Iranian missiles will hit New York in “three to four years”. A nuclear Iran is like “50 North Koreas”.
This could be the sound of a deranged, dangerous sociopath, or this could be the sound of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly.
Compare for yourself. Last week we had Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calling for the world to surf a WAVE (as in World Against Violence and Extremism).
This week we had Bibi saying that was a “cynical” and “totally hypocritical honey trap”.
In the world according to Netanyahu, “Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Rouhani tried to present himself as “pious”, but he’s always been involved with “the terror state of Iran”. He’s like “a serial killer going to court dressed in clerical attire and giving testimony to his nature as an ‘ethical’ and ‘religious’ man.”
Ranting aside, Bibi did change his game. Now it’s not silly cartoons and begging the US to bomb Iran virtually on a weekly basis. Now it’s Iran’s “military nuclear program” that must be shut down – a program, by the way, that the alphabet soup of US intelligence agencies says does not exist.
And this after Netanyahu told US President Barack Obama to forget – forever – UN Security Council resolution 242, which determined total Israeli withdrawal from all lands occupied after the 1967 war.
What a bomb
So let’s get some things straight.
The state of Israel does not have any internationally recognized borders, and does not have an internationally recognized capital. It’s bound to be perpetually expanding.
Israel has disrespected no less than 69 UN Security Council resolutions and has been “protected” from no less than 29 more, courtesy of US vetoes.
It has been occupying sovereign territory of Lebanon and Syria without giving a damn to UN Security Council resolutions.
Israel signed the Oslo Accords promising to stop building for good, any new settlements in Palestine. Instead, it has built over 270 new settlements. This is part of the slow motion ethnic cleansing of Palestine over the past six decades. Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran on a weekly basis for at least three decades.
Israel is an undeclared nuclear power with as many as 400 nuclear warheads; refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT); bars international inspections; never ratified the Chemical Weapon Convention Treaty; used chemical weapons on Gaza; and holds an undeclared stockpile of chemical weapons larger than any other nation in the Middle East.
Iran, on the other hand, has no nuclear warheads. Iran has signed the NPT and is inspected on a regular basis. Iran has not invaded another country for at least 250 years. Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, but Iran did not occupy Iraqi territory.
The Israel lobby in Washington and the US Congress imposed a financial blockade on Iran, which for all practical purposes is a declaration of war. This has led to a massive depreciation of the Iranian rial – with drastic consequences for the lives of ordinary Iranians. Yet in his meeting with Obama this Monday in Washington, Netanyahu not only asked for more sanctions; he said Israel will unilaterally attack Iran if Rouhani’s words are not followed by “action”.
The real “international community”, as in the overwhelming majority of the developing world, including the BRICS group of emerging powers, have all these facts at their fingertips. These facts help to see right through Bibi’s game.
Just look at the map
The mere possibility of a US-Iran dialogue is the Israeli right’s real “existential threat”. Bibi won’t accept even Iran’s right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, accorded to it by the NPT.
A US deal with Iran is a win-win proposition for all; not only the two principals but energy-starved Europeans, the global economy, multinational corporations, you name it. Except for Israel.
Bibi’s nightmare is the Islamic Republic of Iran not only as an independent geopolitical actor in Southwest Asia – which it already is – but also as a thriving regional power; in this aspect, the only way for Iran is up, considering its huge, young, well-educated population, its massive energy resources, it’s fabulous location and its complex ties to South, Central and East Asia.
For the Israeli right, the status quo is ideal. Either we find US puppets such as the petro-monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); or Arab secular republics that – with various degrees of Israeli input – have been mired in extreme turmoil, like Iraq and especially Syria.
It’s very easy for Israel to maneuver among these actors; the Israelis can, for instance, rejoice with a military coup in Egypt (because the Egyptian military are no threat) while partnering with Saudi Arabia to try to bring down Assad in Syria. Middle East balkanization over sectarian lines is sweet as honey for Israel.
But Iran as an emerging economic/political power, with normalized relations with the US and Western Europe, it’s a much more serious matter, “existentially” threatening Israel’s supposed hegemony in the Middle East, which rests solely on its military muscle (not to mention hidden nuclear capability).
So much for Netanyahu ’s obsession with regime change in Tehran – or the next best option, which is total isolation from the West (because as far as the East is concerned, Iran has thriving relations with all key actors in Asia).
The crucial point is that Iran’s “existential threat” has been extremely useful for the Israeli right as a diversionary tactic, changing the subject from what’s happening in real life; a nuclear garrison state/settler colony literally, graphically wiping a whole people – the Palestinians – off the map. When in doubt, just look at the map.
So here’s where we are. Netanyahu is a hawk who swears by Eretz Israel – a “Greater” Israel with ever-expanding borders and undisputed military/nuclear hegemony in the Middle East. He has powerful allies; US extreme right-wingers and neo-cons, demented Republicans who will support anything as long as it’s against Obama, a great deal of the Israeli-manipulated US Congress, large swathes of corporate media. They will stop at nothing to derail even the hint of an agreement between Washington and Tehran.
The temptation for the real “international community” would be to tell Netanyahhu to shut up – and go play with his silly cartoons. Obama at the UN last week said his priorities are now Iran and taking another shot at solving the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. So the ball is really in Obama’s court – not the sociopath’s.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times