In an article entitled 'Iran through the Optics of Iraq' CEO of BICOM and fellow Huffington Post contributor Lorna Fitzsimons argues the case, somewhat surreptitiously, for military intervention in Iran. She cites several reasons including the following:
"Equally concerning, is that if our Gulf allies think we are going to abandon them whilst Iran get nuclear weapons they are going to start considering whether they need to appease the playground bully. And if Iran hears that military action is not an option, they are going to be encouraged to hold out against the sanctions, in the belief that once they reach nuclear armed status, they will be able to negotiate with the world from a position of strength."
There are several problems with this, most notably the metaphorical flourish - 'playground bully.' The playground bully is that obnoxious kid who is eager to emphasise his strength through violence, humiliation and control. If the epithet 'bully' is to be applied to any state in the Middle-East, it would most naturally attach itself to Israel, a country which has since 1967 invaded Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. In comparison Iran has invaded no sovereign territories. Also Israel is armed to the teeth, possessing a snarling arsenal of weaponry estimated at somewhere between 75-400 nuclear war-heads.
And yet there is something crude and unreconstructed in the attempt to personify any nation state in such a fashion. Even Israel - whose passage into being was symbiotically fused with the forcible suppression and displacement of an extant population - cannot be rationalised along such lines. We might indeed, and with some legitimacy, describe Israeli foreign policy as 'bullying' precisely because of its repeated incursions, invasions and assassinations, but to personify the country itself in such terms is to do its people a grave injustice.
In the summer of 2011 around 430,000 demonstrators marched in cities and towns in Israel. These protests were facilitated, in part, by the ever increasing divide between rich and poor (with around 25% of Israelis living in poverty), a vanishing middle class and concomitant loss of purchasing power, and the backdrop of world economic crisis more generally. But if these economic factors paved the ground for the mass protests and marches which took place last summer, then it was the Arab Spring which provided much of their impetus and direction.
For revolutions, like ideas, rarely respect borders, and still less, supposed or enforced racial distinctions. The events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen spread around the world like wildfire, expressly and heroically giving the lie to the vulgar sentiment that Arab cultures have in common a proclivity towards dictatorship and repressive social regimes.
The protests in Israel were fully imbued with the Spirit of the Spring; that is, slogans such as 'walk like an Egyptian' became the order of the day with Jewish and Arab Israelis marching side by side. Politicians are always earnestly seeking a 'genuine' solution to the Israel-Palestinian question, and here it was, in embryo at least, unfolding almost metabolically, with Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs mingling together at street level, experiencing through one another the heady, dizzying possibility of new forms of freedom.
The Israeli government are concerned about the possibility of Iran attaining nuclear weapon capabilities, for sure. They are (correctly) concerned with some of the venomous anti-Semitic propaganda peddled by the totalitarian Iranian state regime, but they have half an eye too on the threat presented by their own population, the potential conflagration from below, for they are aware their own power might well be vaporised in the uplift.
For this, the militaristic invective on the part of the Israeli state machine directed toward Tehran functions in a twofold manner; that is, it helps set the stage for the possible and increasingly likely attack on Iran, but it also has the more invidious effect of trying to weld greater swathes of the Jewish population to the state, over and above the remaining 20% of Arabs. This, in turn, helps disrupt political resistance at the street level.
The great German philosopher G.W.F Hegel observed how, sometimes, seemingly opposed terms often contain an invisible but fundamental identity. The relationship between the government in Jerusalem and their antagonists in Tehran is entirely Hegelian in this respect - for the bitter hostility evinced by the Iranian leadership toward Israel also presents as twofold: that is, it is not only a product of the violent incursions committed by the Israeli military against neighbouring states and the West Bank, but also forms a key part in securing its own internal hegemony.
In 2009 the Iranian regime was engulfed by popular protests with opposition supporters numbering in hundreds of thousands. When the regime staged its own rallies, it is worth noting that the common theme running across their banners was 'death to America' and 'Death to Israel.' Such hysterical exhortations are profoundly indicative of a state apparatus desperately clinging to life, and seeking to dissolve internal political and economic contradictions in the spectre of the 'evil' and external 'other'. For this both Israel and Iran achieve a true Hegelian parity.
But the fundamentally sinister identity of these states is only rendered explicit by the courageous activities of their respective populations, as they take to the streets and explore radically new forms of political self-determination. And this more than anything, is why the bombing of Iran would be such a fundamental tragedy, not only in terms of human life, but in terms of the new forms of solidarity which have been won in recent years.
The immediate effect would be to create a wave of patriotism which would help stabilise the abhorrent regime in Iran, and further place a wedge in the politics at the ground level in Israel between Arab and Jew. It would in every way become a dark fissure across the new horizons which the Arab Spring has helped open up. Nor would any military strike be successful even in terms of its own limited and pragmatic agenda. The Economist writes that 'even if things went off without a hitch, Iran would retain the capacity to repair and reconstitute its programme...
Furthermore, if Iran is not already planning to leave the NPT such an attack would give it ample excuse to do so, taking its entire programme underground and focusing it on making bombs as soon as possible, rather than building up a threshold capacity'.