Stanley's blog

Whether or not Iran is going to build nuclear weapons remains uncertain, as does the time-span in which it could be achieved. This is still some years away as Israel has only recently confirmed. A breakdown in the current attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations could lead to conflagration: anything other than a two state solution would be disastrous for Israel.

Despite this, the issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons dominates American and Israeli thinking. There is no obvious solution how to prevent this happening. The gulf of understanding between Washington and Tehran appears to rule out any agreement. Israel claims that Iran is an existential threat.

The problems caused by Iran are several: its role in Iraq and Afghanistan; its support for Hamas and Hizballah; its relationship with Syria and its indirect influence in Lebanon; its general sponsoring of terrorism… These problems exist without Iran having nuclear weapons.

The problem with Iran must therefore be seen in a wider context. The starting point is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its resolution is the key to a contextual transformation of relationships in the wider Middle East. It would reduce Iran’s influence in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria for a start.

It’s a pity that this does not appear to be recognized by Israel, having regard to its continued settlement building. The peace talks appear to be on the brink of breaking down, but there is a very small ray of hope. The Palestinian response to the end of the partial settlement construction embargo has been muted. Much is clearly going on behind the scenes.

The settlement issue cannot be resolved while the ultra religious parties are vital for the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition. Has the Prime Minister seen the light, realizing that the existing status quo would lead to disaster in the long term? The only way forward is for the religious parties to be replaced in government by Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party. Any settlement agreed by Netanyahu would be approved in a referendum.

The focus of the US, Israel and Europe should therefore be on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, not on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

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  1. What is the ‘wider context’ of nuclear Iran? Surely not just differences over a few houses, schools or garages in Israel! Such town planning issues existed decades before the Iranian shi’ite revolution in 1979. Europe’s peace was not made be making areas Judenrein (free of Jews) or free from other EU nationals, rather the reverse — the free movement and mutual respect of people is an essential value.

    Nuclear-armed Iran was not seen as such a problem under the Shah. Now it is a major concern for the other Gulf States, Lebanon, Egypt and the whole region plus energy supplies of the West. Making Israel smaller and less defensible is a distraction from a strategic challenge for Europe’s existential needs — its energy supply. Gaining energy independence in a world of declining and therefore ever more precious oil/gas supplies should be the West’s and the world’s prime goal. Global ecology cannot support the idea that oil is a free lunch. ( The best way to help would be for Europe and other countries to mount a major alternative energy programme. This would deflate the Iranian balloon and other problems such as energy blackmail by religio-political/ economic cartels too.

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