Did Israel Send a Warning to Iran? Did Iran Get the Message?
The news that the Israeli Air Force staged a long range aerial exercise, similar to a possible attack on Iran has not been well received in Tehran. Ahmadinejad's close allies, such as government spokesman Ghomreza Elham, called it "impossible." This statement is pretty much in line with the president's belief that Israel would never dare to attack Iran, thus refusing to even consider it as a remote possibility.
However, other more pragmatic figures among the conservatives, such as Majles Spokeman Ali Larijani, are becoming more concerned about the increasing talk from Israel regarding the possibility of an attack. While warning that Israel could suffer more from the consequences of such an attack against Iran, Larijani and others have a right to be worried.
Iran's recent refusal to accept the EU's newly offered incentives package to halt uranium enrichment is convincing more countries that Iran is not interested in any kind of a deal over its nuclear program. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad's continuous threats against Israel are persuading more people and officials in the West that a nuclear Iran would be a grave danger to stability in the Middle East. Unlike Ahmadinejad, Larijani has extensive experience in dealing with foreign affairs. This has enabled him to understand that such an atmosphere could provide justification for an attack against his country. This view is being supported by some of Iran's news agencies, such as Tabnak, who tried to calm frail nerves in Tehran by translating an article published in Haaretz into Farsi, in which it is said that the recent simulations do not necessarily mean that there is going to be a war soon. The message of the Haaretz article is so important to Tabnak that it tried its best to give the newspaper full credibility by calling it a "credible" newspaper. This is a change from the norm. Iranian press usually label Israel's press as "Zionist propaganda."
Domestic concerns are some of the biggest reasons behind Ahmadinejad's constant championing of the nuclear program and his threats against Israel. Through such behavior, Ahmadinejad is trying to distract the attention of the local population away from their economic miseries. In addition, he wants to isolate reformists and pragmatists who want better relations with the West.
This is becoming an even more valid concern, as there are reports from Iran that the reformist Ayatollah Khatami will be running as a candidate for the presidential elections of 2009. He will be a tough competitor for Ahmadinejad. Last but not least, there is the question of oil. Ahmadinejad has learned a neat pony trick of pushing oil prices with his threats, thus generating more income for his government.
General Von Clausewitz, the famous Prussian Strategist, is well known for his quote "war is the continuation of politics by other means." Such thinking is taught in all major military academies around the world.
However, the more Iran stonewalls the international community, and continues to threaten Israel with elimination, the more it encourages those who believe that Iran's current behavior has no clear political goal. It is only military, thus war is the only option. This is especially true when it comes to Israel. Tehran's recent behavior towards Israel is convincing more Israelis that the political reality of a nuclear Iran is something impossible to live with -- and impossible to resolve through dialogue with any party. Although Jerusalem must do its utmost to support international talks with Iran, nevertheless it doesn't hurt to remind president Ahmadinejad that a country whom he has called a "germ" can stand up for itself.
Sending 100 planes to stage maneuvers in the Mediterranean is one way of doing this.
Ahmadinejad may not care, but many pragmatists in Iran have taken notice of such a gesture, and an unnecessary war with Israel because of Ahmadinejad's reckless talk is something they want to avoid. Ahmadinejad has already ruined Iran's economy. They don't want Iran's nuclear program in ashes as well.
The recent aerial message from Israel should be taken as a sign that relations between the West and Iran are reaching a crisis point.
It is time for compromises and a negotiated settlement, if at all possible, enabling Iran to achieve its right to nuclear energy for civilian purposes, and for the West to live safe in the knowledge that Iran will not make a nuclear bomb.