It’s the Hegemony

by Brien Jackson

I’m of the opinion that some of Roger Cohen’s reporting regarding Iran has been overly glib, but I suppose that’s somewhat understandable considering the nature of the criticism he’s encountered for it. Still, his column in The New York Times last week was both very good, and very important for the ideas it will hopefully put into the discourse surrounding the new Israeli government, and Israeli foreign policy in general.

First of all, it’s good to see such a reminder that Israel has long been hysterical about Iran. As Cohen points out, a mere 5 years before 9/11, and only 2 years before the al Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Africa, Shimon Peres was declaring Iran the “center” of global terrorism, as well as predicting Iran would possess a nuclear weapon by 1999. 10 years later, Iran is still nukeless, and has halted their weapons program altogether according to U.S. intelligence, and no one is asking Peres for betting tips. But Israeli leaders are still hyping the specter of a nuclear armed Iran as an existential threat to the Jewish state. But Cohen takes on that canard as well, by noting that the evidence of the body of action by the Iranian regime since 1979 is one of both realist rationality and a seeming aversion to direct armed conflict. And that’s without noting that it’s been literally centuries since the Persians have waged an expansionary war of any kind.

But most important is the fact that Cohen calls out the real reason Israel has been perpetually worked up about the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. Simply put, it’s the hegemony stupid. At present, Israel enjoys more or less unchecked dominance in the Middle East. Their military can route any of their neighbors, and can probably fend pretty well against all of the Arabic states working in unison. Additionally, there’s very little in the way of a deterrant on Israeli action present. The closest you get is in Saudi Arabia, where the central importance of their oil production to the global economy means that the world likely would have little patience for an Israeli attack against Saudi Arabia that would send the price of oil to largely unimagined levels, but even that isn’t quite as effective as a legitmate military counterweight. But, a nuclear armed Iran would function as a significant deterrant against Israeli military action. Israel would be constrained by the same principle of MAD that other nuclear armed powers have been vis-a-vis their dealings with Iran, and the Iranians could extend a protective shield to other states in the region, fundamentally shifting the balance of power in the region away from Israel and to, at the least, one that is fundamentally balanced between the nuclear armed Iran and the nuclear armed, highly sophisticated, Israel. Which isn’t t say that this isn’t a legitimate rationale for Israeli positioning, but it’s important that the United States keep this in mind when they hear Bibi implying that Iran was the aggressor in the Iran-Iraq war, or casually asserting that a regime that has managed to last for 30 years now will suddenly become suicidal, in order to justify an Israeli attack that would cause the region to erupt.

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