Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Israel and Iran: War Games

As each side calls the other a Satan, Iran can continue to entrench its influence in the Arab world and Israel can continue to occupy Palestine unhampered

Salman Masalha ||

Israel and Iran: War Games 

The airstrikes attributed to Israel deep inside Syria, aimed at weapons shipments to Hezbollah or at Iranian bases and missile stocks, and the launching of an Iranian drone into Israel have been nothing but war games, with their boundaries set in advance. This is a cat-and-mouse game played by Iran and Israel.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which total war erupts between Iran and Israel. Such a war, if it broke out, would sow devastation and exact an intolerable toll in human lives.

It doesn’t seem likely that the ayatollahs in Tehran and their counterparts in Jerusalem are unaware of these destructive implications. Such a war could draw in other countries in the region and require the intervention of the big powers to stop the destruction. Therefore, the scuffle between Iran and Israel must be viewed as war games that serve the purposes of both sides. Israel and Iran need each other because each fulfills the other's goals.

Iran needs Israel in order to expand its sphere of influence across the Arab countries in the region, because as long as Israel maintains its occupation in Palestine, Iran can keep feeding the Arab world declarations about the Little Satan and the Zionist entity that must be annihilated. It well knows the intensity of anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab world.

Thus Tehran, without much effort, can show people in these countries that their leaders are incompetent. Iran continues to gain; it can send out its long tentacles and further entrench its influence in the Arab world.

Iran isn’t doing anything new. It learned these games from Arab leaders who have used the Palestinian issue to block any demand for freedom by their citizens. The Palestinian problem has helped perpetuate the rule of Arab tyrants.

Israel also needs Iran. Just as Iran calls Israel the Little Satan (compared to the great American one), Israel also portrays Iran as the devil incarnate.

Portraying Iran as the Great Satan fits the way some Arab leaders perceive the danger of the ayatollahs trying to undermine their regimes. This has also led to the prevailing view on the Israeli right that seeks a regional peace agreement that includes “moderate Sunni states” as defined by Israel. The big Iranian devil serves the interests of Israel’s right, letting it push aside dealing with the Palestinian problem, portraying it as less pressing. Israel can claim that the conflict with the Palestinians isn’t the main issue needing resolution on the road to establishing a new order in the Middle East.

Thus there’s some mutual back-scratching in these war games. Iran can continue to entrench its influence in the Arab world and Israel can continue to occupy Palestine unhampered and without international pressure to end the occupation. This in a nutshell is all there is to the game of conflict theory guiding Iran and Israel. The problem is that sometimes war games get out of control.

Haaretz, May 8, 2018

For Hebrew, press here

Friday, May 4, 2018

Syria and the Illusion of Arab Solidarity

The Syria Crisis Exposed Nothing More Than The Failure Of Arab Leaders And The Illusion Of Arab Solidarity

Salman Masalha ||

Syria and the Illusion of Arab Solidarity

"There is no morality in the politics of the superpowers, and all the more so where wars are concerned, especially when they take place in distant arenas. In such a situation, self-interest dictates policy, and these interests – even when couched in honeyed words – are ultimately economic interests. The people and their fate are not taken into account in the calculations of profit and loss of the superpowers' policymakers.

"For example, let us examine the recent statement by Russian General Vladimir Shamanov in the Russian parliament. He stated that the Russian army had brought 200 types of new Russian weapons [systems] to the battlefields in Syria, to test them. The general added that these experiments proved the efficacy of the Russian weapons, which will increase the sales of Russian arms worldwide and advance the Russian economy. We are aware that the Russian economy is based solely on the military industries and that Russia has nothing to export to the world other than its military products. What this means is that the Russian war in Syria is an [just] an opportunity for the Russian Czar [President Vladimir Putin] to try out the new Russian weapons. What is true of Russia in this sphere is also true of the U.S. and of the other powers. As I said, there are no morals in politics.

"That's how Syria, with its ethnic and religious complexities, became an arena for disputes and tugs of war [between parties with conflicting interests], and a testing ground for the regional and international forces. In its calls on the 'international community' to intervene to bring an end to the Syrian tragedy, the Arab leadership expresses only its own shameful national failure to deal with what is happening in its own Arab back yard.

"If there really and truly was a thing called 'Arabism,' meaning strong connections [of solidarity], those same [leaders] and those like them wouldn't be calling on the 'international community' to interfere so as to bring an end to these massacres and acts of slaughter. If these [leaders] were real Arabs, connected to one another by strong bonds, they would have intervened themselves to stop the slaughter of their own people. Are they not leaders of countries that have tremendous armies? So how is it that in a situation like this they stand with their arms folded and charge the 'foreigners' from the international community to intervene and solve their problems? Why don't they do what they are asking the international community to do?

"And furthermore, note the difference between the way the other [non-Arab] world treated the refugees who knocked on its gates and the way the Arabs treated the refugees, who are supposedly fellow Muslims. Is it not the case that the refugee camps are only to be found in Arab and Muslim lands? What about the millions who migrated to Europe? Those millions are not living in refugee camps, but are being absorbed into European cities and becoming citizens there. Only in the lands of the Arabs and the Muslims, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, are the Arab [refugees] crowded into disgraceful camps. And what does this mean? It means one thing – that the Arabs and Muslims are not [really] taking in the refugees, unlike the European countries, which are 'infidel' [countries] according to the ideologies by which they [the Arabs and Muslims] have been educated from birth.

"This state of affairs, which is obvious to all, does it not mean that what is referred to as 'Arabism' is nothing more than a baseless illusion? And furthermore, when a regime that attributes Arabism to itself, such as the Syrian regime, is helped by foreign Russian planes to murder those who are meant to be its 'citizens' or 'its people,' does that not mean that what is supposed to be a single people is not a single people at all?

"These truths that are obvious to us mean that every Arab who retains a shred of human dignity should be ashamed of belonging to this wretched nation and its leaders, of every stream, who have long been feeding [the nation] empty slogans. Long decades of chewing over slogans achieved have nothing for the Arab citizen. What have these slogans yielded after all those decades? The Arabs have become groups of people with nothing that unites them, who wander aimlessly in a world that is becoming a political, social, cultural, and moral desert.

"The Arab world has become an testing ground for the superpowers, and the Arabs have become the aimlessly wandering guinea pigs who can't find a way out of their crises. These are truths that are obvious to all and cannot be hidden or swept under the carpet."

Translated by Memri

For Arabic, press here

For Hebrew, press here

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