Snake Charmers and Snake Killers

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The immediate result of an Israeli strike—assuming it were successful in destroying or at least very significantly degrading the Iranian nuclear program—would be a collective exhalation of breath across the Middle East and Europe. One of WikiLeaks’ most telling revelations came when the King of Saudi Arabia was heard urging the Americans “to cut off the head of the snake,” and if the Israelis undertook the identical action the Sunni Arab leadership would be cock-a-hoop with pleasure and relief (while of course publicly reserving the right to denounce Israel for aggression and war-mongering).

Yet it would not just be Sunni Arabs who would hypocritically denounce Israel while simultaneously wiping their metaphorical brows. The whole of the P5+1—bar one—would of course be concerned about the Iranian reaction, but they would also be delighted that the centrifuges had been finally stilled. The exception would be President Obama, who genuinely seems to have convinced himself that he has deflected Iran from pursuing nuclear threshold status through his own brilliant diplomacy. He might well be the only world leader besides the Supreme Leader of Iran himself genuinely to decry Israel’s action in his heart of hearts.

Israel has been isolated and denounced in the United Nations many times before, but probably not as comprehensively as she would be after a strike on Iran. Yet with Bibi Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Ambassador Ron Dermer in Washington, at last the Jews have formidable communicators to make their case.

The much-threatened attacks by Iranian terrorist cells in America and Europe would probably not do as much damage as doom-mongers suggest, and in any case would only wreak a fraction of the havoc that Iran’s ultimate possession of the Bomb would unleash. Similarly, there would undoubtedly be a huge collapse in global stock markets the day after the attacks, especially if Iran moved to threaten shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, but a resolute United States could deal with both relatively easily, given strong leadership and economic fundamentals.

When the Holy Alliance of the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian autocracies finally broke up in the mid-1820s, the British prime minister George Canning declared: “Things have got back to a healthy state of affairs again—every nation for herself and God for us all!” A successful Israeli attack would return the Middle East to such a state. For all that Hamas and Hezbollah would be ordered to create maximum mayhem, the Israeli Defense Forces and Iron Dome would doubtless be more than a match for them.

Standard boycott and disinvestment campaigns against Israel would be ramped up, and there would be a marked rise in attacks on Jews in Europe. The BBC and other media organizations would of course portray Israel as a warmongering aggressor, regardless of the fact that this would have been an act of self-protection analogous to Winston Churchill sinking the French fleet at Oran in July 1940 before it could fall into the hands of the Nazis.