Columns

April 19, 2024

Israel, the untamed hunter’s dog in the wilderness, by Owei Lakemfa

Israel, the untamed hunter’s dog in the wilderness, by Owei Lakemfa

ISRAEL on Monday, April 1, 2024 attacked the Iranian Embassy in Damascus killing 16 persons, including two Iranian generals, Mohammed Reza Zahedi and Mohammed Hadi Haji Rahimi.

There were no apologies. No sense of remorse. Rather, the Israeli Army Spokesman, Daniel Hagari, declared: “The ones attacked were engaged in terrorism against Israel.”

The attempt in the United Nations Security Council, UNSC, to discuss the attacks were blocked by the United States, Britain and France.

For Israel, the attacks were routine. After all, it had carried out over a dozen previous attacks against Iran, including within the country, and the Iranians had not responded.

It, therefore, came as a shock when on April 13, 2024, Iran, according to Israel, fired 185 armed drones, 110 ballistic missiles, and 36 cruise missiles into its territory. Like a beaten child with bruises but pretending not to be hurt, Israel claimed the attacks were of no effect because with its American, French and British allies, it shot down 99 per cent of the Iranian missiles.

However, Israel imposed a media ban on the attacks when it was revealed that two of its bases, including the Nevatim military base, were hit.

What Israel did not say, was that the Iranians might have deliberately used very slow missiles that announced their take-off, some five hours before, thereby giving Israel and its allies, adequate time to shoot them down. Secondly, that Iran has far more sophisticated missiles, like the hypersonic missiles it unveiled in 2023 which travels at Mach-5 or five times the speed of sound. These modern missiles travel at a kilometre per second with complex trajectory and unpredictable manoeuvrability.

These missiles can hit Israel in less than 17 minutes from Iranian territory. So, it appears Iran’s strikes were like a mere warning. A way of assuring its allies that it can strike Israel.

Perhaps this reality is why the United States told Israel point blank, not to respond. Rather, it tried to massage Israel’s ego. US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu that the Iranian attacks were a victory for Israel because there was “no significant damage within Israel itself”. This, he said, demonstrated Israel’s superior military capability.

The attacks, in themselves, cost Israel five times more than Iran. The latter used cheap arsenal. The drones cost $50,000, each, the cruise missiles, $250,000 and the ballistic missiles an average $5 million. So, maximum cost to Iran was about $217 million. In contrast, Israel employed the Arrow and David Sling missiles, which cost $3.5 million and $1 million. The defence overnight, cost Israel, $1.1 billion.

The realisation that Iran did not use its modern missiles might also have been the reason Israel did not immediately respond. Rather, it went wailing at the UNSC. Its UN envoy, Gilad Erdan, said the UNSC must sanction Iran for alleged terrorism.

Iran’s counter-claim that it retaliated the Israeli attacks based on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, could not be faulted. That Article states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

The joint response of Prime Ministers Giorgia Meloni of Italy, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, Justin Trudea of Canada, Britain’s Riche Shunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Joe Biden, was a classic case of duplicity in diplomacy. They had not condemned Israel’s attacks on Iran, but found their voices when Iran retaliated.

The leaders who met virtually under the G7 canopy said they “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel”. They expressed solidarity with Israel and rededicated themselves to its security. They gave the impression that Israel, like a spoilt brat, can go about attacking other countries, but that their victims have no right to self-defence. Their message is that only Israel deserves security, while countries like Syria and Iran who are victims of its reckless attacks, have no right to defend themselves.

The hypocrisy in such statements was brought into sharp relief when the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, told Sky News’s presenter, Kay Burley, that Iran, by retaliating the attacks on it by Israel, was “reckless and dangerous”. But when Burley asked him how UK would react were any of its consulates to be attacked by another country, Cameron replied that it would be ‘very strong action’.

In contrast to the G7, Cuba struck a more reflective pose. First, that the silence of the UNSC “served as an incentive for the Iranian response…” Secondly, that de-escalating the on-going violence, requires an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Thirdly, that peace and stability in the Middle East is impossible “unless a comprehensive, just, and permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached.”

But, why would Israel violate the territorial space of Syria and attack the diplomatic mission of Iran conscious of the fact that it was technically attacking two countries? It could be a continuation of its policy of spreading terror in the region. Secondly, it might be an attempt to divert attention from its on-going genocide in the Gaza. Thirdly, it could be an attempt to suck in the US and its allies into its war in the region and widen the conflicts. Fourthly, it might be a move to draw out Iran which, after its peace deals with Saudi Arabia, is enjoying unprecedented support across the Muslim world.

Conscious of Russia’s presence in Syria and commitment to supporting that country, Israel’s attacks can also be an attempt to provoke Russian response and widen the conflicts in the region. This way, the conflict in the region can be linked with that in Ukraine. If this were to be the case, then Israel would be playing the same proxy role as Ukraine, which is essentially, a cannon fodder.

In taking on various countries simultaneously, Israel reminds me of the African saying that if a dog has human backing, it can kill a monkey. The powerful countries using Israel as a hunter’s dog, also have a duty to put it on a leash so it does not constitute a danger to society.

On the other hand, the Israeli dog might have been long gone in the wilderness and can no longer hear the hunter’s whistle. It is like The Second Coming’, William Butler Yeats’ famous poem: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world… And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”