Here is an excellent Guestpost by Michael Hailemariam, dealing with the politics of the Middle East. Michael particularly discusses Netanyahu’s speech at this year’s UN general assembly and analyzes its implication. Enjoy! 🙂
Bibi Netanyahu: This is a bomb; this is a fuse!
Israel’s Prime Minster Netanyahu delivered his speech to the UN general assembly on Thursday morning. He pulled all the stops to convince the eminent threat, which is a nuclear Iran. In his speech, Netanyahu started well by explaining how Israel has been and continues to be a force for good in the world. Yet the speech quickly went to Iran, after briefly touching on the Palestine issue. The speech itself had little more substantive difference, except maybe the white board illustration, where he drew a cartoon bomb to show at what stage of the nuclear enrichment the world should draw a Red Line.
Coming to New York, the clear challenge for Netanyahu was to garner trust from world leaders, including from Israel’s strongest allies. Netanyahu is fighting against a public opinion at home that disapproves a unilateral attack, a U.S. President who is running out of patience, and a world that sees him more like a bully than a victim. The Red Line is therefore Netanyahu’s new strategy to get a global consensus before what looks like an imminent attack. I suspect many of the world leaders, and particularly those in the Middle East, agree with Netanyahu that a nuclear Iran is not welcome.
Except, Netanyahu has failed to convince the world his solution is the right solution, and missed another good opportunity during his speech at the UNGA. The most worrisome part of a nuclear armed Iran is not the nuclear bomb as much as the flamboyant leader berating Israel and threatening its existence. Bombing the nuclear facilities will certainly be extending a life line for a leader that is about to depart. This is even more important for the United States, who has more to fear from Iranian sponsored terrorists than any direct assault.
Even without the bomb, however, Netanyahu is giving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard more ammunition by decrying their religion instead of keeping the focus on their leadership. “Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth.” This is a distraction and goes against the idea of tolerance, which Obama spoke about a day before. Netanyahu didn’t need to demonize all Shias as radicals or label all the Ayatollahs as terrorists.
Therein lays the problem with Netanyahu’s approach to the dilemma. The world is not in denial about the Ayatollahs or Iran’s nuclear program. We know that, and we also understand why Israel needs the Red Line. Except, I suspect an Israeli attack won’t stop with the bombing of the nuclear sites in Iran, but with a change in a regime if it is going to be successful. Israel is neither prepared nor capable of managing this change. This is perhaps why polls suggest most Israelis want Netanyahu to get the U.S. support, and are against any unilateral attack. At the minimum, an Israeli bomb in Iran can leave Israel isolated from the world, where Israel’s enemies from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Iran’s Ayatollahs are stronger.
For now, Netanyahu needs to take some cooling lessons from Obama. Ahmedinjad will be gone very soon, and the economic sanction with additional covert operation will slow down the enrichment program. Our hope for the Middle East and Iran is not in Israeli bombs, but ultimately in the Iranian people, who are very much capable and are on their way to make a change.