It’s no secret that a great deal of the alleged success of the George W Bush administration’s “surge” – or at least the way it’s being spun in the US – is related to a diminished flow of Iranian-made weapons towards militias in Iraq. The weapons anyway were being sold by Iranian and or Gulf black market dealers – and not by the central establishment in Tehran.
At the same time, the publication of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in the US virtually debunked the idea that Iran was conducting a secret nuclear program for military use.
These two overlapping developments have alarmed Israeli intelligence – which believes that Washington and Tehran have concluded a secret deal brokered by Saudi Arabia. That’s what’s being spun, for instance, by the Debka website – which is basically an Israeli military intelligence outlet.
The Bush administration, according to this narrative, is developing a new multi-point strategy for the Middle East (it’s useful to remember that no one even mentions Bush’s spun-to-death “democratic” Greater Middle East anymore). And Saudi Arabia is the new strategic go-between.
Via the Saudis, the Bush administration will demand no more Iranian weapons in Iraq used against the US military (as if Tehran could order black market weapons’ cartels how to conduct their business). It will demand no more Iranian weapons sent to Afghanistan (these weapons are not from Iran in the first place, but bought by the Taliban from Pakistani and Sunni Arab sources).
The Bush administration will also demand Iran to tell Hezbollah to allow the election of a new president in Lebanon; as a reward, Hezbollah will be allowed as a partner in government (a ludicrous proposition; as if Hassan Nasrallah, who has the numbers, the popular appeal and grassroots organization would be ordered to accept a Saudi-friendly and US-friendly puppet president).
Israel seems to be concerned of what it perceives as a Saudi Arabian “betrayal” – but in fact the Israeli right’s problems lie elsewhere. The NIE denied any possibility of a Bush administration push towards regime change in Iran – not to mention an Israeli attack. To compound the problem, Tehran does not even bother with United Nations Security Council sanctions anymore, even if the leadership in Tehran does not expect the US’s formidable firepower to vanish from the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has bluntly dismissed the Security Council’s third round of sanctions against Iran as “based on political intentions and double standards” – especially because it ignored the February 22 report by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohammad ElBaradei, according to which the IAEA had found no diversion of Iran’s nuclear program for military use. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad called the new resolution “a new mistake”. He may have a point. The IAEA itself decided not to impose sanctions on Iran.
But for the Israeli troika – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – that’s never enough. They want more, and tougher, sanctions. As for Iran, it has demanded that the IAEA investigate “how Israel became a nuclear superpower”.
Bush’s love affair with civil war
According to a frightened Debka, Israel’s “special relationship with the United States has collapsed amid its worst foreign policy debacle in decades. The Olmert government is paying the price for the military and diplomatic mismanagement of the war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah of 2006”.
This may go a long way to explain Israel’s current bombing rampage which has killed more than 100 Gaza residents, more than 50% civilians and most of these women and children. Middle East diplomats confirmed to Asia Times Online Hamas was talking to the Saudis and the Syrians about the possibility of a truce with Israel. But Israel does not want anything that would legitimize Hamas – the Israeli troika is now even floating the idea of the reoccupation of Gaza.
The Israeli right clearly knows what Asia Times Online has revealed – that Bush approved a dirty Palestinian civil war, a lethal mix of the Bay of Pigs and Iran-Contra supposedly to be implemented by the State Deptartment to overthrow Hamas shortly after Hamas won the free and fair January 2006 parliamentary election in Palestine. (See Document details ‘US’ plan to sink Hamas May 16, 2007 and No-goodniks and the Palestinian shootout January 9, 2007.)
According to this scenario, Mohammad Dahlan – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ head of the National Security Council – awash with US weapons, was anointed leader of the “revolution”, to the delight of the Israeli right.
It didn’t work – of course; Hamas, as a popular resistance movement, would rather have all its supporters dead than surrender. The State Department has declined to comment, although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has just offered a spirited defense of US aid for Fatah, playing once again the same old scratchy tune: it is imperative to counteract Iran.
Ahmadinejad, the not-accidental tourist
Israel’s concern also centers on a few key, recent developments such as Ahmadinejad’s visit to Saudi Arabia a year ago, Iran-Egypt talks in Egypt (the countries had had no formal relations since the 1979 Iranian revolution) and the invitation for Ahmadinejad to sit at a key Gulf Cooperation Council meeting – a first for an Iranian leader. This year, at an Iran-Saudi parliamentary friendship meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal stressed all sorts of efforts should be made to solidify Saudi-Iranian relations. And, more tellingly, both should “stand vigilantly against all conspiracies”.
Abdel Monem Said, director of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, has interpreted the process in terms of “Saudi Arabia did what people have been asking the US to do for so long, which is to extend a hand out to the Iranians”. The detente, of course, is a work in progress, but any Saudi realist will see that it certainly does not entail the end of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Bush administration had been promoting a Turkey-Israel axis, then a Sunni Arab “axis of fear” (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates) and then a Saudi-Israeli axis, always trying to isolate Iran. None of these concoctions seems to have worked.
Hanif Ghaffari, writing in the Farsi-language, conservative Iranian daily Resalat, has pointed out how the recent, very successful Ahmadinejad trip to Iraq had to be considered in the context of “Iran after the Iraq war” and “Iraq after occupation by America”. The message could not be more graphic. When Bush went to Iraq he saw an ultra-fortified military base, and that was it. Ahmadinejad went everywhere in broad daylight, welcomed like a brother. This is how Tehran sees itself – as the ultimate victor of the US war on Iraq. And no “surge” or spin – not to mention Israeli paranoia – can or will make it go away.