2012: Bonfire of the Middle East Vanities (Opera Mundi, Brazil)
With the cries for war against Iran growing louder by the day, diplomats have barely begun to come to girips with all of the likely ramifications. For Brazil’s Opera Mundi, columnist Ignacio Ramonet offers a look at the conflicting national ambitions and long-held animosities that will emerge as a result of any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – and suggests this is no time to dispense with diplomacy.
Will 2012 be the end of the world? That is what a Mayan legend predicts – actually fixing the date of the apocalypse precisely at December 12 (12/12/12). In any case, in the context of an economic recession and severe financial and social crisis in many parts of the world (especially Europe), there will be plenty of risks this year – in which we will see, among other things, decisive elections in the United States, Russia, France, Mexico and Venezuela.
But the main danger geopolitically will remain situated in the Persian Gulf. Will Israel and the United States launch the publicly-discussed attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities? Israeli officials don’t believe they can wait any longer. … According to Israeli strategists, now is the most favorable to strike. Iran is debilitated, both geopolitically in the region, and economically in general – since in 2007, based on alarming IAEA reports, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions. Iran’s principal ally, Syria, is dealing with an internal insurrection and is incapable of providing assistance. And Syria’s incapacity impacts another Iranian partner, Lebanese Hezbullah. Its military supply lines from Iran are no longer reliable.
Although Washington also accuses Tehran of conducting a clandestine nuclear program to equip itself with an atomic weapon, its analysis on whether to attack differs. The United States is emerging from two decades of war in the region, and the result is not encouraging. Iraq was a disaster and ended up in the hands of the Shiite majority – who sympathize with Tehran.
Moreover, Washington is attempting to change its image in the Arab-Muslim world, particularly after last year’s “Arab Spring” insurrections. Whereas before it was an accomplice to dictators, it now wants to be seen as a patron of the new Arab democracies. Military aggression against Iran, especially in collaboration with Israel, would undermine these efforts and arouse the latent anti-Americanism that exists in many countries.
Tensions are clear to be seen. The world’s chancelleries are observing the situation minute by minute, since an escalation could lead to a major regional conflict. Implicated are not only Israel, the United States and Iran, but the other powers in the Middle East: Turkey, the regional ambitions of which have become substantial; Saudi Arabia, which for decades has dreamed of seeing its main rival – Shiite Islam – destroyed; and Iraq, which could break in two: one part Shiite and pro-Iranian and the other Sunni and pro-Western.
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