Opinion: The Cloak and Dagger War

Radiation Warning Symbol. Public Domain.

It’s right out of a spy movie: mysterious explosions, car bombs, assassinations, high-stakes diplomacy, and all against the backdrop of a potential nuclear war. But the current conflict between the West and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is a real life and death fight, with tragedies sustained and others averted.

It certainly isn’t on the silver screen—it’s actually very much away from the cameras. Yet like a film, it is reaching a climax: The pivotal moment when the plot twists reach a final showdown is coming soon.

The most recent Iran-sponsored terror attacks aiming at Israeli targets in India, Georgia and Thailand came just weeks after news reports of foiled attacks in Thailand and Azerbaijan. And just months prior to those, an arrest in the United States revealed terror plots in Washington, D.C. What these show is that Iran is getting truly desperate, which means they know their nuclear countdown is getting closer and closer to zero.

Recent analysis articles on Ynet by Ronen Bergman and Alex Fishman portray Iran’s latest attempts at bombing Israeli targets, which did in fact wound the wife of a diplomat in India, as acts of revenge intended to deter Israel from its own undercover fight in Iran.

That seems to be sound analysis, although I offer a slightly more complicated answer. Considering that the U.S. was targeted, and with them the Saudi ambassador, in the failed plot unveiled last October, I argue the terrorism is deterrence, but on a grander scale. And it’s not new. It’s an ongoing cold war.

The interesting thing is that Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy, denied involvement in the latest attacks. And Iran itself has recently sent correspondence to the West at least pretending to seek a renewal of negotiations on its nuclear program.

These steps show that neither Iran nor Hezbollah want to start an actual war with Israel or the West. At the same time, the spike in terrorism implies Iran is taking the cloak and dagger attacks on its nuclear program—which have included sabotage and the assassination of scientists—more seriously.

Neither the West, nor Israel, nor Iran want to see real bombs falling on Iran’s nuclear facilities, since the regional conflict and damage to the global economy could be catastrophic for all sides.

So both sides, Israel and the West on one and Iran on the other, have raised the stakes as last-ditch efforts to avoid a full war. Sanctions and sabotage have been upgraded against Iran, and the Iranian terrorism aims to deter the West and Israel from continuing to ratchet up the pressure.

Both the diplomacy and the terrorism are part of an attempt to buy time for Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran is getting really close to a bomb, but sanctions are destroying their economy and sabotage is likely slowing their nuclear progress.

If Iran can be pressured into suspending their nuclear ambitions, the West avoids a war it can’t afford. If Iran can scare the West and Israel from taking steps that will force Iran into that corner, the Islamic Republic may be able to reach nuclear capability before the world realizes its happened.

In other words, both sides are taking risks that demonstrate that both sides realize this saga is reaching a conclusion. Both sides are getting more and more desperate. And both sides know time is running low.

I doubt Iran will instigate any real warfare with Israel, such as through rocket attacks from Lebanon, in the same way I expect Israel and the West will wait additional months before striking Iran’s nuclear program—if even then. But more undercover actions, more terrorism and more intense diplomacy are certainly expected.

The West and Israel can’t let up now, even if further moves are risky. Rather, the risky nature of taking more steps only reinforces their necessity. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the threats and terror won’t end—they will only get worse.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, February 17, 2012)