By Humayun Gauhar
Anyone who imagines that Israel can attack Iran and not unleash another world war must be mad. Pray pause and think.
I know that if the world weren’t half-full of madcaps we wouldn’t have had the first two world wars in the first place. Both were touted as ‘wars that would end the world’ but they were essentially European, with Japan thrown into the second and most of the rest of the world in bondage to European powers drafted in, not really knowing what they were fighting, killing and dying for who and why. For King and country? Which King? Which country? Not theirs, surely? That was the lot of the Indian. Not so Iran, which was not enslaved and never was. Herein lies the essential difference in mental makeup, not in being Shia or Sunni.
But the next world war could truly bring Armageddon. It would be the end, if not of the world, if not of humankind, then certainly of contemporary civilization. Khatam shud. That includes Israel, which ironically would have started the war to protect itself. It would not be the first time that our brother Jews would have brought destruction down upon themselves. But I’m sure of one thing: the Jews may be anything but they are one people who are not crazy. Going by the record, they are the most intelligent people on earth, so intelligent that they often are too intelligent for their own good.
“Good,” some would say. “I want to get off this ship of fools. Let’s begin all over again.” That’s easy to say in the comfort of your armchair, but not so easy when you see your child’s skin peeling off before your eyes because of heat and radiation.
So what do we do? Give Israel what it wants? Not a bit of it. Think it through. Try and understand why Israel and its supporters (I use the word ‘supporters’ tongue in cheek) are fanning the flames of war and fomenting hysteria. Gauge what they really want, and then, if you can, outsmart them. Beat them at their own game. Not so easy, but if there is any Muslim country capable of doing this, the only one is Iran. The rest are…best not to say it. Or should I? The rest are largely regional general managers in America’s global scheme of things. Those few who are not are despots at the very least. Look at Assad the Tyrant of Syria and what he won’t do, how many of his own brothers, sisters and children he won’t kill just to cling to power. He should visit his despotic father Hafiz the Tyrant’s grave sometimes and see whether the can detect a throne there. He will find it not there but under his own derriere. Soon, someone else’s derriere will be on it. And his derriere will be gone.
It was Netanyahu’s speech in Washington that set the cat amongst the pigeons. It fell just short of a declaration of war. There is still a ‘window of opportunity’ open for an attack, he said, but fast for it would close soon and Iran would have passed the nuclear threshold. Time was of the essence, not to be wasted contemplating one’s navel. Israel didn’t need anyone’s blessings and would go it alone if need be. But as Tuco said, “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.” With Netanyahu speaking so much, I doubt if he really intends to shoot. Soothing of feathers started in earnest. Kick the can down the road, at least until the US presidential elections and hope that better sense would prevail thereafter.
But then Israeli President Shimon Peres added to the hysteria by letting off in the same vein, that sanctions were only the first option. If hpw they didn’t work all other options were still on the table, including a military strike. Echoes of Osirak, what?
Why don’t I think Iran will be attacked, either by Israel or America? Here are some reasons.
1. My analysis is rationality based. Ruling is ruthless, often bereft of rationality. Look at it objectively and you can only see losers in this conflict, no winners. Not one.
2. Obama is up for re-election this November. Here he is trying to get out of the two brainless wars his predecessor got him into, would he want to get or sucked into a much bigger one?
3. America and Europe’s economies are fragile. Truthfully, the world economy is fragile. Closing the Straits of Hormuz is easy for Iran, despite America’s fabled armada going up and down watery hills in the Arabian Gulf, like the Duke of York. They should recall the even more fabled Spanish Armada. When the price of oil goes up appreciably, which it most certainly will, the world economy will collapse. There’s no two ways about it. Would anyone in his right mind want that? The question is: are rulers in their right minds all the time? Types like us would be done and dusted, which is most of the world. India’s growth, already sputtering, will take a giant leap backward. China’s growth will stall. Humanity will go into wretchedness never before seen, not even in pre-biblical times.
4. Whatever destruction it might cause, Israel too will get destroyed in the process. Attacking Iran would be suicidal. Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas at the very least would jump into the fray. So might other Muslim countries, especially if their people rise in support, forgetting historic Shia and Sunni cleavages for the moment. It certainly would spell the end of many manufactured post-World Wars and post-colonial states.
5. Worse, whether it likes it or not, and regardless of the noises it is making, America would also have to jump into the fray, not just because of the inordinate pressure brought to bear on it by ‘The Jewish Lobby’ and AIPAC, but more because it would be eying who gets control of the oilfields of the Arabian Gulf and the Caspian Basin once the region starts unraveling. There is no gainsaying that Russia and energy starved China would not want a piece of the action. Even energy-starved India might madly imagine that it can also grab some of the booty. In that unlikely event, what adventure do you think Pakistan might get into? Even China might advise us to. Sounds like the Mad Hatter talking right now, I agree, but it won’t sound so mad when history comes to be written.
The foregoing begs the question: then why all this sabre rattling? It’s about applying pressure on:
1. America to side even more with Israel.
2. Russia and China to talk to Iran to make it come under international oversight, just as Pakistan is perennially being asked to. They are the only countries Iran might pay heed to.
3. The threat of the destruction that an attack on Iran would wreak could actually prevent a war and bring Iran to where Israel feels safe.
4. An US president driven by election fever would bend over backwards to placate Israel if he wants to win.
On the other hand, you just don’t know. Madness comes without giving notice. It doesn’t take an appointment. The rationale of rulers is different from the rationale of normal people. Often driven by imaginary demons, the confidence they exude is frequently hubris. They are so certain of their technology, their satellites, their listening and watching devices and their fearsome computer driven gizmos of mass destruction, that logic and rationality often desert them. That is how empires, superpowers and civilizations end and new ones begin. These are social super novae.
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