There has been a steady drizzle of reports, both in the Israeli and international media, about Israel threatening to strike at Iran if their nuclear weapons program is not reined in, and a similar stream of opinion pieces aimed at Israel, scolding it for its war-mongering speech and pressing it to wait for sanctions to work.
Latest in the line of reprovers is Russia, that hypocritical “peace-maker” who is only interested in peace if it works to its own benefit, and whose own militaristic record and extreme harshness in dealing with its own domestic terrorism puts Israel in the shade.
In yesterday’s Telegraph we read that Russia warns Israel against attacking Iran:
Moscow, the closest thing Iran has to a big power ally, is deeply opposed to any military action against the Islamic republic, though Moscow has supported UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran.
“This would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” said Mr Lavrov, addressing reporters in Moscow. “Military intervention only leads to a multiple rise in casualties and human suffering.”
A raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be likely to provoke Tehran into disruptive retaliatory measures in the Gulf that would sever shipping routes and disrupt the flow of oil and gas to export markets.
And yet on the same day we read that new sanctions on Iran remain unlikely to be imposed given objections by its main sponsors, China and Russia.
The reason, Western diplomats say, is the reluctance of Tehran’s traditional sympathisers China and Russia, which have the power to veto any council resolution, to sanction Iran’s oil and gas sectors.
As a result, it will be hard to get anything out of the UN that is tougher than the last round of Iran sanctions passed in June 2010.
“The reality is that a new substantive step forward on sanctions will be very difficult,” a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“The last set of sanctions were very substantive, and essentially the next stage would be to go into the oil and gas sector,” he said. “If you get into the oil and gas sector, then obviously there will be opposition from China in particular, but also from Russia. More so China.”
Russia needs to make up its mind what is more important: sanctions on Iran or an Israeli-international air strike. Unless Russia is simply being hypocritical (could such a thing be possible?!) and would be quite happy to see Israel attacked by Iran.
Luckily, there are others who have a more reasonable attitude towards sanctions against Iran:
If the UN Security Council does not act, diplomats say, the United States and its European allies will likely pursue unilateral national sanctions outside the United Nations.
It may be possible for the Security Council to add a few more names of Iranian individuals and entities linked to the UN blacklist of those facing travel bans and asset freezes, though Western diplomats say such moves would be symbolic.
“The UN is important because it’s the international community,” a diplomat told Reuters. “But you’re not going to stop Iran’s nuclear program with lowest common denominator sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.”
“The EU, the US and others will have to wield the sledgehammer with national sanctions and drag the UN Security Council after them,” he said.
Ynet adds that Russia is urging yet more negotiations with Iran – as if the failure of previous rounds bode well for more of the same.
Continuing on with incessant chiding of Israel, as if it is a naughty child, as well as the same appeasing attitude that we have come across in much of the media, the Telegraph’s Mary Riddell produces an opinion piece disguised as news in which she begs Britain to sue for peace with Iran.
This might be a valid point to promote, even if I don’t agree with it, but Riddell spoils the whole show with the most outrageously sly accusations of dual loyalty disguised as advice to British politicians, together with a stern finger-wagging at Israel where she essentially blames Israel for its own predicament:
Were Israel to strike nuclear sites, Iran would certainly retaliate with rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, leaving Barack Obama with little or no choice but to join the conflict in defence of America’s ally, and ours. With Nato already saying that it would play no part in any conflict (a stance on which Germany would surely insist), pressure would fall on Britain to stand with the US, allowing, at the least, for attacks to be launched from the UK base in Diego Garcia.
With the IAEA report expected to show that the new agency head takes a tougher line on Iran than his predecessor, Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, London also faces hard choices. William Hague and his shadow Douglas Alexander have both maintained, correctly, that diplomacy must carry the day.
Riddell does not explain why diplomacy is the correct way to go in dealing with Iran considering that Iran spits in the face of all the negotiators and carries on with its nuclear program.
I am told that Ehud Barak, the supposedly hardline Israeli defence minister, was “not far from [Hague’s] position” at last week’s meeting with the Foreign Secretary. Mr Barak did, however, let slip the hint that some cabinet colleagues were more hawkish than he.
As speculation hardens into the possibility of aggression, what would David Cameron do? Like Tony Blair, who went to war five times in as many years, the PM has begun his premiership with an away victory, in Libya. The question of whether Cameron is prone to the Agincourt fever that consumed Blair is, for now, unanswerable, although any British PM would think twice before snubbing US requests for help.
In this uncertain climate, British parliamentarians must pick their chums more carefully. Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and its Labour counterpart wield considerable financial clout and attract important members.
Ah, that old bogeyman, the Jewish Lobby, that mysterious, powerful, behind-the-scenes manipulator. What a classical antisemitic trope has emerged from Mary Riddell’s mind.
Both Mr Blair and Gordon Brown joined LFI. While such links were once accepted without question, Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband should consider whether it is suitable any longer for senior figures to maintain affiliations that might attract suspicions of a conflict of interest.
Interestingly, we don’t see Riddell advising British parliamentarians to reconsider their affiliations with Muslim and Arab lobbyists. I wonder why that would be?
it is surely vital that all true friends of Israel remind its leaders that many of the causes of its estrangement are of its making and many remedies in its own gift. While no one should question Jewish statehood or take lightly the existential threat that Israel fears, nor should anyone one be afraid to say that gratuitous settlement building, failure to pursue peace with the Palestinians and the blockade of Gaza do not befit an advanced democracy that needs all the international backing it can muster.
Well, of course! Why didn’t we think of it first? It’s obvious that a few caravans and a goat on a hillside in Samaria are what have motivated Iran to declare its wish to destroy Israel. How could it be otherwise?
Mary Riddell ought to be ashamed of herself, and the Telegraph are a disgrace for publishing her antisemitic screeds. Riddell has form, having written recently on the “wretched scandal of Gaza”, nicely ripped apart in Cifwatch.
Strangely enough, a much more neutral article on the Iranian nuclear standoff was found in the Independent, traditionally a much more anti-Israel newspaper. (I get the feeling that the Daily Telegraph has drifted over into the anti-Israel camp in recent months in many of its opinion pieces).
Katherine Butler takes a similar position to Mary Riddell, that talking war about Iran is a dangerous game to play, and she has a valid point even if, again, I don’t necessarily agree with it. However she comes to a much more satisfactory conclusion:
The best way for Iran’s nuclear ambitions to be disarmed, and for Israel’s regional security to be enhanced, would be if the hardliners in Tehran were dislodged from power in an Iranian equivalent of the Arab Spring. Yet Western governments continue to turn a blind eye to the sale of technology to Iran that allows it to cripple the opposition. Many of those who have been tortured and jailed since the 2009 elections were hunted down thanks to mobile phone spyware sold by firms like Nokia-Siemens.
The Daily Telegraph, and particularly Mary Riddell, should take a page out of the Independent’s book for a change and learn how to write on a controversial subject without turning everything into Israel’s fault.