In the sea of brainwashing, intimidation and cliches surrounding us, it's sometimes worthwhile to listen to a voice from the outside, a voice no less proficient than the Israeli "experts" on security matters and Iran. The voice of reason. Such was the voice of the senior European diplomat who had served as an ambassador in Tehran for about five years and was visiting Israel this week.
Over dinner in his country's ambassador's residence, the man outlined his views about Iran, with which his country maintains extensive, complex ties. This man, now about to be appointed ambassador to Germany, continues to visit Iran, although his tenure there ended in 2004.
His message was clear and razor sharp - Israel must not attack Iran. This would only cause harm. If anything could bring Iran closer to the bomb, it would be an Israeli offensive, which seems imminent. The European diplomat is convinced that Iran does not intend to produce a nuclear bomb, only to walk on the edge and prepare for the option of developing it. This has become a matter of national honor for the Iranians.
The diplomat knows there is also another possibility, that Iran could be heading toward the bomb, and he realizes there is no guarantee this will not happen. And yet he is profoundly convinced that Iran will not do so.
An Israeli attack, on the other hand, which in his view would put off the bomb by merely two years, would only spur the Iranians to develop it. Tehran knows that the United States wouldn't have dared to invade Iraq and Afghanistan had these countries had nuclear weapons. The Iranians are sure that this goes for them as well. So their way to maintain the regime, if it feels threatened, is to develop the bomb. The threats to attack Iran will only push them toward this.
An Israeli attack on Iran would also unite the Iranian people behind the regime, the man says. Israel's enemy today is only the regime, not the people.
The Iranian people are busy with other problems and are not preoccupied with the Palestinian issue or whether Israel should or shouldn't exist.
The last elections, whose results the diplomat is certain were forged, opened large cracks in public support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. The West must not stir things up in Iran now, he warns, because any agitation would only close the ranks and wipe out the opposition, which has yet to say its final word. The subversive processes must be allowed to do their work and refrain from interfering under any circumstances.
An Israeli attack would be worse than agitation because it would destroy the opposition abruptly and unite the people in support of their leader. As in any other country, any military humiliation would lead to increased support for the ruler, as we well know from our own conduct.
Since Ahmadinejad rose to power, the Iranian leadership has greatly increased its intervention in everyday life. Ahmadinejad has replaced the government bureaucrats with his own people from the provinces and the countryside. His control over the administration is stronger than ever, which probably stirs even more resistance. The Iranians have already proved their ability to overthrow tyranny. Women are a rising force in society and perhaps the word will come from them. "Cherchez la femme," the diplomat said in French.
So what should we do? In certain situations, he said, one should do nothing. Any other option is immeasurably worse and more dangerous. So what do we do, the Israeli listener may ask himself, and reply: Make peace with Syria and the Palestinians, to undermine Iran's threats. Senior Iranian officials have said that any peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be acceptable to them. This would destroy the basis for Iran's threats to eliminate Israel.
Can the ranting and raving Israel, which sometimes hastens to attack and often uses violent language, the Israel that believes more than anything in wham-bam military solutions, listen to this wise advice? It's very doubtful.
We won't make peace, because why should we and what's the hurry? After all, the campaign of scaring the Israeli people and intimidating the world serves the Israeli regime well.
It distracts the public from other problems and releases Israel from the need to deal with Goldstone, the occupation and all the rest.
So come on, Bibi, attack. And may God have mercy.
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