As somebody who has supported a range of unpopular military interventions in the past, it has become clear that an Israeli “strike” on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be both a moral and strategic tragedy, entailing a scale of calamity not seen since the devastation of Indochina forty years ago. It has been all too common to see newspaper headlines, and, more specifically, government officials referring to the potential attack on Iran as a “strike” (or airstrike) intended to nullify its nuclear programme. There are very few people as vehement as myself on the issue that Iran should be prevented from attaining nuclear weapons by all means necessary (an India-Pakistan standoff replicated in the Middle East would be terrifying), but the impending scenario would have consequences far outweighing the euphemism and recklessness that reportage on the matter actually contains.
Such an attack would almost certainly ignite a regional war, dragging in the likes of the crumbling Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian theocrats of Hamas, and the Iranian proxy of Hezbollah in Lebanon. I will deal with each of these in turn.
Hezbollah has stated for years that its rocket and missile capacity has been increased drastically since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006 (an attack in which, it is largely accepted, Israel was repelled and perhaps even defeated). An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would have serious ramifications for the main Twelver Shi’a Islamist movement in the Levant. Short of a resurgence of Israeli aggression against Lebanon, an airstrike on Iran would be the second most likely thing to propel Hezbollah into unleashing a salvo of rockets onto Israeli towns and cities – now, it is said, capable of hitting Eilat (the country’s southern-most point). The consequences of this would almost undoubtedly elicit yet another invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF); this time with far more caprice and endeavour. All too often I have heard worrying talk from Israelis about the need to destroy Hezbollah by use of the same tactics that destroyed the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – little else needs to be said about what such a policy would entail.
This would be accompanied by continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, with the prospect of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas extremely unlikely. The chances of a complete reconciliation between divergent Palestinian factions would most likely be delayed (as would elections meant to take place this year).
Such a “strike” would also be devastating for the prospect of a successful revolution in Syria. It would almost certainly lead to Assad dedicating support to the IRI and allowing – yet more – Revolutionary Guards onto Syrian soil, not only to continue in assisting his campaign of repression and violence (in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed in a year), but also to potentially open a military front against Israel. Syria could indeed become the site – the conventional battlefield – for a ground war between Syria-Iran on the one side, and Israel-the U.S. on the other. This would undoubtedly play into Assad’s hands: a diversion from internal problems, a method to galvanise Syria’s civilian population into uniting with its government, in order to resist outside forces which they despise.
It should be realised that such a calamitous policy would result in there being no winners. The chances of a peaceful transition to democracy in Iran would be put back many years (as would the prospect of a Palestinian state), U.S. military establishments across the Middle East would be attacked, and the possibility of Saudi Arabia or Egypt being dragged into the conflict would see a quagmire of colossal proportions. Some analysts have said that such an eventuality could occur as early as April. Let us hope they are wrong.
Image Credit- Jim Gordon