Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our World: A war on whose terms?

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 23:  In this handout ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

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    Iran's domestic troubles and the Arab world's fear of a nuclear Iran provide Israel with an opportunity to radically shift the region's balance of power.

    Talkbacks (43)     We are entering troubling times. The conviction that war is upon us grows with each passing day. What remains to be determined is who will dictate the terms of that war – Iran or Israel.
    Iran has good reason to go to war today. The regime is teetering on the brink of collapse. Last week, the bellwether of Iranian politics and the commercial center of the country – the bazaar – abandoned the regime. In 1979, it was only after the bazaar merchants abandoned the shah that the ayatollahs gained the necessary momentum to overthrow the regime.

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    Last Tuesday the merchants at the all-important Teheran bazaar closed their shops to protest the government's plan to raise their taxes by 70 percent. Merchants in Tabriz and Isfahan quickly joined the protest. According to the Associated Press, the regime caved in to the merchants demands and cancelled the tax hike. And yet the strike continued.
    According to The Los Angeles Times, to hide the fact that the merchants remain on strike, on Sunday the regime announced that the bazaar was officially closed due to the excessive heat. The Times also reported that the head of the fabric traders union in the Teheran bazaar was arrested for organizing an anti-regime protest. The protest was joined by students. Regime goons attacked the protesters with tear gas and arrested and beat a student caught recording the event.

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    Iran's nuclear progress has frightened the Arab world so much that for the first time, Arab leaders are giving public voice to the concerns they have expressed behind closed doors. In public remarks last week, UAE Ambassador to the US Youssef al-Otaiba made a series of statements whose bluntness was unprecedented. Otaiba said that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf cannot live with a nuclear Iran, that he supports military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities and that if the US fails to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the Arab states of the Gulf will abandon their alliances with the US in order to appease Iran. Otaiba rejected the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran can be contained stating, "Talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous."

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    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just returned from yet another visit with US President Barack Obama. Although the background music was cheerful, from statements by both men it is clear that Obama is not a credible ally. He does not understand or accept the strategic logic behind the US alliance with Israel and will not support Israel in future armed conflicts.
    Indeed, in the face of the growing Iranian menace, Obama insists on limiting his interests to the irrelevant faux peace process with Fatah while allowing Iran and its proxies to run wild.
    What this means is that for better or for worse, under Obama the US is far less relevant than it was four years ago. And this frees Netanyahu to fight the coming war on Israel's terms. Iran's domestic troubles and the Arab world's genuine fear of a nuclear armed Iran provide Israel with a rare opportunity to radically shift the balance of power in the region for the better. It is time for Netanyahu to lead.

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