The N.Y. Times reports that Iran’s leading moderate presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, leads the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad by 54-39%. This news has got to make Bibi Netanyahu and Israeli intelligence deeply unhappy. As Daniel Pipes recently revealed, he prefers an Ahmadinejad victory. The pro-war camp consisting of neocon Jews, the Israel lobby, and Israel’s Likud rightist bloc needs the most extreme leadership possible. It is far easier to demonize a Holocaust denier than a president who might actually engage in serious negotiations with the Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear program and normalizing U.S.-Iran relations.
What could happen if Moussavi wins? First, Israel’s rush to war will be stymied if not brought to an absolute standstill. The U.S. government will want to give the new Iranian administration time to articulate a new position regarding Obama’s outreach efforts in his Cairo speech and elsewhere. The best laid plans of Israel’s intelligence apparatus will be waylaid.
That is why the Israeli foreign ministry announced a new campaign to discredit the presidential elections saying that Iran is not “a western democracy” (!). Mock hangings and other gruesomeness are planned by hardcore pro-Israel forces outside Iranian embassies and consulates. All to prove that Iran is a backward, brutal regime unworthy of being included within the family of nations. There is talk that Israel is also desperately trying to persuade women’s and gay rights groups that they should join a “human rights” coalition to demonize Iran.
Of course, this will not work, as much of Israel’s machinations do not. Iran’s democracy is certainly far from perfect. But compared to Saudi Arabia or Egypt, a few of our closer Middle East allies, Iran is a democratic paradise. Moussavi will be no friend to Israel or perhaps even the U.S., but he is not Ahmadinejad and that’s a vast improvement. The moderate candidate could even surprise many by being the pragmatic president that this moment in time calls for.
Yesterday’s victory of the Lebanese March 14th anti-Syria coalition may also bode well for the Obama administration. If the U.S. can warm ties with Syria, and persuade Israel to resume negotiations with it, then it might be easier to include Lebanon in an eventual peace deal. It would be a mistake to exclude Hezbollah from a possible peace process. But its defeat in this election diminished (hopefully) its ability to act as a spoiler, especially if its patron, Syria, gets on board.
Bibi Netanyahu’s jumped the shark. Barack stole a march on him in his Cairo speech allowing political momentum to flow the U.S. president’s way. Now Bibi’s trying to gain some equilibrium by announcing his own “major address” to the Israeli public which will supposedly lay out his “plan” to address the settlement freeze and other demands from U.S. negotiators. Anyone who has a realistic (that is, cynical) perspective on Israeli politics knows what’s coming. More meaningless platitudes, empty words, hollow phrases, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Bibi’s trying to create some space for himself politically. But there simply is none for his bankrupt perspective. But why don’t we give him a chance to make a bollocks of it and see what happens?