I donít know if people have been following this story, but Iran has just been testing some new missiles that are capable of reaching Israel and there has been quite the furore over it. Iíve got a few thoughts on the matter and I would be interested in seeing what others think.
Firstly, the Israelis are understandably concerned and I sympathise - President Ahmadinejad is on record as saying that Israel should be wiped off the map after all (though he technically doesnít have full authority over the military, Ayatollah Khamenei does and I think itís fair to say his bark is worse than his bite in regard to this) and people are falling about to condemn the testing. Reasonable enough at first glance, perhaps.
The thing is, Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man and Iran is an oppressive, authoritarian state with various terrorist connections and any weaponry in their hands is troubling, but what exactly qualifies their critics to tell them that they shouldnít be allowed to do this? Israel and the US, who have been the most vocal, both have nuclear capabilities Ė weapons far exceeding these new missiles in destructive power, as do the French who have pulled Total out of a big oil investment in Iran, and the British who are also on side. Israel has a very developed military and, indeed, have responded to the Iranian testing by demonstrating missiles of their own which can comfortably reach Iranian soil. Why can one state have a level of military sophistication but another cannot? Simply because that state is not well-liked? Iím sorry but legitimate as concerns about Iran may be, that isnít a valid or fair argument.
The real problem is that the clamour to criticise the Iranians over this seems to be exactly the sort of thing that will invariably feed into anti-Western and Ďanti-Zionistí sentiment and legitimise Iranís claims and sponsorship of terrorism in the eyes of many Middle Easterners. The obvious spin on the story, and there may even be truth in it, is that the established powers are trying to deny others the right to be on an equal military footing because they can and because it is in their interest. I just donít understand why the Americans and Israelis fall into this trap of macho competition and posturing time after time; itís hugely counterproductive for them. Of course, I donít blame Israelis for being insecure in the position they occupy amongst their neighbours but responding to Iranian threats when they will never be more than that as the Ayatollahís regime would undoubtedly be brought down if they were realised, is fruitless and benefits only extremist Islamism. God forbid someone actually does get pre-emptively involved militarily in Iran, of course, because it will make Iraq look like a picnic and propagate terrorism at extraordinary levels. I suppose we'll just have to hold out some hope that the next incumbent of the White House has a more measured approach.
On a more humorous note, Iranís claims may actually have been a trifle misleading. The Americans are now saying that published pictures of the test have been doctored to show more missiles than were actually present:
Now that's just silly.