Iran is not Sudan, and raiding Khartoum to destroy a weapons factory in it is not like raiding Tehran and hitting one of its nuclear reactors. The Israeli air force did not need the last raid against the Yarmouk factory near the Sudanese capital to confirm its capabilities and efficiency in striking facilities in the Islamic Republic, although the distance it crossed was close to 2000 kilometers. Indeed, the issue is not just about the Israeli air force’s ability to carry out such raids -- no matter how far they are -- but rather about the military and retaliatory reactions which will follow this strike. At this level, no one argued about the incapacity of the Taliban regime and later on the Saddam Hussein regime to face the United States’ war machine. But what followed and is still ongoing is the biggest proof for Washington’s failure to exploit its military victory in both countries.
Had it not been for these calculations related to the post-war on Iran stage, Tel Aviv would not have hesitated to implement its threats years ago. In 2007, its air force raided what was described as being a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor, while at the beginning of 2009, it raided an arms convoy that was heading to the Gaza Strip through Sinai on the Port Sudan road, thus destroying the convoy and claiming the lives of more than 100 people. Israel then raided another Sudanese target, one who was said to be the man in charge of the weapons smuggling to the Hamas movement, and its intelligence services assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai at the beginning of 2010 after he was also considered to be the coordinator of the delivery of weapons to the movement.
The raid thus constituted a clear message to Khartoum before Tehran. And far from being a rehearsal for an expected Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities -- as one round in a long confrontation with the Islamic Republic and its weapons that are distributed to its allies -- it is one of many international steps to besiege the Iranian hands spread throughout the Middle East and reaching the Horn of Africa. More importantly, it is a step aiming at tightening the siege around the Gaza Strip and at preventing the delivery of weapons to it, thus falling in the context of the previous raids carried out against Khartoum during the last four years. Hence, it might not be a rehearsal to attack Iran any time soon.
And because the raid is part of international efforts to besiege the Islamic Republic and its branches in the region, it is definitely not an attempt to strike the Arab spring as Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir likes to repeat. Had this been the case, the squares of Khartoum and the streets of the other cities would have been swarmed with the youth of various parties and forces that are threatening the regime with a Sudanese spring aiming at toppling it. It is a message addressed to Al-Bashir’s regime, one which exposed its isolation among its neighbors and confirmed its alienation vis-à-vis the Sudanese domestic arena which was not mobilized, even if under the headline of confronting Israel. The street thus remained idle, unlike what followed the strike launched by President Bill Clinton’s administration against the Shifa pharmaceutical factory in 1998. Hence, no popular rallying was seen. True, Israel did not state it was behind the attack, but what is also true is that none of Sudan’s neighbors and brothers reacted, except for Syria which was the only one to condemn the raid.
This reveals the fact that the Sudanese, along with many of their Arab brothers and neighbors, do not want Khartoum to be part of the rejectionist axis led by Tehran, considering that any relationship with Tehran is harmful rather than beneficial. The regime might be using the Yarmouk factory to produce some of its military needs in its internal wars in Darfur among others and with the newborn state in the South. Still, the Sudanese are aware of the fact that the relationship with Iran did not result in any economic benefits or investments, unlike the case with the investments introduced by China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and even Saudi businessmen. In other words, the interests of Al-Bashir’s regime reside in the establishment of the best relations with its Arab brothers and African neighbors, ones that were used by Washington to impose a tight siege around it, and including Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya following the attack staged against its embassy in 1998.
The regime might boast its reassurance about the presence of an Islamic regime in Cairo, but it knows very well that this regime which might have disregarded the delivery of weapons to the Gaza Muslim Brotherhood through Sinai, is not oblivious to the fact that many of them fell in the hands of the extremists who attacked an Egyptian military post on the border with Israel in August. Moreover, the internal repercussions of the revolution have not yet allowed this regime to review Egypt’s policies and strategies towards the regional issues, no matter how urgent they are, and at the head of which comes the file of the Camp David Accords.
The raid carried out by the Israeli air force confirms its readiness and ability to hit distant targets. However, the goal of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was and still is the tightening of the siege around Hamas. And although it expressed its disgruntlement, Tel Aviv is not opposed to the financial support offered to the Gaza Strip by the state of Qatar, as well as the tutelage over Hamas after the latter withdrew from under Tehran’s and Damascus’ cover following its public stand in favor of the Syrian opposition. One should mention at this level that this tutelage has been seen for some time, ever since Hamas’s leaders left Amman and headed to Doha. Hence, it would be right to place the raid in the context of the response to the missiles that are still being launched from the Strip against the settlements, as it is likely that the leader of the Likud does not wish to launch war with the Palestinians while preparing for the parliamentary elections.
In any case, Israel still remains silent, at a time when no one can acquit it from its new crime in Sudan. At this level, it would be useless to say that Iran will reconsider its calculations and positions in light of this strike, and might even use the open road to ensure further coordination with the Sudanese regime that has no military ability to respond and retaliate. On the other hand, there is an Israeli exaggeration in regard to the capabilities of the air force, considering that if it had been easy to stage an attack against the Islamic Republic, Tel Aviv would not have hesitated to proceed with it and Netanyahu would not have raised all this commotion with President Barack Obama while urging him to hit the Iranian nuclear facilities.
But Obama overcame this storm. Indeed, despite his commitment to prevent Tehran from producing nuclear weapons during his second term if he were to win the elections, he is still relying on the sanctions to push it to reconsider its position at the level of the nuclear file, and the other files resulting from it and which are linked to the Gulf and the region in general. Even Britain is opposed to war on Iran, seeing how the spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron announced that her country was against any strike for the time being because it was not the right approach, reiterating London’s insistence on giving a chance to the sanctions whose effects had just started to emerge, and stressing its insistence on dialogue with Tehran. For its part, The Guardian revealed that the United Kingdom believed that any strike against Iran could constitute a violation of international law, as indicated by the British General Prosecutor’s office. Hence, the leader of the Conservative Party does not wish to follow in Washington’s footsteps in any unilateral act, as was done by his predecessor Tony Blair during the war on Iraq.
The raid on the Yarmouk factory is a message to Sudan and Hamas, before it being a message of intimidation to Iran. This is due to the fact that such messages are not delivered through Khartoum, and that many have gone and are still going through Washington, London and the Security Council, which reached a consensus over six resolutions featuring sanctions so far. On the other hand, the raid further increased the isolation suffered by al-Bashir’s regime, in parallel to the deepening of its alienation on the regional and domestic levels and the plans and actins with which its opponents are threatening in order to topple it. Therefore, it is useless for it to boast the fact that it was the first between the Islamic regimes to rise to power in Tunisia and Egypt among others, as these new regimes know that democracy and popular revolutions were the ones that brought them to power, not coups, even if they are dubbed the “salvation revolution.”
Hence, it should avoid expecting support from its neighbors, just like those who are flaunting the capabilities of the Israeli air force should avoid over-complimenting it, expressing self-confidence and bragging about the ability to reach Tehran, considering that the missiles of the latter are just a stone’s throw away from the Hebrew state!
The writer is a columnist at the London-based al-Hayat, where this article was published on Oct. 29, 2012