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'Courage' needed to avert war between Israel and Iran

Analysts say urgent diplomatic action is required to prevent a tit-for-tat conflict between Israel and Iran from escalating into a full-blown war that risks sucking in the United States.


Fears are mounting this week of a full-blown military conflict between Israel and Iran as an apparent covert “dirty war” between the two countries escalates.

A series of bombings and attempted assassinations in recent days have been carried out against Israeli targets in Azerbaijan, Georgia, India and Thailand.

Israel took no time in laying the blame for the terrorist attacks firmly at the feet of Tehran.

The attacks come in the wake of the recent killings of leading Iranian nuclear scientists, which Tehran says were carried out by Israel.

Most Middle East observers fear now that the “tit-for-tat” covert conflict may be escalating out of control.

The main cause of the crisis is Iran’s contentious nuclear programme. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists the programme is for peaceful civilian purposes only, but Israel says it threatens the very existence of the Jewish state.

With Israel saying “all options are on the table”, there are fears they will carry out a pre-emptive strike against Iran, plunge the volatile region into war, and ultimately drag the US into the conflict.

‘Dangerous period of our history’

Nooshabeh Amir, editor of Iranian news website Roozonline, told FRANCE 24’s The Debate programme that the tit-for-tat attacks needed to stop urgently to avert a global crisis.

“We should stop all this sort of action and start talking and negotiating,” she said. “If it carries on like this we are heading towards a crucial and dangerous period of our history, not just for Iran but for the world.”

Many lay the blame for the crisis at the feet of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The president warned the world last week that it would soon “see Iran showcasing some very big nuclear achievements”.

Steven Ekovich, professor of Political Sciences at the American University of Paris, said Ahmadinejad’s reluctance to negotiate spelled danger for Israel and the US.

“It’s nice to hope that by talking this can be defused and we can avoid hostilities, but I am not sure the leaders of the Islamic Republic want to negotiate or have a peaceful settlement,” he told FRANCE 24’s The Debate.

On Monday specialist intelligence company Exclusive Analysis, which forecasts the chances of global conflict, released a report suggesting the likelihood of an Israel-Iran war will increase throughout 2012.

John Cochrane, senior violent risk forecaster for Exclusive Analysis, told FRANCE 24 the US presidential elections in November were key to when and if Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike.

“The prospects of the US coming to Israel’s aid in the face of Iranian retaliation are likely to be greater if the strike is delayed until the presidential campaign steps up and Obama becomes most vulnerable to pressure from the Jewish lobby, other supporters of Israel and Republican criticism of any weakness,” he said.

Brave leaders needed

But the European Union and the US still see the use of sanctions as the best option to persuade Tehran to halt their nuclear programme.

In recent weeks, the screw has been tightened against Tehran with the EU imposing an oil embargo against the Islamic Republic. Assets from Iran’s Central Bank were also frozen.

As they ramp up the pressure, European nations still hope Iran will engage in dialogue and cooperate with visiting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Reza Marashi, research director for the National Iranian American Council in Washington DC, told FRANCE 24’s The Debate it was not too late to stop the descent towards war.

“We have got into this chicken and egg argument over what happened first and who is threatening who, but the more important question we need to ask ourselves is how are we going to stop it?” he said.

Marashi said stopping the spiral required decisive “political action by brave leaders who are willing to take risks for peace,” before adding: “US President Barack Obama will have to be the one to prevent the drunk driver, whether it’s Israel or Iran from getting behind the wheel.”

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