Attacking Iran: A Disaster for the Region and the World

EDITORIAL, 3 Sep 2012

#233 | Johan Galtung

The Israeli attack seems imminent. Richard Silverstein circulates a leaked “shock and awe” strategy of Benjamin Netanyahu / Ehud Barak hard zionism to decapitate, paralyze Iran; and Alon Ben‑Meir (an expert on Middle East politics specializing in peace negotiations between Israel and Arab states) says Israel is not bluffing. Israel may prefer an attack with the USA (Romney? Obama after elections?), but may go alone. Some people believe the nuclear bomb story, others believe that the purpose is Israel as a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates, also promoted by Netanyahu’s late father. The two stories do not exclude each other.

Iran is a Shanghai Cooperation Organization-SCO observer. An attack will trigger responses from the Russia‑China core. What Israel may gain in Saudi Sunni support they may lose in more important parts of the world, in diplomatic and economic relations.  The SCO is huge.

There is also the real danger of a world war of NATO against SCO, with nuclear powers divided 4‑4; USA‑Israel being indivisible as they came into being in the same way: by taking somebody else’s land.

Iranian devastating responses will come before decapitation. However, could those heads be well protected having alternate systems? Maybe decentralized in 31 regions? Israelis are clever at destructive work, but may also be underestimating their enemies.  On the other hand, they seem to have no qualms about plunging the region and the world into a holocaust far beyond what they suffered themselves.

Israel would be wise to consider an old Jewish proverb: “The best way to get rid of your enemies is to make them your friends.” Bombing Iran would win Israel no true friends, neither in Iran nor the rest of the world. It would only ignite Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, with full understanding from most of the world.

Of course, the Iranians should prove themselves by opening their nuclear facilities to unimpeded inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency-IAEA. But the Israelis should do the same. The double standard, “We have a right to possess nuclear weapons, you don’t.” is untenable.

Uri Avnery, in “A Putsch Against War (May 2012) writes: “‑‑In our country we are now seeing a verbal uprising against the elected politicians by a group of current and former army generals, the former foreign intelligence chief [Meir Dagan, Mossad] and the former internal security chief [Yuval Diskin, Shin Beth] who condemn the government’s threat to start a war against Iran, and some of them condemning the government’s failure to negotiate–peace.”  Some call anyone who criticizes Israeli policies an “anti‑Semite” or a “self‑hating Jew”.  Are they all in that category?  Who is a better friend when someone walks with a blindfold towards an abyss: he who says, “Go right ahead, you are on the right track”, or he who says, “Stop, turn around, you are in grave danger!  “Do not turn attention away from Israel’s real crises!! (Peter Beinart in “The Crisis of Zionism”, Gershom Gorenberg in “The Unmaking of Israel (2011)”.

Rather, a Middle East nuclear‑free zone that includes Iran and Israel. 64 percent of Israelis are in favor; like in Iran, provided Israel participates.  Negotiate an agreement of that type and there would be a sigh of relief all over!–and both countries would be embraced.

The background is a 1953 CIA‑MI6 coup that ousted Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and brought in a 25-year Shah dictatorship. Apologies might go far toward solving the “nuclear crisis,” which will get worse unless a miracle happens. But such miracles do occur, also in the UK. Thatcher’s approach was to send British troops to Northern Ireland, refusing to talk with “terrorists”.  Blair did better: he began a dialogue with Sinn Fein, and started withdrawing the British army.  Since then, no more Irish Republican Army-IRA bombs in England.  Netanyahu = Thatcher.

The onus is mainly on the West and on Israel.  Or, could it be that the whole nuclear issue is only a pretext to pave the way for the dream, an Israel, Zion between those two wavy rivers?

That will never work. Israel can attain lasting security only through peace with its neighbors, like in a Middle East Community of Israel with its five Arab neighbors, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine, recognized according to international law, with the 1967 borders and some exchanges, Israeli cantons on the West Bank and Palestinian cantons in northwest Israel. A community modeled after the six‑state European Economic Community of 1958, one of the most successful peace projects in history, ending centuries of war between many of the member states.

What stands in the way?  Key Israeli and Arab contra‑arguments: “Surrounded by hostile Arabs we cannot let them in that close, they overpower us numerically, push us into the sea” says one; “The Jews penetrate us economically and run our economies”, says the other. There are answers: Decisions would have to be by consensus. Start slowly with free flow of goods, persons, services, ideas; settlement and investment later. Build confidence. Change a relation badly broken by Naqba into a peaceful, evolving relation.

Add an open‑ended Conference on Security and Cooperation in West Asia, where all parties are at the table and all issues on the table. Modeled after the 1972‑75 Helsinki Conference, which prepared the end of the Cold War, it could lead to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in West Asia, similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-OSCE. Feasible, with some will.

Better than massive killings only to find no nuclear bomb program in Iran‑‑disproven like the USA in Iraq and NATO in Afghanistan.  With the two rivers ever further away.  And Israel more isolated than ever, licking its considerable wounds.  With the West adding a closed Hormuz to its deep economic crisis.  And anti-Semitism rampant.


 Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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5 Responses to “Attacking Iran: A Disaster for the Region and the World”

  1. […] *Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP. His editorial was published by TTRANSCEND Media Service. Go to Original. […]

  2. satoshi says:

    The above editorial conveys a critically important message from one of the most prominent peacemakers in our time. Please read and reread his message, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    If Israel will attack Iran…: It is probable that Israel will win the war against Iran. It is also probable that Israel’s political environment will drastically be exacerbated after (or even during the war) Israel’s military victory over Iran. The future historians might cite the Israel’s case as a typical example that a military victory does not necessarily bring about a political victory.

    If “Netanyahu = Thatcher”, which prime minister of Israel will be ” = Blair”? Rather than preparing for a war, start preparing for a dialogue. Then, it will be like this: “Netanyahu = Blair.” It is still not too late. Think about a dialogue, think about peace, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    If I say as above, does it sound like a fairy tale for Netanyahu? Then, how about the following words which may sound more fairy tale-like?: “The person who allows love to conquer hate is not weak. He or she is very strong and is a beacon of hope for all of us.” – Lorna Byrne

    But the “true fairy tale”, if any, is that Israel’s attack against Iran will bring about security and advantages (both militarily and politically) to Israel.

    Think: Which is truly more fairy tale-like? “Love to conquer hate” or “military power to conquer one’s neighbor”?

    “For the mountains may go away and the hills may totter, but my faithful love will never leave you, my covenant of peace will never totter, says Yahweh who takes pity on you.” (Isaiah 54.10.) If God promises peace as such, why does Netanyahu make a war? Does he consider God’s covenant as a “fairy tale”?

    “Then he [God] will judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war.” (Isaiah 2.4.) Let God make peace or let his people make a fairy tale? [English Translation of the Bible: “New Jerusalem Bible”]

    May peace be with all humanity.

  3. satoshi says:

    One of the main criteria for the justification of the preemptive attack, as some jurists claim, is “the need to act immediately because of a higher degree of risk.” According to this argument, if the imminent attack against your country from other country is highly expected, it can be justified that your country attacks them before the commencement of their attack against your country.

    If Israel’s preemptive attack against Iran is imminent, and if Israel’s preemptive attack is justified owing to “the need to act immediately because of a higher degree of risk,” the same logic can be applied to Iran. That is to say, if Iran will begin its preemptive attack against Israel “now” before Israel’s “preemptive attack”, the same argument for the justification of the preemptive attack that Israel uses can be applied to Iran.

    In other words, in the current tense relation between Iran and Israel, the argument for the justification of their own preemptive attack – “the need to act immediately because of a higher degree of risk” – can be applied to both sides because both countries perceive the “possible imminent attack” from their counter-part. The preemptive attack can be done by both sides. And both sides can use the same argument in their justification of their preemptive attack. This is one of the difficulties in discussing the justification of the preemptive attack.

    Note, however, that there is no established principle of international law, which justifies the preemptive attack.

    May peace be with all humanity, including both peoples of Iran and Israel.

  4. Ada Hakobyan says:

    Professor Galtung,

    Thank you very much for this piece. Interestingly enough, the Israel and the USA are not the only sides pushing for the escalation of the tensions. The powerful European nations (Germany and France) are pressing for further sanctions against Iran. Two nations which seemed to know how to make peace (at least in Europe) believe that sanctions will make Iran to compromise?! Did sanctions help to build lasting peace and stability in any part of the world?! The more they threaten with their sanctions and war rhetoric, the more Iran can justify the need of any means to protect itself.
    I wonder whether it is the arrogance of the power that makes the leaders blind for the reality. I wonder whether they sincerely believe this is the right way to bring peaceful order to the world. And what do they in fact pursue with the sanctions? Do they speculate that the sanctions will bring economic devastation in the country and the population will try to overthrow its leader? Another civil war and humanitarian disaster in the region… It is so far from their home and it is so close to some of us. I hope their advisors do not consider only political gains but also behave as human beings with empathy and compassion for other humans too.
    Let peace prevail!