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IRAN & SYRIA - ISRAEL PLAYS IT COOL

Rouhani giving campaign speech. Photo Credit: Ansari, wikipedia user

Israel has reacted coolly to two new developments in the Middle East - the surprise victory of 'moderate' cleric Hassan Rohani in Iran's presidential election, and the U.S. decision to supply weapons to Syria's rebels. It's still early days and it remains to be seen how the situations will play out. 

Iran's President Elect Hassan Rouhani

 First to Iran – ‘don't confuse appearances with reality’, was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's reaction. In a televised statement to the cabinet, the Israeli people and the world Netanyahu said: 'The international community must not be caught up in wishful thinking about the new Iranian president. Now is not the time to relax sanctions aimed at halting Iran's nuclear program!' State President Shimon Peres was more optimistic: 'I do not know what will happen now, but I feel the situation will be better than what it has been'. Cabinet Minister Tzipi Livi echoed the Center's reaction by saying: 'Rouhani will now be judged by his deeds and not his words'. On the Left, Opposition Labor Shelli Yachimovich advised a 'wait and see' approach, and criticized the PM's reaction. 

A more 'moderate' leader in domestic politics can be far more effective as a front man than Ahmadinejad on the nuclear issue abroad.

 Although the election outcome is a blow to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the new president is part and parcel of the Islamist regime. Otherwise, he would not have been allowed to run. It's not that he's a democrat opposed to his country's nuclear weapons drive and Islamist aspirations - he simply believes there is a 'more friendly' way of going about it. In the campaign, he blamed his predecessor Muhammad Ahmadinejad for arousing the ire of the West that resulted in the harsh sanctions that have devastated Iran's economy. Rouhani proposed a more 'flexible' approach in the nuclear negotiations but not a halt to the weapons project. However, make no mistake - in Tehran, the Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls the shots on the nuclear project, and Khamenei is gung ho for A-bombs. Behind the scenes, it has been Khamenei who has led the IAEA and Western nuclear negotiators 'in circles' while escalating Iran's nuclear development to the brink of a breakout for nuclear weapons. Will that suddenly change because a majority of Iranians would prefer to see a shift from the regime's 'guns for butter' policy? The Ayatollahs view their nuclear program as an insurance policy for guaranteeing the survival of their fanatical regime and promoting their political aspirations in the region and beyond. So look for the incoming president to adopt a new rhetoric that sounds more compromising, and herein lies the problem. A more 'moderate' leader in domestic politics can be far more effective as a front man than Ahmadinejad on the nuclear issue abroad. Case in point: Rohani supported a halt in uranium enrichment in 2003. He feared that America might extend its Iraqi invasion right on into Iran, if Tehran did not halt the enrichment. When the winds of the Second Gulf War eventually died down, Tehran again turned up the uranium centrifuges.   

 Impact on Washington...

The bottom line: look for President Rouhani to seek less confrontation with the West while Iran's nuclear clock keeps ticking.

 Rouhani's election may grant U.S. President Barack Obama some more diplomatic rope for delaying any final decision on attacking Iran. And this is also why Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, on a trip to Washington, stated categorically: 'Rouhani's election will have no effect on Iran's nuclear weapons program'. Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs declared: 'Now is actually the time to step up sanctions because Tehran is dangerously close to breaking out for the Bomb!' So in Jerusalem, Israeli policy makers will be watching and waiting and no doubt also about a new wave of rosy predictions like those that swept the U.S. capital after the toppling of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Initially, many politicians and pundits erred in their predicting that the 'Arab Spring' would usher in a new era of democracy. There is the risk this could happen again. What can be said is that Rouhani was the sole reformist candidate who ran against the other five hardliners closely linked to Khamenei. Again, Israeli experts contended that Rouhani was also on good terms with Khamenei, nor was he likely to challenge him on the nuclear issue. In the election, many impoverished young Iranians showed up to vote,  hoping, you guessed it, for 'change'. And in contrast to 2009, there was no vote rigging that triggered the weeks of violent protest in Tehran and other cities. But if the balloting reflected a popular demand for a better standard of living this is not likely to happen, if it means the regime must give up its nuclear weapons drive. Remember the Islamic Republic of Iran is still an Islamist dictatorship, not a Western democracy where popular demand holds sway. The bottom line: look for President Rouhani to seek less confrontation with the West while Iran's nuclear clock keeps ticking.

 Moreover, the view from Jerusalem is there will be no let- up in Iran's massive support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Bashar Assad in Syria.  

Not only will an old 'Cold War' climate now envelop U.S.- Russian relations once American weapons start reaching the rebels, not to speak of a possible no-fly zone, the Sunni-Shi'a rift in Islam is also deepening...

 U.S. to arm Syrian rebels...

 In April, a senior Israeli intelligence officer shocked American leaders (as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu) by publicly stating that Assad's forces were definitely using chemical weapons against the rebels. This put President Obama on the spot after the U.S. leader had previously warned there would be consequences. France and Britain subsequently verified Israel's findings and now the U.S. has followed suit. Just what weapons the U.S. will supply the Free Syria Army is not clear, nor whether Washington will enforce a no-fly zone over Syria to prevent the Syrian army from bombing the rebel fighters and population centers. After Assad's forces, which were reinforced by Hezbollah and Iranian 'volunteers', took the town of Qusayr and recaptured Kuneitra on the Golan Heights, the U.S. apparently decided it did have sufficient evidence to make the chemical weapons charge stick. Moreover, the latest U.N. number of 93,000 fatalities in the two years of civil war has forced the U.S. to do something in light of Russia's massive arms shipments to the bad guy, Bashar Assad. One can only wonder at the chutzpa of Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov for protesting America’s 'breach of international law'. For its part, Israel has tried hard to stay out of the civil war, firing back only when fired upon on the Golan Heights. In addition, Israel has and will bomb any Syrian attempts to smuggle more advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If and when the U.S. makes good on arming the rebels, Assad's forces and their allies could retaliate by attacking the 'little Satan'. Not only will an old 'Cold War' climate now envelop U.S.- Russian relations once American weapons start reaching the rebels, not to speak of a possible no-fly zone, the Sunni-Shi'a rift in Islam is also deepening. Egypt's Sunni President Muhammad Morsi has just severed diplomatic relations with the Assad regime. A leading Sunni cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has castigated the Shi'a Hezbollah 'for slaughtering Sunni men, women and children in Syria'. He branded Hezbollah, the party of God in Arabic, as the ' Party of Satan'. Speaking at a rally in the Gulf State of Dubai, Qaradawi called on every trained Sunni Muslim to join the jihad against Assad. 

 Perfidious Albion & the Brits' boycotting of Israel...

Elkins compared the British campaign of brutality with the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews and the Turkish genocide of the Armenians.

 It has to be one of the biggest international cover-ups of the twentieth century - Britain's sadistic suppression of the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya during the 1950s. Up to 300,000 men, women and children of the Kikuyu tribe were murdered and countless more were severely tortured. Harvard University historian Caroline Elkins researched the atrocities for ten years, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and wrote a book entitled 'Imperial Reckoning - The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya', that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Elkins compared the British campaign of brutality with the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews and the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. However until now, Britain has continually denied any responsibility for the systematic campaign of torture and murder, and refused to pay any compensation to survivors. At long last, the Brits have owned up, if only barely. It took a decade in London's High Court before the British government finally agreed to compensate 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured and abused - each is to receive a paltry 2,670 pounds. This was not a case of a few sadistic 'bad apples' in the colonial office - documents finally released proved that responsibility went right up to cabinet level in the government of Harold Macmillan's Conservative government. 

photo credit: takver, wikipedia user

 I chose to dwell on this appalling episode in order to draw attention to the unofficial British boycotts against the entire State of Israel. The reasons given are Israeli settlements in the West Bank or for firing back into Gaza after Palestinian rocketing. Did these noble minded Brits, including Stephen Hawking who communicates with the aid of an Israeli invention, ever protest against their country's disgusting policy after the occupation of Kenya, or elsewhere in the Empire? And what of Britain’s war for the British’s own settlement in the Falklands (Islas Malvinas) on the other side of world, nearly 8,000 miles from London, but only 300 miles off the coast of Argentina? That is not to say that Brits should refrain from critizing Israel's settlement policy, the fact is that many Israelis, if not most, probably oppose it. Nor should Israelis refrain from criticizing Her Majesty's government for sending an armada to the southern hemisphere in order to protect 2,932 British subjects and 500,000 sheep! But the British delight in boycotting the entire state of Israel is not just cricket, but something else altogether. Let them come and speak their piece, otherwise it smacks of 'special treatment' toward the Jewish state! 

 P.S.: Would Prof. Hawking and other academics refuse to visit China over its cultural genocide in Tibet, or the U.S. for the thousands of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Russia for Chechnya and the killing of journalists, lawyers et cetera who dare denigrate President Putin?  

 P.P.S.: As for the extent of the British cover-up on Kenya, I recently asked a British friend, who read history at Oxford no less, what he thought about it. He'd never even heard of it!

David Essing

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