Is Israel a threat to Iran?
August 16, 2001
Is Sharon still the prime minister of Israel? I haven't looked at the
news lately, but I remember reading something about him limiting trips to
Europe to avoid the possibility of being arrested. Apparently he is being
sued on charges of crimes against humanity because of his central role in
the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians refugees in 1982. Of course,
he should be held accountable. Why shouldn't he?
The list of Israel's crimes is long and well-documented. Every year Amnesty
International and other human rights groups condemn the government for its
gross mistreatment of Palestinians. Israel continues to occupy Palestinian
territories and build new Jewish settlements on confiscated Palestinian
land. These should all be condemned. I'm sure you can think of other examples
of questionable to downright criminal Israeli behavior against Palestinians
and neighboring Arab states.
But I'm wondering, is Israel really a threat to Iran? I know many of
you are shocked that I even ask such a question. But just for the sake of
argument, think about it for a second. Look at the map of Iran.
On the immediate right, we have Afghanistan where a band of ultra fundamentalists
control the largest opium production in the world. Millions of unemployed,
disillusioned Iranians are wasting away as a direct result of drugs pouring
A million or two Afghans have taken refuge in Iran during the past 20
years. Most escaped to Iran after the Soviet invasion of their country.
Then came the civil war followed by the tribal rule of the Taliban whose
archaic ideas of Islam say zekki to the version preached by our own ayatollahs.
As a result, more Afghans escaped to Iran.
Further south, there's Pakistan. A nation ruled by a military dictatorship.
That should worry us because not so long ago, Pakistan came out of the nuclear
closet and proved that it too has The Bomb. Of course, Pakistan's main concern
is India and the ongoing dispute over Kashmir.
But you never know. Conservative fundamentalists are a powerful force
in Pakistan. You can't totally rule out the possibility of them taking power,
declaring jihad over the minority Shi'ites and demanding independence for
Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan Province. Sounds ridiculous. But in an unstable
region such as ours, we have to at least think about these hypothetical
Look south. There are a string of small Arab states, plus Saudi Arabia.
You also have the U.S. navy. The only serious problem there is the dispute
over the Tonb islands. Not a week goes by without some sort of complaint
from the United Arab Emirates over Iran's "occupation" of the
islands. Arab states back the UAE position.
Now that Iran and Saudi Arabia have signed a security agreement, it's
less likely that the UAE or any other Arab state would go to war over the
islands. But again, the possibility is quite real. Not long ago, Iraq used
the Tonbs as one of the excuses to go to war with us. Consider this scenario:
The Americans get into a serious dispute with Iran. They occupy the Tonb
islands for "security" reasons. And then when they decide to pull
out, they could hand the islands over to the UAE. Impossible?
To the left we have good old Iraq. The same man who began one of the
biggest wars of the 20th century, caused the death of hundreds of thousands
of Iranians and Iraqis, is still in power. Plus, Iraq is host to thousands
of Mojahedin Khalq members who carry out frequent cross-border raids and
claim responsibility for mortar explosions in Tehran. Is Iraq a serious
threat? You tell me.
Right around the same region, there is the Kurdish question. The dream
of creating an independent Kurdistan is in the heart of every Kurd, whether in
Iran, Iraq, or Turkey. Kurdish fighters have been more active in Iraq and
Turkey, but whatever happens there, will also affect the Kurdish population
in Iran. Remember that the earliest Kurdish republic was established in
Iran. That was more than 50 years ago and it only lasted a few years. But...
Further up we have Turkey. The government there often blames Iran (often
wrongly) for its own internal problems with Muslim fundamentalists and Kurdish
separatists. Turkish forces have, on more than a few occasions, entered
Iranian territory (or carried out cross-border air raids) in pursuit of
Kurdish separatists. Just as our rulers are fanatical about Islam, the Turks,
especially the military, worship Ataturk -- the mother of all secularists.
Is there a potential for conflict? You bet.
To the north there's the Caucasuses and Central Asia. And although Russia,
after the demise of the Soviet Union, is no longer our immediate neighbor,
it is still a major regional power; more powerful than any other state in
Let's start from the northwest, where we have Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Forget about the bloody dispute between those two states over Nagorno Karabakh.
Armenia by itself seems to have no problem with Iran. Compared to Bahais
and Jews, Armenians have fared better as a minority in Iran. So we wouldn't
expect any trouble on this front.
But Azerbaijan is a different matter. Tehran and Baku are in a war of
words over oil exploration in the Caspian Sea. Well, it's a little more
than a war of words. Iran wants Azerbaijan to stop digging for oil in a
disputed area of the sea. It has even sent navy ships there to scare off
the foreign oil crews. The Americans claim Iran has also violated Azerbaijan's
The stakes are huge. The Caspian region has some of the largest untapped
oil and gas reserves in the world. The regional states have still not figured
out how to divide the Caspian for the benefit of all. Every state is out
for herself. Meetings after meetings have failed to produce an agreement
on who owns what part of the Caspian. So the dispute with Azerbaijan could
very well get ugly. AND the same problem may rise between Iran and Turkmenistan
on the other side of the Caspian. Who knows where Russia is going to stand
in all this, but don't count on her taking Iran's side.
There's also the (currently) minor problem of Azeri nationalism in Iran.
The media in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan use every opportunity
to exaggerate "anti-Persian" and anti-Islamic Republic sentiments
among Azeris in Iran, and "anti-Azeri" feelings among "Persian"
Iranians. Baku would love to see a separatist Azeri movement in northwestern
Iran. Could it take shape? No? Are you absolutely positive?
In the northeast, we have Turkmenistan. Other than the remote (?) possibility
of ethnic disturbances among Turkmens in Iran, instigated by Turkmen brothers
in the north, there's no obvious security problems over there. Khodaa ro
Now what about Russia? Is she a threat to our national interests? Russia
still has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons after the U.S. She still
has considerable influence among former Soviet republics bordering Iran.
She will probably be more sympathetic to their concerns in any serious (oil
and gas, for example) dispute with Iran. Other than that, Tehran and Moscow
are on pretty friendly terms these days.
Then there's Israel, way over there on the Mediterranean coast.
I cannot think of one thing Israel has done to threaten Iran's national
security. Am I suffering from amnesia? There's been Israeli rhetoric about
bombing Iran's incomplete nuclear plant in Bushehr. But what else? Spying
against Iran? Probably. But so what? The Americans, the British, the French,
the Germans and the Japanese, to name a few, have their own intelligence
network in Iran. Do we feel threatened?
Pro-Israeli forces kidnapped (and probably killed) four Iranian diplomats
and a photographer in Lebanon almost twenty years ago. Every effort should
be made to find them. But does that justify why we are so strongly opposed
to Israel? I just cannot understand this animosity. Is it because we grew
up with anti-Israeli slogans and now it's stuck in our minds without really
thinking about it?
You may say Israel is a threat to Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria. Okay.
Why is that any concern of ours, to the point that it has become a key component
of Iran's foreign policy? Why is Iran denouncing Yasser Arafat's attempts
to achieve peace with Israel? Beh maa cheh? Like it or not, he is the legitimate
leader of most Palestinians. Who are we to tell Palestinians what they should
or shouldn't do? Wouldn't you laugh at a Palestinian if he told us what
WE should or shouldn't do?
Virtually ALL Arab states have either accepted Israel's right to exist,
are trying to negotiate some sort of peace deal with her, or established
diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv. And then Ayatollah Khamenei makes speeches
left and right about how Israel must be destroyed. Ajabaa! Let's assume
every Iranian Muslim has a duty to help oppressed Muslims. What about oppressed
Muslims next door in Afghanistan? What about oppressed Muslims in Algeria?
What about oppressed Muslims in Egypt? Haalaa cheraa jaaye doori bereem?...
What about oppressed Muslims at HOME?
We have all these pressing, REAL issues in our own country, and with
so many of our immediate neighbors, and then we act like Israel is Enemy
Number One. Please, someone, help me understand. Have I gone mad?