Monday, February 5, 2007
By Uri Avnery
".....IT'S NOT the past I am writing about, but the future.
At this moment, people in Washington and in Jerusalem are thinking about a war in Iran. Not if it should be started, but when and how.
If this is to be an American war, its consequences will be many times more grievous than the war in Iraq. Iran is a very hard nut. The Iranian people are united. They have a glorious national tradition, a highly developed national pride and a tough religious ideology. One can bomb their oil facilities, but it is a big country, not dependent on a sophisticated infrastructure, and it cannot be subdued by bombing alone. There will be no alternative to a military attack on the ground.
Bush is already preparing the war. This week he instructed his soldiers in Iraq to hunt down and kill all "Iranian agents" there. That is reminiscent of the infamous "Kommissarbefehl" of June 6, 1941, on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in which Adolf Hitler ordered the summary execution of every captured political commissar of the Red Army. Since the commissars were uniformed soldiers, every commander who carried out the order became a war criminal.
It is quite certain that if the United States does go to war, the Iranian people will rally behind their government. They will draw the conclusion that everything their leaders told them about the West was true. The opposition, which has lately raised its head, will fall silent and disappear. The big-mouthed president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose wisdom is now being questioned by many of his own people, will turn overnight into a national hero. It will be a war of many years, and many thousands of American soldiers--not to mention Iranians--will fall.
President Bush may hesitate and pass the task over to Israel. Lately, Olmert has hinted that it was the Americans who pushed him into the Lebanon war. They believed that the Israeli army would defeat Hizbullah easily, and that this would help the American clients in Beirut. (A similar foolish calculation caused the Americans to give their blessing to Sharon's First Lebanon War in 1982.)
Nowadays, our politicians and generals speak freely about the inevitable attack on Iran. The pro-Israeli lobby in the US, both Jewish and Christian, is toiling mightily to push American public opinion in this direction. All these gentlemen and ladies, in their comfortable villas far from the prospective battlefields, yearn for a war which will cost the lives of the sons and daughters--of other people.
The advocates of the war declare that it is necessary in order to prevent a "Second Holocaust". That has already become a mantra. This week, Jacques Chirac nearly exploded it, when he expressed the self-evident: that if an Iranian nuclear bomb were launched at Israel, Israel would wipe Tehran from the face of the earth. The Iranian rulers are not mad and the "balance of terror" will do its job. But the "friends" of Israel and the USA started to pelt Chirac with verbal rocks, and he hastily retracted.
* * *
LET'S ASSUME for a moment that the Israeli Air force, with the help of the American naval forces that are now being steadily built up in the Persian Gulf, succeeds in bombing targets in Iran. What will happen then?
Iranian missiles will rain down on Tel-Aviv and Haifa. The promise of our Air Force to destroy them on the ground is worth no more than the similar promises we heard about Lebanon. In order to defend Israel, American soldiers would have to go into Iran. Israel's account would be debited with every casualty. If Israel is, God forbid, the first to use a nuclear bomb there, the shame will last forever.
The masses of the Arab--indeed the entire Muslim world, both Sunnis and Shiites, will rally around Iran. The Sunni heads of state, who are embracing Israel now in secret, will run away in panic. We shall be left alone to face the revenge that will come sooner or later. Will we be able to rely on the heirs of Bush, who may be less reckless and more inclined to listen to world public opinion, which will inevitably blame us for this whole adventure?
Iran is not a second Iraq, neither is it Hizbullah multiplied by ten. It is an entirely different story.
But is anyone here thinking about it seriously? Will the successors of the share-selling Chief-of-Staff and the tongue-pushing minister be more thoughtful? Or will they decide upon a new military adventure with the same unbearable lightness?"