Last time I wrote on this subject [“”] Iran was ahead 2 to nil. In less than two weeks Iran has managed to bag two more goals and now looks like the “international community” is mired once again in kaka-play with kaka hitting the fan in the land of Lebneh — big time.
The “international community” refuses to learn that Iran and Iranians do not respond well to ultimatums, dictates, deadlines and lines in the sand that the restive and impatient “international community likes to establish for its adversaries. Hell, Iranians do not even keep time among their friends and relatives — chronic lateness is being early if it is not a day old.
When the international community handed over its package of nuclear incentives to Iran they were wise not to handover the “consequences” part of the proposal that contained the sticks by which the “international community” was gonna beat Iran into submission if Iran did not accept the carrots. Instead, the “international community” demanded that Iran give a quick reply in weeks and not in months. Iran indicated that it would give its reply in August. “But noooo,” as Steve Martin would intone, the “international community” had to make an issue even of this and demand the favor of Iran’s acceptance of the package by the time of the meeting of the G-8 Summit in Russia. The Mighty Mouse Ahmadinejad and his ilk, in a predictably paranoid fashion suspected a rouse and questioned the motives of the “international community” to have this happen in time for the G-8 Summit.
The fact is that G-8 stands for nothing — it is an acronym describing the 8 gavs (cows) of the international economic and trade systems. These are the countries that graze on the world’s resources, pollute the earth, exploit people, and insist that the whole world must be rendered safe for their well being. So, they figured it would be nice if they could have a photo opportunity with all their ugly ass faces smiling triumphantly at bringing the Iranian nuclear program to heel. Of course, in that kind of a Summit setting, having China and Russia stand side-by-side with the “international community” would have provided a picture of unity against Iran.
The Iranians strategists decided that a G-8 Summit should not be a place where the hands of the regime should be set in hana or wrapped in walnut skin — that is to say to be tainted with a color that does not wash off easily. “You want something to talk about at G-8?,” they asked rhetorically in Tehran, “We will give you something to talk about.” But what?
I have been noticing for a while that North Korea and Iran have been in this silent partnership of mischief. Every time pressure has built on one to do something with respect to its nuclear program, the other has acted as a distraction, to get the attention of the “international community” off the other. The word must have gone went out to North Korea, “Hajji, it is time to get these monkeys off our back. It is time for some fireworks!” The Koreans brought out a few missiles and fired one after another, sending jitters through Japan, a member of the G-8. This worked for a few days while Uncle Sam was trying to figure out if the Koreans had timed this to correspond with July 4th celebrations. Vanity has no bound; it is all about “me, me, me” among the G-8. This temporarily, however, shifted the spotlight off Iran. So now the score stood at Iran 3 — International Community (still 0).
When the Korean firecracker gambit fizzled, the “international community” called once again for Iran’s acceptance of the nuclear package by the time the G-8 meeting in Russia. It became clear in Tehran that this contest with G-8 was not over yet: Iran now needed an insurance goal too. Thus the call would have gone to Hezbollah in Lebanon to provoke something for the G-8 to talk about at the meeting. So, here we are, just as the Iranian case was being revived in the UN Security Council, here comes the Lebanese dossier, to be followed soon with the Ethiopia-Somalia dossier, to take the spotlight off Tehran, once again. So, here we are — Iran 4 — International Community (still) 0 on the nuclear issue.
With respect to the firestorm that Hezbollah seems to have provoked and Israel ignited across Lebanon, there are real losers.
The first loser in the Lebanon Crisis is the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty itself. The Iraqi invasion of Iran (and support of the “international community” for Iraq) and the US invasion of Iraq underlined the overwhelming necessity for countries like Iran and North Korea, which are on the other side of the ideological divide, to bolster their defenses by any means necessary, including nuclear weapons. Self-defense is not just the province of the chosen. It applies to all countries. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon, too, shows that if and when Hezbollah or Lebanon ever reconstitutes itself it will have to become nuclear in order to fend off unbridled attempts on the part of Israel to destroy everything around it in the name of its own safety and security.
The second casualty of the Lebanon Crisis is the rule of law and process, once again. The Mighty Mouse Bush was overheard bitching in his typical petulant way about why Kofi Anan was not doing anything to stop the Hezbollah from pouring rockets over northern Israel. In the same breath, the he fanned the flames of war and destruction over the two seized Israeli soldiers as Israel’s right to self-defense. If memory serves — as for Bush it is doubtful — Back in 1980 the US suffered the captivity of 52 of its embassy personnel and took Jimmy Carter 444 days of patient diplomacy to get their release.
The message by Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister Mighty Mouse Ehud Olmert is to say “Do not fuck with me, I am quick-tempered and have no patience” then both these countries must be prepared to be fingered when they fuck with others. The pathology of arrogance however is much more complex than this. I wonder how many Israelis realize that they reap what they sow and often bring the worse on themselves.
In June 1967, Israel defeated the Arab armies arguably in anticipatory self-defense. At the time I was on my way to Moscow and full of admiration for the Israel’s can-do attitude. Four years later I was on my way from Moscow to Washington and was full of disdain for Israel’s contempt for the UN process. UN Resolution 242 had called for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories but it sat un-implemented because of the US unconditional support for Israel. A “Palestinian Question” soon emerged where and when up until then the issue was just a classical territorial matter between Israel on the one side and her neighbors Jordan, Syria and Egypt on the other. Now, in 2006, I am in Boston and full of admiration for the gall shown by Israel to proclaim a self-righteously that it is carrying out UN Resolution 1559 that had called for the demilitarization of the Hezbollah. I guess, “like father-like son:” when the US can rip through the UN law and process over Iraq and do what it pleases, then who is to say Israel should not? Certainly not Uncle Sam.
The third casualty of the Lebanon Crisis is Iran in three ways. First, Iran’s proxy on the northern border of Israel will be diminished and this will have adverse consequences for Iran’s transnational infrastructure designed to act as deterrent against Israel or the US in case either attacks Iran directly. Second, the physical destruction of Hezbollah will be blamed on Iran’s refusal to share more sophisticated weaponry with them, such that it could have hit deeper targets inside Israel. Third, the destruction of Hezbollah will be a blow to the cause of Shi’ism in the Middle East, as the Sunni Arab governments will now be justified to curb the appeal or influence the Shi’i in their midst.
The fourth casualty of the Lebanon Crisis is Israel itself. No self-respecting Lebanese will ever forgive it for the devastation that it has brought to Lebanon, the country. It is worth recalling that the “Palestinian Question” and the emergence of the PLO and its subsequent relocation to Lebanon was all the handiwork of the US failure to get Israel to abide by Resolution 242. This time around, though, the Lebanese will not be forgetting this humiliation, especially after billions of dollars of expat money (not US taxpayer money) has poured into the country to rebuild it after Israel pulled out. Lebanese will not forgive the US either, which sat idly by while the American taxpayer-funded Israeli bombs and missiles rained on Lebanon. This episode is bound to impact adversely the pro-Israel Lobby in the US, too. The Lebanese expats in the US, who typically shy from political activism, may well become a factor in the next electoral round by seeking to temper the undue influence that Jewish money and votes play in the US elections.
The fifth casualty of the Lebanon Crisis is the image of Israel itself. Its assault on Lebanon (and even Hezbollah) is impetuous, self-righteous, and impatient. It displays callous regard for life-and-death consequences for the innocent and civilian infrastructure. It violates standards of war. It violates the UN Charter. It violates the international law of reprisal. It proves that Israel shares the same savage temperament as the people who it accuses of being savages. Angle is no more. It is as ugly as the Hezbollah itself. It will give validation to present Israel-haters and it will cause the rise of a new class and generation of Israel-haters.
There is one bright spot in all this, though — and that has to do with the refinement of the concept of “making somewhere safe for something by use of force!” The Wilsonian concept of the world order after World War I was “to make the world safe for democracy.” When we read this in history class we took it at face value. It has come to pass that what he really meant was “to make the world safe for me.” The US does this, Iran does it, as does Israel. Every country does this — more so now that the UN law and order has broken down. Each country does this in the way that it knows best. The US uses brute force, sanctions and sometimes engages proxies. Israel uses mostly force.
The Iranians, not exactly economically and technologically prone to mount overwhelming efforts, do things more consistent with their means. They have proxies here, proxies there, a few pieces of well-situated hardware here and there, they create perceptions and misperceptions, set traps, make friends, talk to everyone, make alliances and win the heart and minds of others. They approach diplomacy with the same temperament that they go shopping in the bazaar, where the price is never fixed beforehand and one haggles for a deal. The “international community” on the other hand likes to shop where there are sticker prices, content labels and quick checkouts.
The US and Israel each needs to understand (or maybe not) that every country is out to make the world around it safe for itself. That realization alone will then allow the adversaries — be they corporal or ideological — to negotiate a truce where they rub up against each other.
About Guive Mirfendereski is a professorial lecturer in international relations and law and is the principal artisan at trapworks.com. Born in Tehran in 1952, he is a graduate of Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences (BA), Tufts University's Fletcher School (PhD, MALD, MA) and Boston College Law School (JD). He is the author of A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea>>> Features in iranian.com