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Israel, Iran and the 'axis of evil'
by Threehegemons
03 February 2002 01:42 UTC
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I found this article useful in explaining a puzzling development--how did Iran 
join Iraq and N. Korea on the short list of rogue states in Bush's gunsights 
(wasn't Iran nearly enlisted as an ally in the 'war on terrorism' about three 
months ago?)?

Steven Sherman

Israel thrusts Iran in line of US fire 

As Bush weighs up the 'axis of evil', one country is bringing its full 
influence to bear 

David Hirst
Saturday February 2, 2002
The Guardian 

America's campaign in Afghanistan is winding down, but who will be its next big 
target in the "war on terror" remains in the realm of conjecture. Of the three 
chief members of the "axis of evil" that George Bush identified in his state of 
the union address - Iraq, Iran and North Korea - he dedicated most of his wrath 
and spoke most threateningly of that hardiest of Washington's villains, Saddam 
Hussein. 
Yet, if Israel gets its way, the next target could be Iran. President Bush was 
forthright in his address: he told Tehran to stop harbouring al-Qaida 
terrorists and added the heavyhanded threat that if it did not, he would deal 
with Iran "in diplomatic ways, initially". 

Israel has long portrayed the Islamic republic as its gravest long-term threat, 
the "rogue state" at its most menacing, combining sponsorship of international 
terror, nuclear ambition, ideological objection to the existence of the Jewish 
state and unflagging determination to sabotage the Middle East peace process. 

Israel classifies Iran as one of those "far" threats - Iraq being another - 
that distinguish it from the "near" ones: the Palestinians and neighbouring 
Arab states. As the peace process progressed, the near threats were steadily 
being eroded.A vital benefit of the 1993 Oslo accord was said to be that it 
would fortify Israel for its eventual showdown with its far enemies. 

The closer their weapons of mass destruction programmes come to completion, the 
more compelling the need for Israel - determined to preserve its nuclear 
monopoly in the region - to eliminate them. 

For a long time, the strategy of enlisting the growing Arab peace camp against 
Iran and Islamically-inspired extremism from afar seemed to be working. 
Committed, under Oslo, to fight all forms of Palestinian violence against 
Israel, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, came to blows with Hamas and 
Islamic Jihad, and the anathemas he hurled at Iran, their ideological mentor, 
were all but indistinguishable from Israel's. 

But now both threats have converged, malignantly, as never before. This, for 
Israel, was the deeper meaning of the Karine-A affair, the 50-ton shipment of 
Iranian-supplied weaponry destined for Gaza, which it seized last month. It was 
a "most dangerous axis", said the Israeli chief of staff, that threatened to 
"change the face" of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. 

As well as supplying arms and finance, Iran, the Israelis say, is developing a 
supervisory role over the Palestinian "terror" through the exploitation of its 
existing assets in the arena, mainly the Lebanese Hizbullah, and its new ones, 
a direct link with Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, and a recently 
created Palestinian Hizbullah of its own. 

Had the Karine-A cargo made it to Gaza, and thence to the West Bank, it could 
have made at least a dent in Israel's enormous military superiority. The 
Palestinians would no longer have been entirely helpless in the face of Israeli 
armoured incursions into their self-rule areas. The weapons would also have 
brought whole population centres within range. 

Though Mr Arafat and Iran denied any part in the arms shipment, there were 
compelling reasons why these former friends-turned-enemies should have resumed 
their collaboration of old. Mr Arafat's desperate need is obvious. The 
ever-growing violence of the conflict and the complete failure of any country 
to come to the Palestinians' aid present a golden opportunity for the Islamic 
republic, at least for the conservative, clerical wing of its leadership, which 
has exclusive, unaccountable control over underground aspects of foreign 
policy, such as support for Islamist "revolutionaries" like Hizbullah and 
Hamas. 

Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, and most of the reformist camp may seek to 
dilute the extreme anti-Israeli orthodoxy, but Tehran's foreign policy is very 
much an area of competition between the country's rival political wings. 

The simplest way to thwart the growth of such a Palestinian-Iranian alliance 
would be to deny it its essential raison d'Ítre by restoring a peace process 
that has some prospect of success. But it has become clear that peace is just 
what the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, does not want: Palestinian 
violence serves him much better. 

Persuasion


For him, the Karine-A incident provided further, dramatic justification for the 
undeclared but ill-disguised agenda he is pursuing in the name of retaliation 
and self-defence - to destroy the whole notion of self-determination on any 
portion of Palestinian territory. 

But the Israelis took particular alarm at the words of the former Iranian 
president, Hashimi Rafsanjani, who said recently that if Israel continues "its 
hellish policy of expanding its nuclear arsenal, it will eventually draw the 
Islamic world into the race. Then it will be Israel, a small and illegitimate 
country, which will lose out and be destroyed." 

Impressing on the US the gravity of the Iranian threat is a continuous Israeli 
preoccupation. It "must understand", said the Israeli defence minister, 
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, "that this is not only a threat to Israel, but to the 
whole world". Tehran would have a nuclear bomb within three years and was also 
developing missiles which could target any point in Europe. 

There is no issue on which the Israelis, through their extraordinary influence 
in Congress and elsewhere, have proved better able to shape US policies than 
this one. 

Quite simply, said one analyst, James Bill, the US "views Iran through 
spectacles manufactured in Israel". For Mr Bush, judging by his state of the 
union address, the weapons of mass destruction-cum-missile peril is regaining 
ground on that of the post-September 11 terrorist one. And in that department, 
Iran clearly outweighs President Saddam. 

It has long been a built-in, unquestioned US assumption that Israel has a right 
to preserve its nuclear monopoly, and to pre-empt any regional power's efforts 
to challenge it. This is a unique indulgence by a superpower of its favourite 
protege. 

Yet Israel often hints that the US is not indulgent enough. And a touch of 
blackmail about what might happen if Israel does not get its way is apt to come 
with the hint. Thus a leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, wrote in Yediot Aharanot 
that ona visit to Washington this month, Mr Ben-Elizier will try to persuade 
the administration that, Iran being "the real strategic threat", they must 
"deal with it diplomatically or militarily, or both. If they don't, Israel will 
have to do it alone." 




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