Playing With Fire

Long believed to be developing a nuclear program, Iran is held in high suspicion not only by the US, but also by Israel. Peter Philipp asks whether Germany's calls for a negotiated settlement are in vain.

photo: AP
The US and Israel say Iran's nuclear program is a global threat

​​In Washington on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reiterated after a meeting with designated US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, that Germany is determined to see the issue of Iran's nuclear activity settled through diplomatic means.

In Berlin a day earlier, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder stressed the need for greater international support for Germany, France and Britain's efforts to find a political solution that averts even greater instability in the Middle East.

The urgency of their calls underlines how seriously Berlin is taking the threat of a military strike against Iran.

Psychological warfare?

According to a recent report in The New Yorker, US covert commando missions were sent to Iran months ago to locate "interesting" targets. Washington's only comment on the article was that it was imprecise, and that President George W. Bush was "keeping all the options open."

The choice of words could indeed suggest that Washington has a specific agenda, but falls short of actual proof. All this bluster may simply be part of the White House's deliberate campaign of psychological warfare against Tehran - as leading Iranian politicians have chosen to believe.

The "point of no return"

But the sound of knives being sharpened can also be heard in Jerusalem. With the government insisting Iran's nuclear ambitions pose a threat to the Jewish state, tempers are fraying fast.

photo: AP
Meir Dagan

​​Meir Dagan (photo, left), head of Israel's spy agency Mossad, said this week that "by the end of 2005, the Iranians will reach the point of no return from the technological perspective of creating Iran uranium-enriching capability," while Shimon Peres, deputy to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is hard at work shoring up international support for intervention in Iran - a country he says is determinedly pursuing a nuclear programm and which he describes as a last bastion of terrorism.

Fanning the flames

photo: AP
Condoleeza Rice

​​His sentiments echo those of Condoleeza Rice (pictured), who has called Tehran "an outpost of tyranny." They also give weight to Dick Cheney's recent allusion to a possible Israel-led attack on Iran.

Clearly, it's high time everyone put their cards on the table. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has spelt out that this time, Britain will most definitely not be backing any military action against Iran, and his international counterparts should waste no time following suit.

Washington should also wake up and realize it's playing with fire - and that the people who point to Iran as the cause of escalating violence in Iraq are firebrands. In fact, like the majority of Iraqi Shi'ites, Tehran has proved the opposite is the case. And whatever its motives, Tehran has also cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Organization.

With this is mind, there seems to be no reason to resort to military action. If Washington and Jerusalem persist in their zero-tolerance strategy towards Iran, they must clearly have ulterior motives. What has happened in Iraq should have served as a valuable lesson - proof, if any is still needed, that strong-arm tactics are not the answer.

Peter Philipp