Iran, the US and Lanka

Hillary Clinton has made a chilling statement that she would destroy Iran if she becomes President. In all honesty I do hope, not just for the sake of Iran (and our world itself) this woman who appears to be suffering from hallucinations, would not make it beyond the Democratic Convention. However that maybe, her statement is most revealing. For whose sake has she made this statement? Is it that Iran poses a threat to US security? No most definitely not! It is because Israel perceives a threat to her security from Iran. So the US appears to be placing her wider interests at risk for the sake of Israel. How has this happened and why? The second part of the question is easier to answer than the first; it is because of the pressure of the Israeli lobby back in the US. Yes, believe it or not, the tail does wag the Rotweiler. The pro Israeli lobby exerts tremendous, unparalleled influence over the White House, Congress and the State Department.

Israel is being treated even better than a state of the United States. US Middle East policy has been entirely dictated by its relationship with Israel. The US has without reservation stood by Israel through the years, particularly after the 1967 war. Israel could do no wrong. Even when Israel bombed Lebanon in 2006 and killed over one thousand civilians, the whole world was critical of Israeli action but not the US. There is little doubt that US policies on behalf of Israel have jeopardised US security and earned for the country the wrath of the Islamic world. The cost of supporting Israel has risen over the years. Even the war with Iraq was not entirely for the control of her oil reserves; it was also because of the perception that Iraq was a threat to Israel, but the benefits to the US of this policy has been minimal when compared with what she has lost out. The US could be playing a truly positive role in the Middle East had she not been encumbered with this policy of supporting Israel at whatever cost. The US would also not have to face the threat of terrorism which is a direct outcome of her pro Israeli policy.

The invasion of Iraq was based on a concocted report that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or WMDs. Despite that misadventure which has today cost the US more than four thousand American lives (besides having laid that country waste; a heinous crime against humanity, if ever there was one) we have the US targeting Iran which poses no threat to the security of the US but is considered a threat to Israel. If there is another terrorist attack on the US there is little doubt that Iran would be blamed and an attack on Iran would most certainly follow. An attack on Iran would of course not have the sanction of the UN but the US may yet act, claiming that it is in the interest of the security of the world to lay Iran waste! Such an attack would no doubt take the current fighting in Iraq to a new dimension because the Shias in Iraq would no doubt close ranks and attack the foreign forces with greater ferocity. The situation in Afghanistan would deteriorate further as would the situation in Lebanon and on the West Bank and in the Gaza; Hamas would take over the West Bank as well. An attack on Iran would set the Islamic world ablaze. When the Islamic world perceives of such a threat even Pakistan with its Nuclear capability may fall in line with their Islamic brethren. The US would then find herself in a situation which would make Korea and Vietnam seem like picnics. She would never be able to extricate herself from that situation which she would have created for herself. The US itself and American interests the world over, could suffer continuous terrorist attacks, hence there is little doubt that an attack on Iran as contemplated by Hillary Clinton and some other hardliners such as Dick Cheney, the former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld and Bolton would be a disastrous act and an act of unbelievable stupidity.

If on the other hand the US realises where her interests really lie then she should change course. Imagine if the US could compensate Israel and make her withdraw from all occupied territories, Hezbollah would be without a cause; the US would then have solved the ‘problem of Palestine’; that should end the present phase of terrorism. It would take the wind out of the sails of Osama Bin Laden; the US could also have the Golan heights handed back to Syria, that would win over Syria. Lebanon would be stable and even Iran would be far more amenable towards the west. There would be no better way of ensuring the security of Israel and a securing a sustainable peace in the Middle East.

The US it is said has expressed concern over the visits of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to South Asian countries; the US is said to have exerted pressure on India to warn Iran over her Nuclear programme but this understandably has not gone down well in India. In Sri Lanka there has been concern expressed as to how the US would view the visit, some have gone to the extent of reading the visit and our relationship with Iran as being an unfriendly ‘act’ to both the US and Israel. Any country’s foreign policy is crafted at promoting and achieving its own national interests and ours is no exception. The essence of a foreign policy is that it should be pragmatic and the government, despite a lack of sophistication at times, has no doubt exhibited a certain pragmatism which is dictated not by ideology but entirely by our own interests.

At a time when this country is engaged in a separatist war with the most brutal terrorist organisation in the world, according to the Pentagon itself, the ‘West’, under pressure from the Tamil Diaspora and also perhaps because of their own commitment to Democracy and Human rights, (which they use selectively, devoid of any principles as a weapon of convenience) have exerted enormous pressure on the government, including economic blackmail, which they dislike perhaps on account of ‘cultural incompatibility’. This has compelled the government to cultivate closer relations with countries which are prepared to assist this country unconditionally, as friends in the time of need. China, India, Pakistan and Iran fall into this category. Our relationships with these countries, with the relationship with India serving as the sheet anchor, are not directed against any other country and there is absolutely no reason for any country to object to our cultivating the closest of relations with them or, for that matter, even with Israel, if it is in our national interest to do so.

Concern has been expressed in certain local circles about what has been described as the "growing ties with Israel", and columnists have responded to these concerns. As stated by them our relationship with Israel cannot in anyway be a threat to the Muslims of Lanka. Since the Muslims of Lanka would quite naturally sympathise with the Palestinians and their cause, as do all of us in this country, they quite naturally will not take kindly to any relationship with the enemy of the Palestinian people, but it must be understood that our country’s interest must come first and as President JR Jayewardene has stated "I will seek the assistance of even the devil if I have to."

Our world has changed quite dramatically since the end of the Cold War. As another columnist recently stated "India with a Muslim population of almost 150 million Muslims, has full diplomatic relations with Israel; the two countries exchange high level visits, and indulge in cooperation in many fields including military and Intelligence sharing of course. India has a high level Embassy in Tel-a-viv. Both Jordan and Egypt have relations with Israel, if they do not envisage a domestic threat from the Israel, why should we?".

Sri Lanka has had a balanced foreign policy since 1956, which translates into friendship with all and non alignment with any power blocks. This policy has stood us well over the years though we have in recent years not had the capacity to exploit this policy to maximum advantage because of the lack of professional management of our affairs and the lack of a coherent strategy.

Iran has offered to fund a number of projects including the expansion of the Sapugaskanda refinery and the multi-purpose Uma Oya project costing almost US Dollars two billion. In addition to these projects there would be private investment and tourism; Iran would also increase her trade with this country, could we ask for more. If any country demands that we discontinue our relations or downgrade our relations with our friendly Asian partner then let them at least match what the Iranians offer out of goodwill for this country and absolutely without conditions.

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