The escalating pace of conflict in this latest round of conflict between Israel, the more radical Palestinian factions, and Hezbollah has once more focused world opinion on the apparent impasse in the Middle East. However, it may be a grave mistake to assume that the present crisis was created by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah or the firing of the Syrian-Iranian short range missiles into Northern Israel. The recent kidnappings were the trigger mechanism that the Israeli government needed to set in motion the next phase of its strategic policy.
An important facet of this strategy has been to promote the involvement of the U.S. by directly engaging it in any military stand off with Iran in the foreseeable future, while at the same time nullifying the possible objections of European governments concerning the new military incursions of Israel in the region. In the short run, Israel's leadership may prefer to escalate the conflict in order to attain some of its long-term objectives. For reasons of their own, the neo-cons in the U.S., the Iranian President, and the Hezbollah leadership have all contributed in their own way toward the successful implementation of this policy.
Though this may seem ultra-Orwellian, there are several reasons why there may be some truth in this. Israel under Sharon had always intended to impose its own terms on the region with regards to the definition of its long-term borders and the rights and entitlements of the Palestinians who lived in territories or worked in Israeli occupied lands.
To that end, the Israeli government needed a hardening of the position of the Palestinians to convince the outside world that peace talks were futile in achieving an end to the conflict. The US administration, after unsuccessful attempts at nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, needed to present the world with a new threat to national security which would threaten key allies in the energy-rich Middle East and Caspian Sea regions.
The hard-liners supporting the current Iranian president have also welcomed the recent crisis for the following reasons. First, the situation has effectively diverted world attention away from the nuclear activities of Iran and instead focused the attention of the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg on Israel and Palestine. Secondly, the threat of U.S. actions against Iran has helped the Islamic regime unify domestic public opinion which was becoming weary of the rhetoric of Mr. Ahmadinejad and felt deeply disillusioned by his lack of delivery on pre-election promises.
The U.S., for better or worse, is the super power that has the greatest potential to influence global politics in a such a way that not only promotes some of its strategic interests but also fosters the development of democratic values in the most repressed parts of the world. However, the threats of surgical air strikes and the limited use of nuclear bombs against its enemies, including Iran, will not be seen by the outside world as promoting global peace and fighting terrorism.
Such actions often lead to the rise of radical anti-liberals who seek to purge all free thinkers. The war on terrorism has to have a facet that convinces the outside world, especially the Middle East, that U.S. policy is not primarily governed by the interests of large U.S. corporations and their intellectual warriors. Nor can it be seen that the U.S. policy in the region is primary governed by the pro Israeli lobby in Washington who has shown great hostility for any one who is critical of the exesses of the Israeli government even though they may not have anything against the existence of a less expansanist and more peaceful Israel in the region.
To gain the trust of the outside world, especially in West Asia and the Middle East, the U.S. needs to be guided by the principal values essential for promoting human rights and dignity among friends and foe alike. This is neither an easy job nor a quick fix to the problems of world security. However, if applied consistently and transparently, it will be much more effective in inducing undemocratic regimes to respect human rights.
Attacks on civilians, whether Israeli, Lebanese, American, or Iraqi, can then be condemned with equal force and conviction and the support of the outside world. In addition, it is in this setting that the regime in Tehran can be called to account for its systematic violation of rights of millions of Iranians who neither accept the values of the regime nor subscribe to its oppressive policies.
Mehrdad Emadi is the former head of the Centre for European Research in Economics and Business. He has also acted as an advisor to the Czech and Iranian governments and to the European Union. He is a regular contributor to the BBC World Service. He is the head of research at Betamatrix Research Consultancy.