Saturday, July 22, 2006

How we fell into the Iranian trap

How we fell into the Iranian trap

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz.

The following is an assortment of telltale signs of the Iranian-Syrian scheme, executed by Hamas and Hezbollah, to ignite the Arab-Israeli arena. All of the signs converge on a single event in time - the G8 gathering. It is hard to tell which is more serious - that the political and military leadership saw the signs and disregarded them, or that it did not see them at all.

On July 21, on the morning of the attack in northern Israel, the conservative Iranian newspaper, Jomhuri Islami, chose to print a speech given by Hassan Nasrallah on May 23. The secretary-general of Hezbollah declared that "all of Israel is now within range of our missiles... We possess a more than adequate stock of arms, both qualitatively and quantitatively... Over 2 million Jews live in northern Israel, where there are centers of leisure and touring activities, factories, agriculture, important military airfields and army bases... Our presence in south Lebanon, contiguous to the northern part of occupied Palestine, is our most important stronghold."

On July 11, following his meeting with Javier Solana, the individual who holds the nuclear portfolio in the Iranian cabinet, Ali Larijani, departed for a surprise visit to Damascus. Following the visit, Syrian Vice-President Farouk a-Shara announced that "the resistance movements in Lebanon and in Palestine [namely, Hezbollah and Hamas - A.E.] will make the decisions on their own affairs."

That same day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened the Western states in a television broadcast, warning them against supporting Israel, as "the fury of the Muslim peoples is not limited to the borders of the region... the waves of the explosion... will reach the corrupt forces [the Western states] that support this counterfeit regime."

On July 3, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Kayhan newspaper and a close associate of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, wrote that "we mustn't respond to Israel's crimes only in Gaza, only in the occupied lands. Why should the Zionists feel secure when Muslims have no security?"

In an interview with the Iranian news agency, Mehr, Shariatmadari said that the Islamic world should not restrict its response to the Zionist attacks only to the Gaza Strip, but should create a situation in which "no Zionist will feel safe, anywhere in the world."

He said that the UN was ineffective, because "all of its laws are interpreted to the benefit of those who speak with militancy, and Israel's attack in the Gaza Strip merits a mere expression of sorrow."

On June 16, the Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported the signing of an agreement on military cooperation between Syria and Iran "to repulse the threats [of the U.S. and Israel]."

The newspaper emphasized that among other subjects, talks held in Tehran between the Syrian defense minister, Hassan Turkmani, and his Iranian counterpart, Mustafa Mohammed Najjar, focused on the situation in Lebanon and in Palestine, and on assistance to Hamas and to Jihad in their confrontation with the Fatah movement. The Syrian minister officially declared "a common front against Israel's threats... Iran views Syria's security as its own security."

Asharq Al Awsat also reported that the minister had visited Tehran at the head of a large delegation accompanied by military and intelligence officers, and had met there with government and army leaders. The newspaper reported that Iran had agreed to underwrite the purchase of military hardware for Syria from Russia, China and Ukraine, in addition to equipping the Syrian army with artillery, ammunition, military vehicles and missiles of Iranian manufacture. Iran would also help to train Syrian naval forces.

Black on white

Syria publicly announced that it had extended its previous agreements with Iran on easing the passage of trucks conveying Iranian weapons into Lebanon. There it was - black on white.

All of these signs have been documented in the offices of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, in Jerusalem. Yigal Carmon, the founder and director of the institute who spent many years in the defense establishment, placed a call soon after the Hamas attack at Kerem Shalom to a cabinet minister with whom he is acquainted. He informed the minister of his hypothesis that Hamas' deviation from its cease-fire policy (which at the time was expressed in its acceptance of the Prisoners' Document) was related to the pressure placed on Iran vis-a-vis its nuclear program.

Carmon told the minister-friend that he perceived an escalation in the threats voiced by Iran, increasing in volume as the date grew closer for Iran's response to the G8 on its nuclear program. He implored the minister to speak with his counterparts around the cabinet table, asking them to bite their lips until after the meeting in Brussels between the diplomatic coordinator of the EU, Javier Solana, and the secretary of the National Security Council of Iran, Ali Larijani.

"I told him it was important for the Europeans to understand that the Iranians have not intention of responding to the American compromise proposal," says Carmon, reconstructing the conversation. "I told him that in my assessment, if there was an Iranian plan to repulse the international pressure, then we could expect a threat to develop on our northern sector as well."

Three days later, at the height of Operation Summer Rains (in Gaza), the minister telephoned the MEMRI offices in Jerusalem. "You and your doomsday prophecies," the minister teased.

The very next day, Hezbollah attacked along the Lebanese border, and Carmon, once again asked to maintain restraint. Carmon also assesses that the acts of terror in Iraq, directed by Iran's Shi'ite proxies, led by Muqtada al-Sader, are also related to the nuclear issue. He predicts that before long, the Iranians will unleash terror attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world.

"We are witnessing a most serious failure of our leaders. They allowed the State of Israel to fall into the Iranian trap by responding to Iran's provocation. It was intended to disrupt the discussions of the G8 that were supposed to form an international consensus against the Iranian nuclear program. A responsible leadership would have delayed the response by several weeks, and not played into the Iranian's hands.

"We missed the opportunity to expose the Iranian provocations before the G8, and the entire world. We can always go back and launch strikes in Lebanon later on. It would have been possible to set an ultimatum that if the soldiers are not returned within a short period of time, then we will do everything in our power to bring them back. In the meantime, we could have made arrangements for the home front, which was caught unprepared, and deployed three divisions on the border with Syria.

"The public is not stupid. It would have understood that a threat to four million people as a result of the Iranian nuclear program is more serious than the killing of soldiers in the north and the kidnapping of their comrades."

The explanation for Iran's stubborn insistence on delaying its response to the American proposal until August 22 may be found in the Iranian media. In the past few weeks, reports have been published about an imminent declaration by Ahmadinejad about a "significant development in Iran's nuclear capability."

Carmon estimates that they might need another few weeks to finalize their capacity to fully or partially enrich uranium, independent of any other country. It might also have something to do with completing the development of advanced missiles.

Fear or anger

When he heard the prime minister say on Tuesday that the crisis in the north is an "Iranian trick," Carmon did not know if he should be shaking with fear or exploding with anger.

"It isn't a trick from the Beitar Jerusalem soccer pitch," he says, furious with Ehud Olmert. "It worries me that even the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, doesn't understand that we aren't talking here about Hezbollah 'shit,' or about regional tensions, but about a crisis on a global scale."

"The current crisis has the makings of being able to create a new order in the region, or even a global conflict," stated a MEMRI position paper released yesterday. It refers to the danger of the traditional allies of the United States - Saudi Arabia and Egypt - losing their senior regional status to Iran, which is in the midst of an advanced process of acquiring nuclear capability.

At the same time, Russia, which is described as an ally of Iran, is once again taking up position against the United States, as a world power that wields influence in the Middle East and in Europe, where Russia is the principal supplier of oil and gas.

As such, the structure of a dual-superpower world is being revived, complete with all the rivalry between the East and West blocs in the Middle East that was characteristic of the Cold War era.

Disregard of this threat is especially worrisome to Carmon, as all of this information is openly available to all, including the well-established weapons trail from Syria to Lebanon that was "suddenly" discovered by IDF generals, who have termed it a "smuggling" route.

Carmon believes that if decision-makers in the government and the army had considered the Iranian involvement, they would have understood that every Iranian missile, including the C-802 that hit the Israeli missile boat, would be in the possession of Hezbollah.

"There are no tricks here," he rails. "The idea is to finally internalize the fact that the IDF is fighting against an Iranian militia, with the logistical support of Iran. The United States has to understand that Putin is working to build a center for uranium enrichment in Siberia, and that Russia is Iran's main supporter. Russia has 6,000 experts there, and knows how to keep its Iranian ally in a sensitive spot. They are certain that we could not endure a home front war, as the Arabs and the Iranians would. In the Iran-Iraq War, two million Moslems died."

Carmon is concerned that a few days from now, after it has finished wearing down our air force, Iran, in cahoots with Russia, will "volunteer" to settle the crisis between Israel and Hezbollah, and in exchange for these "glass beads" would win the real diamond - advancing its nuclear program.

Carmon also sees significance in the exposure of Iranian and Syrian involvement in the crisis. He believes Israel must pressure the U.S. to bring the G-8 into a special meeting to reach a firm decision against Iran's nuclear program and support of terror groups. Only Iran can stop Hezbollah, and only the U.S. can stop Iran.


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