Israel and Iran’s contest in incompetence

Trita Parsi writes: Two weeks ago, Netanyahu launched a public campaign to persuade Ki-Moon not to go to Tehran. Attending the international summit in Tehran would be “a big mistake,” he told Ki-Moon. Later he issued a statement, telling the Secretary General that “you do not belong in Tehran.” A visit by the UN Secretary General would undermine the efforts to isolate Tehran, the Israeli cabinet figured.

And Washington agreed. At a time when Tehran’s isolation has increased significantly, a visit by the Secretary General could send the wrong signal.

Problem is, the likelihood of Ban Ki-Moon agreeing not attending the NAM meeting was minimal to begin with. NAM countries represent a majority of the world’s population and given the tradition of UN Secretary General’s attending such meetings, it was almost inevitable that Ki Moon would go. With this campaign, Bibi was jeopardizing his own standing in pursuit of an almost impossible goal.

But perhaps more importantly, Bibi’s folly in getting personally involved in the campaign to prevent Ki-Moon from going to Tehran presented the Iranian government with a PR coup. Bibi had significantly increased the importance and media interest in the NAM summit, and by Ki-Moon rejecting Netanyahu’s pressure and going to Tehran, the Iranian regime could declare victory and draw much more credit from the Secretary General’s visit than if Netanyahu had not bothered with summit in the first place.

But when it comes to self-inflected wounds, Netanyahu has his match in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While both Iran’s conflict with the West and the current nuclear quarrel precede Ahmadinejad’s emergence on the Iranian political scene, his reckless, venomous rhetoric—particularly against Israel—has made him politically toxic and lent significant support to Israel’s efforts to isolate Iran. Had it not been for Ahmadinejad’s never-ending ability to insult, it is not clear if the current international consensus against Iran could have formed. No wonder Israeli diplomats in the US expressed their desire for Ahmadinejad to be re-elected in 2009. [Continue reading…]

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