Iran – Israel contacts
By Saeed Naqvi
That Moscow’s support has been enlisted by the US in the diplomacy around Iran’s nuclear plans has not been without considerable behind-the-scenes goading by France and Germany.
The very heart of “Old Europe” was never comfortable with anti ballistic missile systems being positioned in what Donald Rumsfeld called “New Europe”, namely the Czech Republic and Poland. After all, Moscow’s diplomatic support on Iran was obtained only after Washington agreed to withdraw missiles form Eastern Europe.
But for Moscow it has not been a mechanical quit-pro-quo. Political advisers around the Kremlin have done their homework and joined the Iranian diplomatic concert after extensive discussions with the key country in the Middle East – Israel.
At a recent seminar in Herzilia, Israel, senior members of the Jewish state’s intelligence community like former Mossad Chief Shabtai Shavit, argued that the West’s adversarial relations with Moscow would worsen with the deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe. Under these circumstances it would be impossible to have Russian support on the Iranian nuclear issue. Israel sees this as an existential problem.
But realism dictates that Israeli nuclear arsenal is, likewise, an existential issue for Iran. In this context, statements from Washington policy makers like Bruce Riedel are seen by Iranians as “being helpful”. Riedel said that “double standards” in the Middle East on the nuclear issue are not conducive to peace.
Therefore, embedded somewhere in the sub text of all the moves whether in Geneva or Vienna is to bring out into the open Israel’s nuclear arsenal. It is recognized that resistance to this within Israel and an influential segment of the US will be profound.
Meanwhile some direct Israeli-Iranian contacts have already been established. While Tel Aviv has confirmed the contact, Teheran has not.
It would be interesting to gauge the dynamics within Iran following the demonstrations against President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s June 12 re election led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hussein Mousavi, the candidate who lost the disputed poll.
These are being hailed as the first contacts between Iran and Israel in 30 years when the Ayatuallahs first came to power in 1979. But this is in reality only a partial truth because in 1986, the Reagan administration made clandestine contacts with the Iranian regime. The story exploded as the infamous Iran-Contra deal or Irangate. It was a complex deal in which Iran would be supplied Israeli arms to continue the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Israel would be re supplied the arms. But the money from the Iranian sales would be funneled to the Contras who were waging a war against the pro Soviet Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
Reagan’s National Security Adviser, Admiral Poindexter, declared that “high level” contacts had been established in Teheran in the course of the controversial deal.
The “high level” contact turned out to be the then Speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Hashemi Rafsanjani, currently leading the charge against President Ahmedinejad.
When Irangate exploded as a major scandal which crippled the Reagan Presidency, the revelations did not seem to adversely affect Rafsanjani’s political fortunes. He proceeded to become President in 1989 for two terms.
Also, the Irangate taint did not seem to rub off on the present Spiritual Leader, Ali Khameini. He happened to be President in 1986, the year of Irangate. It is unlikely that Speaker of the Majlis, Rafsanjani, would have embarked on an audacious foreign policy initiative with the US and Israel without clearance from the then President, Ali Khamenei. Despite Irangate, Khameini too earned a promotion: he is the Spiritual leader today.
The interesting fact today is that Rafsanjani and Khameini are on opposite sides in the post election standoff.
Since the US ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Saudi Arabia has watched developments with deep anxiety. Saddam was bad, but the emergence of Shia dominated Iraq next to Saudi oil bearing region of Damman, predominantly Shia, is something of a nightmare. Further, Shia majority in Bahrein, Lebanon, a large population of Shias in Kuwait are all morale boosters for Teheran. Little wonder then that Saudis were invited to be present at the series Iranian-Israeli meetings in September. Also, Riadh has been encouraged to appoint a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of the hurriedly rejuvenated OIC. Mysteriously, neither the government nor the Indian media has taken much note of this development.
# # # # # #