Barack Obama and Canada's Stephen Harper Are Right to Pursue Peace With Iran

This past weekend, the delegation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed me on the street while on my way to a conference in Ottawa, heading toward Parliament Hill for talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The purpose of the visit was to seek Canada’s support in doing something about Iran’s nuclear program, which, according to Netanyahu is an existential threat to Israeli security. However, our prime minister and later, President Obama, affirmed the North American commitment to a peaceful resolution for the Iran question, despite the vocal persistence for attacking Iran.

As far as the opinion of the international community goes, the world is against war with Iran, and if Washington also says the same thing, we should say that we are likely to see a diplomatic resolution to the issue, the lip-service to how dangerous a nuclear Iran is and the commitment to Israeli security notwithstanding. Standard remarks were exchanged during Netanyahu’s Washington visit, with President Obama reiterating the American commitment to Israeli security while putting pressure on the Israeli PM to go the diplomatic route. While the esteemed Prime Minister has not decided on the issue, he seems to forget that Israel is not exceptional, nor independent of the region in which it operates. Newton’s first law of politics states that an action will have an equal and opposite reaction; military action against Iran will not go unanswered. Moreover, Netanyahu is largely alone and diplomatically isolated in this regard – a policy choice that puts Israel at peril if pursued further.

Both Harper and Obama are friends of Israel, and Tel Aviv would be wise to heed the remarks of these good friends and pacify the hawks in the administration. Netanyahu’s remarks that Israel must be “the master of its fate” are respectable and valid, but again, Israel’s fate is not separate from that of the wider Middle East.

Iran is normatively a democratic state operating in a theocratic framework, with a team of clerics at the helm of the country. In the most recent parliamentary elections, the reformists have become a token voice, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s support is slipping and Khamenei’s conservatives received the lion’s share of the seats. Interestingly, as well, the Ayatollah has been consistent in his denouncing of nuclear weapons and his repeated commitment to Iran never acquiring them – a “small” fact that mainstream Western media have conveniently forgotten to pick up on and thus poured water in the mill of the irrational warmongers on the right. While we’re on the subject, Khameini has also repeatedly affirmed Iran’s no-first-strike approach to foreign policy, and with Ahmadinejad and his supporters losing political ground, these policies will prevail irrespective of the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv and Teheran; unless, of course, the Ayatollah is completely irrational when he made these remarks.

To put the final nail in the coffin of war with Iran: Israelis don’t want it either. The cited poll shows that only 1 in 5 people in Israel support unilateral action against Iran. This is in tune with the sentiments of Israel’s allies in Canada and the United States and by extension diplomacy is the right and only credible policy choice in dealing with Iran.

For this reason, premature elections have to be the next thing we see in Israel – the sooner Netanyahu is completely isolated and out of office, the better it is for peace in the Middle East; as long as another hawk doesn’t enter his vacated offices in Tel Aviv.

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