August 26, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 772

Progressive Columnist: Iran's Nuclear Build-Up Endangers its Neighbors More than it Endangers Israel

August 26, 2004
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 772

The London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an op-ed by its former editor, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, claiming that Israel is merely used as a pretext for Iran's nuclear build-up, and that in fact this build-up principally endangers the neighboring Arab countries. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

'All of the Countries in the Region Use Israel as a Pretext'

"In early 1990 one of the American newspapers cited a Saudi diplomat as saying that his country saw the growth of Iraqi military power … as a source of worry.

"[Following this statement] the Iraqi government generated a commotion by claiming that its power is always [directed] against Israel and will always be so. Saudi Arabia was obliged to distance itself from the [diplomat's] statement. A mere few months after this episode, the entire world witnessed the Iraqi forces invading the city of Al-Khafji in Saudi Arabia after having completely taken over her sister country and ally, Kuwait.

"Today Iran is saying the same thing, that its nuclear arsenal and its improved missiles are directed [only] against Israel. [This statement] plays on our emotions so that we will think that anyone who waves the banner of confrontation with Israel will be forgiven all his sins, deeds, and intentions, without any careful scrutiny of his public promises.

"Iran is of course in a state of conflict with Israel as a result of its solidarity with the Palestinian problem, its support for Hizbullah [in its fight] against the former Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and what is left of it today, [and] its support for Syria for the same reason.

"But apart from the verbal campaign against Israel [broadcast] by the official Iranian media, not a single event has been witnessed which would back [Iran's] statements to the effect that its weapons development is in order to defend itself against Israel. Not a single event has been witnessed of confrontation - not even by mistake - between the two countries by land, air, or sea, despite Iran's arsenal of missiles and massive artillery.

"All of the countries in the region make use of Israel as a pretext, and there is a grain of truth in [their claims]. Yet the truth is that the annals of the wars and conflicts [in the region] do not back up the claims of self-defense against Israeli attack or confrontation with Israel.

"What interests us is not what has been said but rather what has happened and is happening. Regrettably, all of Iran's confrontations have been with Saudi Arabia – [in the form of] air and land battles, with The [United Arab] Emirates, and most recently with Qatar – when [Iran] detained a [Qatari] gunship. Iran's conflicts have extended also to Taliban-era Afghanistan before the events of 9/11 as well as clashes with Azerbaijan, and of course with Iraq."

'The Only Possibility is that it is the Neighboring Countries that are the Intended Target'

" Among all of the confrontations in which Iran has been involved over the course of a quarter of a century, there has not been a single direct confrontation with Israel. This fact causes Iran's neighbors to be worried - more than Israel is worried - by the accelerated development of Iran's 'quality' artillery and the quantity of [both] conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

" There is no evidence supporting Iran's claims that the development of the missiles is directed against the Zionists. Moreover, the fact that Iran always fights against Israel through proxies, that is to say by way of support for factions hostile [to Israel] contradicts Iran's claim.

"It is inconceivable that this artillery would be transferred to such proxy warriors, [Therefore] the only possibility is that it is the neighboring countries that are the intended target [of this artillery].

" The quiet arms race that Iran has been pursuing with great zeal does not frighten Israel. Rather, [it frightens] the small neighboring countries that are obliged to buy arms for self-defense, all of which only increases the distrust on both sides and gladdens the arms dealers and the distant countries."

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 19, 2004.

On October 8, 2003 Al-Rashed wrote a similar article titled "Yes, We Fear Iran’s Uranium" - See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: Iran's Nuclear Weapons a Threat to Arab And Islamic Countries, October 10, 2003, "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: Iran's Nuclear Weapons a Threat to Arab And Islamic Countries."

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