Thursday, November 23, 2006

Truly scary

Gideon Rachman has an off-the-record interview and is surprised. He outlines the interviewee's background and his own expectations of someone

with longstanding and continuing involvement in the Middle East peace process and personal knowledge of all the major protagonists. So I expected him to say something like this: “The situation is worrying, but there are areas we can make progress in. In particular it is vital to make a new effort on the Israeli-Palestinian problem and to engage Iran and Syria.”
That was from a post on the 9th of November. He mentions the same point in a post today because a commenter had complained about the 'neo-con' nature of the interviewee's views. Rachman reiterates that
the whole point of that reported conversation was precisely that it did not come from the usual neo-con suspects, but from someone with impeccable peacenik credentials. Over the past months I’ve heard similar views not just from the Americans and the Israelis, but from the French and from non-aligned diplomats involved in peace efforts.
What are those views? Well, very similar to those of Walid Phares in the World Defense Review that I posted yesterday. And that, too, is the point.

The interviewee sees the major destabilising force in the region
as an expansionist and over-confident Iran, that is bidding for regional dominance. In his opinion the war in Lebanon over the summer was the “first Israel-Iran war in all but name.” He believes that there will be further Iranian-Israeli wars – perhaps next year.
He believes that
Hizbollah unleashed the fighting, more or less on the direct orders of Tehran. Under pressure because of their nuclear plans, “the Iranians wanted to show that they could destabilise the region just like that”. The Iranians are also using their nuclear programme to further their regional ambitions. A regional nuclear arms race is already beginning.
He has met Ahmadinejad
and describes him as “truly scary”. He adds that he is used to dealing with populist Arab leaders, “but when you talk to them in private, they are usually quite reasonable and rational. Ahmadi-Nejad is not like that.” His impression is that Ahmadi-Nejad is now calling the shots in Iran, and has intimidated the moderates into silence: “They are all scared of him.”
The Saudis, the Jordanians and the Egyptians have told him that they expect all this to end in war. Not only that
They are also much more concerned about Iran than Israel, because “they know that Israel is not really an expansionist power”. Indeed the moderate Arab states would like to form a de facto alliance with Israel to contain Iran – but opinion on the “Arab street” prevents them from doing it.
And finally,
The next round of the struggle will kick off internally in Lebanon.

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