Opinion: Feeding the Rift With Iran a Risky Option | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.07.2008
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Opinion: Feeding the Rift With Iran a Risky Option

Iran's firing of test missiles earlier this week was widely condemned as a provocation by Israel and Western governments. But their own role in the conflict with Iran goes largely unnoticed, says DW's Peter Philipp.


Central to the summertime drama taking place in the Middle East is the question of whether the region is steering towards a military conflict with Iran, or whether it's principally saber-rattling that's been keeping politicians and the media so busy.

There's no universal interpretation, as reactions over the last few days to the test firing of Iranian missiles have shown. The explanations of Western and Israeli politicians and "experts" range from "new provocation on the part of Iran" to the assumption that the film footage was manipulated and "dramatized" on a computer. People only seem to agree on one point: Iran should be warned to stop playing with fire.

Peter Philipp

Such a warning would be justified, if, in the last few weeks, other players had received similar warnings. For example, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who openly threatened Iran with an Israeli attack. A short time later, Israel simulated an air attack on Iran in a large-scale, public air force maneuver south of Greece. The Americans and the British also poured oil on the fire by holding naval drills in the Persian Gulf while in Washington. There have been growing political efforts to get Congress to vote on a naval blockade of Iran -- a step that is usually tantamount to declaring war.

But following each of these events, no criticism or concern could be heard. Nor was there any discussion of Iran having owned the rockets it fired for years, something that was sufficiently well known. Just as it's a well-known fact (but one that never seems to draw any criticism) that nuclear power Israel has had similar missiles for a good 20 years and has allegedly developed improved models with a range of up to 7,000 kilometers.

West ignoring Ahmadinejad's critics

The only explanation for the discrepancy in perception and reaction in this case is that, for most people, it's clear who the bad boy is. As is the case with the whole nuclear dispute with Tehran. There's no proof, but when it comes to Iran, assumptions and suspicions are enough to make others want to bring the country to its knees. And woe to Iran should it -- admittedly in a theatrical fashion -- try to warn us of the consequences of an attack or demonstrate its readiness to defend itself.

Of course, it's not just malicious intent that fosters such disparity or keeps it alive. It's also fed by the Iranian president's ever-recurring mistakes and attacks in his relations with Israel and the US. But this is exactly why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is increasingly the subject of criticism in Iran. It's about time that Washington and Jerusalem, as well as Berlin and other governments, recognize that they are only failing these critics and strengthening the hardliners in Tehran by continuing to pursue such a one-sided policy against Iran.

Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent and an expert on the Middle East. (dc)

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