TORONTO — When it comes to predicting developments in the Middle East, particularly when they relate to Iran’s nuclear ambition and Israel’s response to it, Mordechai Kedar is something of a contrarian.
Even though prognosticators, analysts and even the U.S. Secretary of Defence believe Israel will attack Iran in the near future, Kedar, a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic studies at Bar-Ilan University, doubts that’s about to happen.
Iran, he said, is a problem for the world, not particularly for Israel. Israel won’t do the world’s dirty work for it by attempting to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It’s a message Kedar has been delivering during a speaking tour of North America. In Toronto, he addressed a lunchtime gathering sponsored by the Speakers Action Group, Canadian Friends of Bar-Ilan University and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
Last week, he was on FoxNews.com, repeating his assertion that Iran’s real goal in obtaining nuclear weapons is to first be a regional hegemon and then pursue a much more ambitious goal of world domination. It can do so, he claimed, by controlling the Gulf oil supply, thereby dominating the world economy.
“The Gulf states are shivering from fear from the possibility that Iran will take them. They don’t see the world rescuing them from the wrath of the Iranians,” he said.
They fear Iran, a Shiite and Persian power, would forcibly convert all of them from their Sunni brand of Islam, he added.
Unlike many Israelis and other observers, Kedar believes Israel’s military deterrence protects it – at least for now. Israel and eventually Europe are targets for Iranian domination, he said.
The only way to prevent a relentless march of Iranian hegemony is for world leaders, starting with U.S. President Barack Obama, along with British and French leaders, to deliver a one-week ultimatum demanding that Iran end its nuclear program and load all its materials onto ships leaving the country. Failure to comply should lead to a military campaign that would “flatten” Iran, he said.
Kedar said he is not privy to Israeli military plans, but he doubts the Jewish state is likely to attack Iran.
A colourful and plain-speaking individual, Kedar became a YouTube sensation a few years ago when he went toe to toe with an Al Jazeera host, rejecting Muslim claims to Jerusalem and asserting the Jewish people’s right to build apartments in the city. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Qur’an, he told the startled interviewer, but it has been the Jews’ capital for 3,000 years. Israelis don’t need the permission of anyone to build in Jerusalem, he said.
As of last week, the video had received more than 350,000 hits.
Turning to the wider Arab world, Kedar said it is riven by tribal, ethnic and religious differences that make it impossible to create stable nation-states on the western model.
Identity in the region is bound up in one’s group, he said. Countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen are inherently unstable, with factions at each other’s throats, with each tribe unwilling to cede power to groups that would dominate them.
All the “isms” that have been tried in the Arab world, including nationalism and socialism, are doomed to failure. They are foreign imports that don’t suit Arab societies outside of a small minority of intellectuals, he said.
“Governments of the West don’t understand the mentality of the Middle East,” he continued. If they did, they’d pursue a policy that would favour the breakup of these states into tribal-based entities.
The only stable Arab countries are in the Gulf, and they’re largely one-tribe states. Countries with a multitude of tribes will eventually disintegrate, he predicted.
The same centrifugal forces at work in the wider Arab world are at play among Palestinians. The Palestinians are a tribal society, with various groups dominating West Bank and Gaza cities. Many, with the al-Masri and al-Iraqi names, are originally from Egypt and Iraq, he said.
His solution for the Arab-Israel conflict: eight tribal city-states that Palestinians can call home and that correspond to the fractured nature of the local population.