By Mohammad Mazhari

Oxford professor says Israel's adventures against Iran ended up strengthening its enemies 

April 26, 2021 - 15:34

TEHRAN - A professor of history at the University of Oxford says Israel's recent sabotage operation at Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz has instead strengthened Israel's enemies.  

 "Yet these displays of strength have ended up strengthening Israel's enemies instead," Faisal Devji tells the Tehran Times.

 "The revelation of alleged Iranian attacks on Israeli shipping, the ability of Syria to breach Israel's air defenses, and the Russian naval escort for Iranian supplies to Syria are three examples indicative of Israel's increasingly restricted room for action in the region" Devji argues.

While Iran is negotiating with the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal – France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China- in Vienna, Israel conducted a sabotage against Iran's nuclear facility on April 11. 

The new Biden administration has said the U.S. is willing to rejoin the pact that Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from in May 2018 in violation of international law.

Although Israel is struggling to prevent a possible revival of the nuclear deal, political observers believe that it is not able to stop the process to restore the nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Following is the text of the interview:

Q:  How do you see the Vienna talks over revitalizing the Iran nuclear deal? 

A: The Americans are doubtless serious about returning to the nuclear deal in Vienna, though like all great powers, they are finicky about their dignity and so cannot give the appearance of seeming too eager. This is all the more important given the Trump administration's recent demolition of American dignity, which a ponderous disdain must now recover. Yet Iran is not important to the U.S. in its own right so much as for its alliances, particularly with Russia and China, and so as a regional linchpin in their new geopolitics. It is also important, paradoxically, because of the Middle East's (West Asia) declining importance politically and economically, with the U.S. seeking conditions of relative peace there, so it no longer has to intervene directly. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are the four crucial stakeholders in the region, and if they can be brought to some kind of understanding, even short of an agreement, then the U.S. can turn its attention to Asia, which is much more important for global politics and economics.

Q: What is your comment on the Israeli sabotage operation in the Natanz nuclear facility? Can Israel hinder the process of talks in Vienna?

A: Like the ponderous display of American dignity, the Israeli strike seems to have been a symbolic assertion of its power rather than an effort either to delay Iran's nuclear capabilities or create the conditions of a conflict that would halt the deal. Israel is no longer a crucial player in the JCPOA discussions and has to stress its importance in other ways, including for domestic reasons given its prime minister's political travails. Yet, these displays of strength have ended up strengthening Israel's enemies instead. The revelation of alleged Iranian attacks on Israeli shipping, the ability of Syria to breach Israel's air defenses, and the Russian naval escort for Iranian supplies to Syria are three examples indicative of Israel's increasingly restricted room for action in the region. Military capability alone can create neither stability nor national security, which is why Israel's new economic and cultural links with the countries who signed the so-called 'Abraham Accords' are more important than armed force. 

Q:  Given the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018, do you think Washington is reliable when it comes to agreements? There is no guarantee another president will not violate the deal again.

A: Great powers are never reliable allies because they think they can dispense with would-be friends by treating them as disposable clients. The U.S. does not even treat its closest European allies as equals, as we have seen from its abandonment of Britain during the Suez Crisis, vilification of France in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and threats to Germany during the Trump administration. Trump was only doing in a vulgar way what his predecessors did with a degree of subtlety. But the damage done to America's reputation by Trump's tearing up of treaties and withdrawal from agreements has been so significant that it is unlikely any president could make such unilateral moves in the future. The failure of Trump's unilateral measures, themselves made possible by an unrealistic assessment of absolute power, have ensured that the U.S. will now renege on its commitments only with the agreement of its allies, who have in the meantime themselves lost considerable faith in it.

Q: What is your comment on a plan by the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan? Is the U.S. administration determined to end the endless wars?

A: The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan only signals the latter's loss of importance in geopolitical terms and not the end of American warfare globally. Apart from the economic and other interests created there by the war itself, there were no significant American interests involved in Afghanistan and its ineffectual military presence there should have ended a long time ago. As in the Middle East (West Asia), however, troops and equipment on the ground are likely to be replaced by a few small bases and the deployment of drones and missile strikes in addition to sanctions as weapons of choice. We seem to be witnessing a gradual retreat from the massive power-projection of the War on Terror in some regions while ramped up elsewhere, such as in East Asia and Africa. This offers regional powers in the Middle East (West Asia) as well as South and Central Asia the opportunity to create their own political-economic zones should they wish to do so.

Q: Why has Biden focused on China? Is China able to surpass the U.S. in military and economic spheres in the near future?

A: China is a significant economic power but, by all appearances, not yet a military one. Yet, it is still unable to compete with the U.S. economically, and the threat it poses is simply that it can no longer be corralled into a geopolitical order led by the former. As I see it, the potential threat posed by China, or Russia for that matter, is that they might pluralize the international order not in the way of the Cold War's all-or-nothing rivalry, but by creating a real diversity of possibilities within it. That would fragment existing blocs and alliances and allow smaller and weaker countries more leverage, of the kind some of them last had during the Cold War. While commentary in the West is focused on the lack of democracy and authoritarianism in countries like China, Russia, or even a NATO ally like Turkey, it is important to note that their new politics would remain viable even if they were paragons of human rights since they are not wedded to anti-Americanism or dictatorships.                   

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