Middle East Politics in Disarray

This is a new essay by Paul Merkley, Middle East Politics in Disarray, reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

Rejoicing and Consternation Follows in the Middle East from the Geneva Accords.

In November, 2013, there unexpectedly appeared in our newspapers pictures of cheery handshakes exchanged between senior U.S and Iranian politicians. They were celebrating the signing at Geneva, Switzerland, of an interim “Plan of Action” which, the politicians all agreed, could put an end to one of the longest and most dangerous international crises of the last few decades. Under this Plan of Action, Iran was agreeing to put the brakes on its programme of nuclear enrichment while the U.S. and the other participants (the Five Permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) agreed to relax sanctions imposed against Iran.

In our part of the world, governments and opinion elites welcomed these Accords as signs of a fresh start in all dealings between the West and Iran. As a bonus, many commentators foresaw the possibility of drawing Russia, a veto-holding member of the Security Council, into habits of cooperation with the West and also with the majority of UN Members on a great range of longstanding matters of difference. (This latter hope has since been set back brutally by the row over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, its swift annexation of Crimea, and the menacing noises that Putin is making towards Moldova. Implications of this story for the Middle East needs treatment in a separate essay.)

The truly revolutionary effect that this Geneva deal is having on the political realities in the Middle East can be seen in the fact that it has driven the most powerful figures in the Arab Middle East into declaring openly that Islam’s principal adversary, as of this moment, is not Zionism, not the Jews, not the Great Satan (the USA, presently embodied in the defector from Islam, Barack Obama), but it is one or other of the two great local rivals for regional hegemony, Iran and Saudi Arabia – each of whom declares himself a pious Muslim but is instead a cunning traitor.

The Middle East Media Review (MEMRI), whose editors sleeplessly monitor all the official voices and all of the permitted civilian voices being broadcast through the Middle East, have tried to sort this out:

With the upsurge in attacks on Iranian interests, and on interests affiliated with Iran’s proxies, in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Iranian leadership and its mouth pieces have launched a campaign of harsh criticism against the Saudi Regime calling the Saudi regime “a takfiri (i.e., heretic) Wahhabi stream that is acting against Islam and the Muslims, in cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Zion … collaborators with infidels, or offshoots of the forces that abandoned God after the death of the Prophet Muhammad… [According to Tehran,] Saudi Arabia is using its income from its gas and petroleum to fight the Shi’ites and is a tool of America.”

From the inner circle of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comes this counter-charge: that the Geneva Accords are just the latest demonstration of the “huge threat that …the Persian empire [has always presented] against the Muslim Arab world and especially against the Sunnis…. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel!” [Daniel Pipes, “Saudis Bristle at Obama’s Outreach to Iran,’ http://www.danielpipes.org, December 3, 2013.]

I intend to write in an essay to follow about the current significance of this ancient Shia/Sunni quarrel within the house of Islam; for now, in the context of a discussion of the challenges that Israel is facing, we need only to get a grip on ourselves and ask: What does it mean that the two major blocs of Islamic power now hate each other so much that they are openly speaking of their hatred of Israel as a secondary issue!

As a first step in that direction, we need to take account of Israel’s interpretation of what happened at Geneva.

Why Israel Sees Geneva as Munich.

A number of commentators have drawn an analogy between the Geneva Conference of November 2013 and the Munich Conference, held during the last week of September 1938. The latter was a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and France (on the one side) and the dictator Adolf Hitler of Germany (with Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini holding all of their coats.) The meeting had been called for the purpose of reaching agreement on the fate of Czechoslovakia. It ended with the Western powers throwing Czechoslovakia to the wolves. Within a year, Hitler unilaterally declared the terms of the Munich Plan defunct and the whole world went to war.

Only in retrospect did it occur to a small number of historians that this unique moment, when the elected leaders of Britain and France were in the same room dealing eyeball-to-eyeball with Hitler, ought also to have been taken as the right occasion for challenging Hitler on his persecution of the Jewish people. Hitler drew from the absence of this item from the agenda the correct lesson that he would not be thwarted as he took the next step along the road to the Final Solution — kristallnacht (November 9-10. 1938.)

Guy Millière, a Professor at the University of Paris and a Fellow of the Gatestone Institute, has pondered the group photo concluding the recent Geneva Conference, showing the Foreign Policy principals of the U.S., the EU, France and Germany shaking hands with the smiling Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is reminded of the photo that marks the champagne moment of the Munich Conference:

Although Chamberlain and Daladier knew everything about the proliferation of anti-Semitic acts and decisions since Hitler came to power, they may have thought they were in a weak position, and did not really care about the Jews….Hitler noticed – and Kristallnacht soon followed less than six weeks later…. In Geneva, the big, unspoken item in the room was Israel. Laurent Fabius, Guido Westerwelle, Catherine Asthon and John Kerry knew everything about the calls for destroying Israel uttered for decades by Iranian leaders. They were in a position of strength, but evidently did not care about Israel. They practised wilful blindness. Mohammad Java Zarif noticed. Ali Khamenei in Tehran noticed… It is impossible to hide the evidence. Israel is alone, abandoned by a country [the U.S.A.] that is supposedly its ally. Sanctions against Iran have been lifted, they will never be restored. Billions of dollars will now flow into Iranian government coffers. Iranian leaders can continue to enrich uranium; build a weapons-grade reactor; support massacres in Syria; finance terrorists organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and threaten Israel a fellow member state of the United Nations – an act that is illegal under the UN. Charter – with impunity. The international recognition that Iranian’s leaders now enjoy will legitimize all their activities. [Guy Millière, “After Geneva, ‘The Islamic Bomb,’” http://www.gatetstoneinstitute.org, December 20, 2013.]

Just as European Jews concluded the worst from the exclusion from Munich’s agenda of their situation (for the sake of achieving a quick diplomatic result), Israelis are justified in their anxiety about the consequence of exclusion from discussion at Geneva of Israel’s well-known concern about the threat to itself necessarily entailed in an agreement which allows Iran’s nuclear programme to continue.

It was taken for granted at the time of the Munich Accord of 1938 that the greatest consequences of any miscalculation that these allies might be making would not fall on any of them. Similarly, if there is any substance at all to the suspicion that the present deal leaves the door open for resumption by Iran of its nuclear enrichment programme, the immediate consequences will not fall upon the United States or France or Russia or Germany or China – but upon Israel. As this sinks in, polls are revealing that, for the first time in history almost one-half of Israeli Jews believe that the moment has come to compensate for the reduction of America’s commitment to its security by “seeking new allies.”

The Perennial Character of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It would of course greatly improve the prospect for cooperation between the United States and its current diplomatic allies (on the one hand) and Iran (on the other) if the world could be persuaded to put out of mind altogether what it knows about Iran’s deplorable record in matters of human rights and basic freedoms including freedom of religion, its ongoing enthusiasm for public hangings of deviants and heretics, the daily re-iteration of the duty of all Muslims to liquidate all the sons of pigs and monkeys, the Great Satan (the United States) and the evil host of Crusaders, whose chief is the heretic, Barack Hussein Obama.

Nothing is happening on the Iranian side to assist forgetfulness of this reality. The current government leader, whom our journalists continue to portray as a “Moderate,” is proving even more expeditious than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in clearing Iran’s streets of infidels and deviant scum. Since January 1, 2014 and as of March 12, 198 people have been hanged following no trial at all or only brief show trials — opportunities for enraged mobs to vent their rage against enemies of the state and their loyalty to its leaders. [See, inter multa alia, Shadi Paveh, “Iran: Kurds, Tortured, Hanged Zainab Jalaian and Mansur Arvand,” www.gatestoneinstitute.org, March 13, 2014.]

Our own media, keen to turn the page on past unpleasantness, are showing little interest in this side of the New Iran. Worse still, we are told that Secretary Kerry and his team have so far taken up none of the precious time of their Iranian interlocutors raising these matters – not at Geneva, nor anywhere else.

Iran’s Continuing Menace Towards Israel.

Iran’s leaders continue openly to stir up against Israel her nearest enemies, steadily increasing its supply of the most deadly kinds of missiles to Hamas in Gaza and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. [“Israel halts ‘weapons shipment from Iran,’” BBCnews, March 5, 2014; “Iran: ‘Palestinian Resistance’s’ missile power now 1,000 times stronger; Iranian defense minister praises recent rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel,” Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2014.]

At the same time, evidence continues to mount that Iran is deliberately dragging its feet regarding the curtailing of its nuclear programme. [“US: ‘Iran Is Purchasing Nuclear Program Components on the Black Market,’ www.jerusalemonline.com/news, March 17, 2014.]

The New Iran Is the Old Iran.

While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (2005-2013) the Iranian regime’s contempt for Jews was on daily parade. It was Ahmadinejad’s practice when speaking of the Jews, as he loved to do, to avoid human terminology, preferring to characterize them as “filthy bacteria,” and as “rats [who] lash out at nations in the region like a wild beast” – the very language preferred by Hitler and Goebbels. Quoting as authority the Islamic Nation’s Founder, Ayatollah Rouhani Khomeini, he proclaimed that “Israel must be wiped from the map of the world … [and then] God willing, with the force of God behind it we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.” [“Iranian leader: ‘Wipe out Israel,’” CNN news, October 26, 2005.] Every year during his Presidency the people of Iran rededicated themselves to this task by holding a month-long campaign under the banner “A World Without Zionism.”

Ahmadinejad reminded many readers of the Bible of “wicked Haman,” the power-mad counselor to the ancient Iranian tyrant whom the Greeks called Xerxes – the man who pledged before the people of Ancient Persia “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day” (The Book of Esther, 3:13.) Also like Haman, Ahmadinejad intended to accomplish this task in a spirit of martyrdom and for the sake of mankind. “The lifetime of criminals and invaders [Israel] is over,” said Ahmadinejad over Iranian national television in February of 2008. “Powerful hands of Palestinians and regional nations will hit the last blow of destruction against the criminals.” [“Ahmadinejad: ‘Zionist Regime will be uprooted, ynetnews.com, May 3, 2009. www.ynetnews.com.]

In pursuit of his dream, Ahmadinejad had two monumental advantages over Haman — advantages that would have lifted the heart of the latter. Firstly, modern weapons of mass destruction now provide superabundant practical means to accomplish in real time and place Haman’s proclaimed objective: liquidation of the Jews “in one day.” Secondly, modern communications have made it possible for our contemporary Haman to address his call for liquidation of the Jews far beyond the borders of Xerxes’ Empire. During his time in office, Ahmadinejad had literally the whole world as his audience — the billions of citizens of the nearly two hundred nations that make up the General Assembly of the UN hearing in the same moment of time his uncensored call to cooperation in the liquidation of Israel.

Whatever the relative virtues of these two most recent Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmadinejad and Rouhani, the more urgent truth is that policies do not come from that office but from the inspired mind of the unelected Supreme Leader. The Simon Wiesenthal organization has made available on its website abundant documentation of that dignitary’s hatred of Jews, the sons of pigs and monkeys — more than a match for that of Ahmadinejad. [Simon Wiesenthal Center,www.wiesenthal.com, February 2, 2012.]

What Could Be Worse Than Israel?

The new diplomatic spirit allegedly emanating from Geneva Accords has done nothing to soften attitudes towards Israel anywhere in the Middle East– neither among the friends of Iran nor among its enemies. And yet for the time being at least it seems that these same Accords have shaken politics in the region so drastically that the key players – the potentates of all the major nations in the Middle East — are now denouncing each other as “worse than Israel…worse than the Zionists.”

In light of this record of oratorical menace towards the Jews, the sons of pigs and monkeys and against the Axis formed by the Great Satan (the U.S.) and the Zionist entity, how is it possible for a leading voice of the Saudi regime to propose that today “the threat is not from Israel, but from Persia?”

If for “Persia” here were substitute Tehran, the worldwide headquarters of Shia Islam, it will begin to make a certain sense – as I hope to demonstrate in a subsequent essay.

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