with Iranian material aid and mobilisation of its regional sectarian proxy forces, but through direct intervention involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The current focus on the alleged Iranian nuclear threat (or lack of) tends to miss if not actively ignore the host of brutal crimes that the Iranian regime and its allies are actively committing. The nuclear issue and Israel’s jingoistic hubris are in this respect inconsequential. Behind the nuclear deal, it seems that Iran and the US are also converging ever more deeply over the “war on terror”, a process that has been sped up by the rise of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly Isis). However, what the logic behind this unholy alliance omits is that it’s precisely because of Iran’s intervention on behalf of the Assad regime that IS has been able to rise so rapidly and entrench itself within the embattled and terrorised Sunni communities in Syria. Iran and the Assad regime provide IS with its own ultra-sectarian logic – they provide it with roots.
The same is true in Iraq, where Iran’s dominance manifests through its sponsoring and marshalling of various different Shia militias that are currently formally leading the charge in the sectarian Iraqi government’s ‘counter-insurgency’ against IS, but they also find time to commit brutal reprisal attacks against Sunnis and use the pretext of IS to ethnically cleanse Sunni towns. Not only does the US shoulder a similar responsibility given the fact that it has been the primary sponsor of the sectarian regime in Iraq, along with the fact that it waged the criminal war that first unleashed the forces of what would eventually become IS, but it now works as a veritable air force for these Iranian proxy militias, while also providing arms and equipment to them.
Iran is neither a nuclear threat or the new Third Reich. But it is stoking of sectarian war in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime and reinforcing sectarianism in Iraq. These have been the most immediate factors in the current chaos that has engulfed these two countries and which threatens to engulf the entire region. Netanyahu and the US hawks that hang on his every word may not provide any solutions, as they themselves are part of the problem, but the realpolitik that lies behind this new phase in the seemingly endless and wholly destructive “war on terror”, namely the current rapprochement of the US and Iran, is yet another major blow for all those forces within the region that support freedom and democracy.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.