09/01/2009

Israel, Iran : necessary enemies

Salient in the case of Israel, absent from the European analysis but present in those of our neighbours across the Atlantic, the role of Iran in the ongoing conflict in Gaza is unclear. What are ultimately the interests the different sides to see Iran take part in clashes between the Israeli army and Hamas?

For Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the situation in Gaza is above all a golden opportunity to strengthen its base, both in Iran and in the region. On the one hand, conservatives have to ensure the victory of the presidential election next June. On the other hand, in view of the new U.S. administration, Iran could be called upon to play a greater role in the Middle East and possibly in the peace process. By sending emissaries in twenty-two countries to try to stop the Israeli offensive and the blockade on Gaza, the Iranian leader seems to confirm this analysis.

Furthermore, Hamas seems supplied with ammunition and is now able to reach Israel in depth with missiles Grad 2 from Iranian manufacturing. However analysts do not see a control of Hamas by Iran in this situation because it could provide a much more significant assistance to the combatants in the Gaza Strip if Hamas had asked. The Islamic Resistance Movement seems thus to sacrifice a substantial assistance in the name of greater independence.

Another sign of the low involvement of the Islamic Republic in the current conflict are heard statements from leaders of Hezbollah. The Party of God in Lebanon has indeed denied having launched two rockets this week across the northern border of Israel. He also said he want to continue to respect the terms of Resolution 1701 of the Security Council and to maintain stability in the region.

Given these positions, it is surprising to note the number of times that Iran is convened in the conflict by the Israeli arguments. Many analysts of the Hebrew state make of Iran the actor who pulls the strings of the conflict, Hamas being a puppet. The comparison between the current situation and the conflict in southern Lebanon in 2006 yet reached its limits. If Hamas acts in the interest of another entity, we need to look more on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood than on the side of Iran.

Why does Europe talk so little about the involvement of Iran in Gaza? Why Israel seems so often demonizing Iran at the expense of a more nuanced and realistic picture of the context? In the current situation, this type of argument is in any case too often used to justify an intervention out of all proportions against a civilian population taken hostage.

N.J.O.