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Must Read


March 12, 2015



Bibi’s blunder

There’s nothing quite like a fully functional and vibrant democracy. After all, which other political system will allow the president of your closest ally to speak before your elected representatives to soundly criticise your own president?
But that’s how US-Israeli ties go. However, Benyamin Netanyahu may have finally overstretched himself – a rare feat for a man who is a strong, nationalist leader.
The fact that Bibi’s speech had a few historical mistakes is no matter. Nor is the fact that’s he’s been at this stage before, and pretty much said the same things. Iran’s this close to the bomb. If we don’t stop them now, the security of Israel, the Middle East, the United States and every living organism on the face of this earth is at risk. It’s the same old song.
Does Israel really think that the morning after Iran gets the bomb, they’re going to launch a Kamikaze attack on Tel Aviv, Netanya and Haifa? Or maybe they won’t even wait that long, and the first complete nuclear weapon will be taken straight from the lab onto a missile with Shalom Israel written on its side?
Has Bibi mistakenly overlooked the historical precedent of nuclear weapons being one of the best deterrents to violence? Apart from the Cuban missile crisis back in 1962, and perhaps one other exception, the world has been safer because of opposing countries having nukes.
Probably not.
What’s the matter then?
First, a little backdrop. Ties between Washington and Tehran haven’t been this warm in over 30 years. The two are cooperating against Isis in Iraq, and negotiating a settlement on the nuclear issue. And while progress on the latter topic is slow, one thing is now certain thanks to Bibi’s haste in addressing the US Congress: the nuclear deal is on.
Iran’s crescent has steadily been rising in the Middle East. It has always been a leading player in Syria and Lebanon, and is at the forefront of the war against Isis in Iraq. And there’s

Hezbollah as well. More on them later.
This Iranian rise in influence is occurring in a region which has predominantly been a stronghold of US influence, with key allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates etc. These countries view Iran as revolutionary and expansionist. It’s ability to cause further mischief will be significantly enhanced with nukes in its arsenal.
And US Secretary of State John Kerry’s immediate visit to his gulf allies after his three-day meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was solely meant to appraise and reassure the Sunni states that the US won’t allow a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the region.
Because if Iran manages to go nuclear, and by nuclear one means not nuclear energy but nuclear arms, it will not only shake the foundations of this precarious geopolitical balance, but perhaps more dangerously add further fuel to the ongoing intra-Islam war. Will the House of Saud or Sisi in Egypt sit back and be content with Iran having nuclear weapons in their backyard?
Probably not.
If they can’t stop it, then at the very least they’ll go scurrying around looking for some themselves. That’s called an arms race, and it will be a right old nightmare for Israel: Not one, not two, but perhaps a handful of Arab states, rushing hither and thither in search of nukes.
Imagine. Poor old Israel. Surrounded in the near future by nuke-totting, Jew-hating Arabs. And God forbid, if chance throws up a leader like Anwar Sadat, or Hafez al-Assad, anything could happen.
But then again, the chances of anything like that happening are close to zero.
And then there’s Hezbollah. Does Israel fear that if Iran goes nuclear, one or two weapons won’t find their way into the wily hands of Hasan Nasrallah and co? The ties that bind Iran and Hezbollah are strong and deep. The most recent example of their flourishing relationship is when an Israeli strike in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights killed not only Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a Hezbollah military chief but also Iranian General Allah Dadi, along with at least six other Iranian soldiers.
Now, it is common knowledge that the Iranians are actively involved in the fight to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but to find such a senior member of their armed forces so close to the Israeli border surely would have rung some loud bells in Tel Aviv.
There will need to be some serious checks in place to ensure that there is no pilferage.
Retrospectively, the world has found that Stalin in Russia, Mao in China and Kim in North Korea all pursued, and eventually acquired, nuclear weapons for two clear reasons: a) to counter opponents that already had them and, perhaps more importantly, to ensure regime continuity. But these revelations came long after they had acquired these weapons. Should Iran be given the chance?
Why does all this matter here in Pakistan? Well. Quite simply, the Middle East is changing. Pakistan is allied with the House of Saud, and all those that come with it. And while the ties that bind us to Riyadh are mostly religious, there are thousands of miles between us and them. Iran, on the other, is right here. There are numerous advantages to be had from an allied neighbour. Apart from China, Pakistan doesn’t have any other friends in the region. We will do well to take our relationship with Tehran further.
Twitter: @aasimzkhan