Iran, Israel and the west: some home truths
However, there are serious charges of Israeli and US support for terrorism against Iran. For example, according to Mark Perry, US memos "describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents". The recruitment occurred in London, despite the fact that "Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children."
Jundallah's atrocities are extensive:
In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.... In August 2007, Jundallah kidnapped21 Iranian truck drivers. In December 2008, it captured and executed16 Iranian border guards -- the gruesome killings were filmed, in a stark echo of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq at the hands of al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In July 2010, Jundallah conducteda twin suicide bombing in Zahedan outside a mosque, killing dozens of people, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Or in October 2009, Jundallah killed some 29 people in a series of attacks. Andrew Bolt responded by noting the "poetry here - a terror-sponsoring regime now the target of terrorists itself". One suspects Bolt would not see similar poetry in a comparable attack on the US or Israel.
More recently, evidence has emerged that the MEK has been assassinating Iranian scientists working on Iran's nuclear program, and the MEK "is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service". Four such scientists have been mysteriously killed since November 2010.
There has also been evidence that the US and Israel have engaged in "technological warfare against Iran, using sophisticated industrial sabotage measures to weaken and undermine Iran's nuclear industry". Israel and the US may have together conspired in producing a computer worm called Stuxnet, "a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges".
Whose aggressive posture?
There is an endlessly recycled false claim that Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map. It is worth noting, Iran's rhetoric towards Israel was far more aggressive during the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini – when Israel happily sold Iran arms. This was when Yitzhak Rabin proudly declared Israel "Iran's best friend". Plainly, it was not so troubled by hostile rhetoric back then.
What is also rarely considered significant is the aggressive posture of the US and Israel towards Iran. For example, Ehud Barak urged that "action must also be considered", as "Those who say 'later' may find that later is too late". Or Israel officials explaining that its deployment of warships is "a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats". Or Joe Biden saying the US wouldn't block an Israeli attack on Iran.
Or US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta making the by now routine US declaration that "all options" remain on the table. Such options were canvassed by Israel's Vice Prime Minister ("Every military facility in Iran can be hit") and its military chief of staff ("be prepared to use" military capabilities if necessary).
When we consider who is facing aggression from whom, we may also compare military spending. Iran's military budget is rather modest in comparison with its adversaries. Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji noted:
in 2005 Iran spent by far the least in its region: approximately five percent as much as Israel, eight percent as much as Saudi Arabia, and less than half as much as Turkey... Iran is not a serious military threat to any country in the region, nor has it upset the regional balance of power. Setting aside the sensationalist rhetoric of Iranian leaders, any realistic look at the Middle East and Iran must conclude that Iran’s military activities are primarily driven by fear and designed to preserve the regime.
It is also worth recalling that the US is occupying two of Iran's neighbours, and has military bases in several countries surrounding Iran.
Unlike Iran, the US and Israel both have nuclear weapons. The US and Israel both have long records of waging aggressive war and bombing numerous countries between them. I wonder if any readers can think of the last time Iran invaded a foreign country.
Israeli fear-mongering about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons goes back decades.
So, a few relevant facts. Firstly, there appears to be no evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Panetta: "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No." The Israeli intelligence assessment is that Iran "has not yet decided whether to translate these [nuclear] capabilities into a nuclear weapon". The director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, said "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons".
If they got nuclear weapons, Ehud Barak doubted they would "drop it in the neighbourhood ... They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process, and they understand reality." Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency "assesses Iran as unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict".
Given the constant threats against Iran from both the world and region's superpower, it is not hard to imagine why it might seek nuclear weapons. Strangely enough, Barak was asked if he was Iran, "wouldn't you want a nuclear weapon?" He replied: "Probably, probably. I know, it's not -- I don't delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel ... They look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear ... not to mention the Russians."
The Arab world, even with its state controlled media with pervasive anti-Shiite sectarian agitation, has not been subject to the same kind of propaganda as the West and Israel. The results can be seen in a survey of Arab public opinion. It found in 2010 that 77 percent agreed Iran "has the right to its nuclear program". 57 percent thought the region would benefit even if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. 88 percent regarded Israel as the "biggest threat", followed by 77 percent for the US.
The most appalling spectacle in this propaganda campaign has been the brazen use of the Holocaust by the Israeli government to support its demonisation of Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu declared "We will not allow the Holocaust deniers to carry out another Holocaust against the Jewish people." President Shimon Peres explained that "after being subjected to the Holocaust, we cannot close our eyes in light of the grave danger emerging from Iran". Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said that "This time [Hitler] has a beard and speaks Persian".
To try to use the Holocaust as a political weapon, to justify yet another war of aggression, is obscene beyond belief. There are many reasons to be critical of Iran's system of government. No one should want to see any country with nuclear weapons, let alone a new one.
However, to resolve the conflict between Iran, the West and Israel requires a more sober look at the underlying roots of the conflict, the precise role we have played, and the real reasons for doing so. Such a look is deeply revealing, and not very gratifying. However, as the calls to war grow louder, this kind of honesty is becoming increasingly urgent.
Michael Brull is studying a Juris Doctor at UNSW. He tweets at @mikeb476. View his full profile here.