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Who Cares About Explosions in Iran?

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A picture from Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation shows a warehouse after it was damaged at the Natanz facility, one of Iran's main uranium enrichment plants, south of Tehran on July 2, 2020.
A picture from Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation shows a warehouse after it was damaged at the Natanz facility, one of Iran's main uranium enrichment plants, south of Tehran on July 2, 2020.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

In the last few months, a mysterious country whose identity is unclear has been provoking Iran more than it has ever been provoked before. This anonymous country is blowing up production plants, torching seaports, and sowing chaos along with humiliation. It is exploiting Iran’s weakness, as the country has been hard-hit by the coronavirus on top of the severe international economic sanctions. The rest of the world is also preoccupied with the pandemic, and the president in Washington is fighting for survival. The hidden country is exploiting this international weakness to carry out bold, provocative and dangerous attacks.

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This reckless behavior includes countless incidents that may have occurred because of “infrastructure problems,” as the official explanation goes, but may also have been deliberately caused with sophisticated tactics from afar. Incident after incident – and Iran is silent. Attack after attack, and Iran is humiliated. How long will it persist in this behavior? Hard to know.

Just how dangerous is this continuous provocation? There are two possible answers: Either Iran is indeed the existential threat hovering over Israel, a strong and dangerous regional power about to arm itself with nuclear weapons – in which case provoking it is extremely perilous. Or Iran is not as powerful as described in the scare campaign in Israel, it’s another paper tiger, in which case provoking it is not so risky. But it’s impossible to argue both that Iran is dangerous and that provoking it is not dangerous.

Perhaps Iran’s weakness actually offers an opening for other possibilities that don’t include bombing and arson. The effectiveness of the strikes isn’t clear either. Does setting fire to seven ships at the Bushehr port move Iran further away from nuclear capability? Maybe it moves it closer? But it does lend an aura of heroism to the supposed remote-control arsonists.

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said he is certain that Iran will respond against the attacking country, and mentioned Israel’s name for some reason. In Israel, his comments were met with a yawn. They’ll attack or they won’t, what difference does it make? There has yet to be an Israeli military operation that wasn’t greeted here with cheers or, unfortunately, with complacency, as long as it did not exact a price from Israelis themselves.

A damaged room of a medical clinic is seen at the site of an explosion in the north of the Iranian capital Tehran, Iran, June 30, 2020.
A damaged room of a medical clinic is seen at the site of an explosion in the north of the Iranian capital Tehran, Iran, June 30, 2020. Credit: Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS

Still, one can’t help but wonder: There is a country behind these attacks, first in Syria and then in Iran, and it appears to be intoxicated with its successes and encouraged by the lack of an Iranian response, to the point where it might be getting carried away, jabbing sword after sword into the body of the bleeding bull, all without any public debate about the potentially fateful dangers. Nor does anyone seem to care that Israel may be trying to drag Iran into war, as it did in the past with Arab states.

Pyromania or a calculated policy? Teetering on the edge of disaster or playing a well-planned war game? Appalling recklessness or an incredible success story? In Israel, no one even asks.

The usual suspicion, particularly salient these days, that all of this is meant for domestic purposes, isn’t raising questions either. Could it be an attempt to divert attention from other, less comfortable matters? Perhaps taking an opportunity to fulfill the Israeli dream of bombing Iran, without actually bombing it, when no one can say with certainty what benefit this will bring and for how long?

Who knows? Everyone is mum, abandoning the arena to the few who decide. But these few may be the prime minister and his ministers in whom most Israelis have lost faith. Perhaps the few are the spy agencies that bought, or stole, unneeded ventilators and made sure to brag about it. But when it comes to Iran, everyone stands silent. Suddenly we trust them blindly. Suddenly they do know what’s good for Israel and we submit to them and salute them.

There’s a chance it could work again. There’s also a chance it will end in blood and tears. Does anyone care?

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