Israel’s Losing Chess Game Against Iran

With 19,000 centrifuges in its cellars, Rohani’s Iran is basking in renewed legitimacy, an emerging economy and a civilized image.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The raid on the Iranian arms ship, 1,500 kilometers from Israel’s shore, proved again that in the new Middle East the new Israel Defense Forces has unprecedented freedom of action.

Israel’s intelligence and technological supremacy is met with Arab impotence, which makes the impossible possible. The accurate intelligence and powerful army of the only democracy in the Middle East have made Israel a regional power capable of feats of the like carried out last week by Military Intelligence and naval commandos, and repeatedly by MI and the Israel Air Force.

Never before has our military superiority been so crushing. Never before has our military situation been so comfortable. It is no surprise, therefore, that the naval operation was accompanied by such a media circus. No one can match us, it seemed to say, no one can equal our power to strike our Iranian enemies.

But the chilly international response to the Israel Navy’s bravery and the incriminating evidence it fished out of the sea proved how vast is the gap between Israel’s military power and its strategic situation. Conversely, the fireworks in Eilat surrounding the M-302 rockets illuminated the fact that it was Israel that was beaten by Iran. When the international community is forced to choose between the Israeli narrative and the Iranian one, it prefers the Iranian. When it faces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prophecy of doom and Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s illusion, it chooses the illusion.

Israel’s military threats and actions are seen as obsolete and irrelevant. The quiet-seeking world views Iran as a possible provider of quiet, and Israel as a possible disruptive, war-mongering agent.

In the past decade various Israeli leaders have conducted three different campaigns against Iran. From 2004 to 2008 the campaign was mainly secret. The hope was that James Bond would stop the Iranians. Bond did miracles, but the Iranians overpowered him and forged ahead.

The campaign from 2009 to 2012 was mainly military. The hope was that the Israel Air Force would stop the Iranians. The IAF worked miracles, but the Iranians went from strength to strength.

In 2013-14 the campaign was mainly political. The hope was that the U.S. Congress would block the Iranians. Congress worked miracles, but the Iranians outwitted it as well.

All three campaigns ended in Israeli defeats. With 19,000 centrifuges in its cellars, Rohani’s Iran is basking in renewed legitimacy, an emerging economy and a civilized image. While Israel is pushed into a dim corner, Iran is lit up lustrously. That’s why nobody is really listening to Israel’s cries of disaster and nobody is really impressed by the Israeli commandos’ performance. While Israel is scoring handsome tactical achievements, Iran’s victory is strategic.

I am one of the few who believe Israel is entirely right in the Iranian matter. If Iran goes nuclear, the Middle East will become nuclear and the 21st century will become a century of nuclear horror.

But in order to persuade the world that Israel is right, it should have introduced 10 years ago a creative diplomatic campaign that would have led to a complete diplomatic and economic closure being imposed on Iran. It did not, nor did the international community, and now we are paying the consequences.

The James Bond illusion, the IAF illusion and the Congress illusion have created a situation in which the Iranian chess player is leading in the life-and-death game against the Israeli chess player.

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