Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tehran sharpens its sword

By Ehsan Ahrari

Asia Times

"Israel is licking its wounds from the embarrassment, if not humiliation, of not being able to "eradicate" Hezbollah, as its leaders declared at the beginning of hostilities. Consequently, the US had to start its own propaganda war, with President George W Bush initiated a campaign for the global community insisting that Israel was the real victor.

Even the name given to the war games carries enormous symbolic meaning, for both the US and the world of Islam. They are depicted as "Blow of Zulfiqar". Zulfiqar was the name of the sword of Imam Ali, who was the first imam of the Shi'ite sect and the son-in-law and first cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.

Zulfiqar is a highly revered phrase among the entire Muslim community as a symbol used for the protection and promulgation of Islam. The message to the US is quite unambiguous: if threatened by military action, the Islamic Republic is ready to strike a blow against the lone superpower and its client, Israel.

Iran is aware that the Lebanese conflict is far from over. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is desperately looking for victory of some sort. That is why Israel violated the ceasefire over the weekend by sending its paratroopers into Lebanon. The apparent purpose was to capture or kill Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, who has emerged as the new hero of the Arab world, a hero who might have acquired greater respect and attention than the late Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt did in 1956 when he challenged the combined forces of Britain, France and Israel during the Suez crisis.

Finally, and most important, Iran knows the significance of the Persian Gulf as a source of energy to Japan, Europe and China. The uppermost question US military planners must be asking, as they watch Iran's war games from neighboring areas, is how far Iran will go in terms of blocking the passage of energy supplies in the Persian Gulf - and if this happens, what countermeasures they must take to minimize a disastrous outcome. That variable alone might be sobering enough to put a damper on the ostensibly uncompromising wish of the neo-conservatives to take military action against Iran."

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