Events suggest that Netanyahu wants to seal his legacy by persuading the US to join with Israel in an attack on Iran.
The Iranian government is not teetering at any ‘brink’
An Iran-focused treaty was to be a key issue on the agenda of hurriedly-arranged talks with Secretary Pompeo, in Lisbon this week – a ‘summit’ that followed in the wake of a notable flock of very high-level, US Defense officials visiting Israel in recent days.
In Lisbon, Netanyahu said that his talks with Pompeo had focused on: 1. Iran; 2. Iran, and number 3: Iran.
The protests in Iran – and the ‘message’ being promoted by the main-stream media which has the “regime” teetering at the brink of collapse, and obliged to use unprecedented violence to quell mass unarmed protests, in the wake of an extraordinarily ineptly managed, fuel-price hike.
What is wrong with this version? Well, what is right is that the hike triggered protests across 100 cities on the Friday, 15 November.
The protests were widespread, and the poorer segments of the population (traditional supporters of the state) were heavily represented. But they were not violent.
The rest of the narrative is wrong.
On the day of the truly mass protests against the fuel hike, no one was killed. And, on the following day, the protestors almost wholly vanished from the streets.
Instead, small groups of pre-prepared, armed and violent activists – not protestors – attacked the strategic hubs of state infrastructure: banks, petro-chemical plants, the gas network, and fuel storage.
These hubs were attacked using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and sub-machine guns.
Other groups took out banks (100s of them), armed with guns, swords and iron bars. (One of these latter groups attacked six banks in the space of just one hour.) Nothing here was spontaneous or ‘populist’.
The security forces reacted militarily – arresting and killing many insurgents. And yes – the internet was shut down. But, not the internal Iranian internet – only the global internet.
So, the Iranian equivalent of WhatsApp and Telegraph, and Iranian news channels were still accessible – though the global internet was not.
The overseas anger at the external internet shut-down possibly reflected surprise and irritation that Iran had this capability. Likely, it was not a capacity that Iran was thought to possess.
So what was going on? The Iranian government, it seems, had prior knowledge of plans to stage attacks by ‘activists’, as a part of an (externally formulated and resourced) disruption plan.
But that original plan indicated that the start of these actions would take place early next year.
What seems to have happened is that when the fuel hike protests began, these ‘activists’ were given the go-ahead to ‘seize the moment’.
In other words, they activated all their pre-prepared plans prematurely. This was exactly what the Iranian security forces wanted, and had sought.
It enabled them to ‘smoke out’ the plot, and to arrest, or kill the ring-leaders.
In other words, the Iranian government is not teetering at any ‘brink’ – and later internal Iranian polling shows popular anger directed principally towards the violent gangs, and to a lesser extent, towards the Rouhani Administration, for its mis-handling of the fuel-price hike – but not against the state, per se.
The latter result is not so surprising as older Iranians will remember how the CIA used similar tactics – violent attacks on shops – to escalate the protests in the 1953 overthrow of PM Mosaddegh, in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of the Shah.
Here is the question: Have the various instigators of these deliberate, violent attacks, ‘come clean’ about the failure of their plan – and of the unraveling (the arrests and disruption) of their Iranian ‘networks’ to President Trump?
Or, is he being presented only with the Netanyahu ‘narrative’ of an Iran cornered ‘and at the brink’?
Iran is not at the brink; its economy is not imploding, and it has not – at least not yet – been cornered in the region.
The arm-wrestling between the US and Iran in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is engaged, but not over. It is not the moment for Israel ‘to count its chickens’ with respect to an imploding Iran.
The other question then, is with all this swelling max-pressure, financialised ‘war’ operations mounted by the US, Israel, and certain Gulf States, across the Middle East, is there a way out? Or, is it likely to end in war?
The momentum, as matters stand, must be towards escalation. To avoid that disaster, one or other of the parties must row back.
One ‘off-ramp’ might be that whilst Trump (ignominiously) might be ready to contemplate the disruption, the distress and hardship being administered to the people of Lebanon, Iraq and Syria in the interests of weakening Iran, he may not want to proceed to that ultimate step of war.
US polls show no popular appetite for war with Iran. Yet climbing down from his Iran ‘tree’ for Trump, will not be easy. The other off-ramp might be that Netanyahu does not remain as PM for these vital, coming six months to ‘write history’ and seal his legacy.