What Israel and Iran share: mistrust of international law
Israel's and Iran's go-it-alone ways are rooted in similar histories of being bullied.
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As for Iran, one need not examine the past 250 years of external intervention in the state's internal affairs to understand its sense of victimhood and mistrust. Since 1940, Iran has experienced three large military invasions, the British and Russian occupations during World War II, and the horrific consequences of the Iran-Iraq war initiated by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.Skip to next paragraph
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During the latter, Iranians witnessed the horrors of chemical weapons on soldiers and civilians alike, with no meaningful international condemnation. The human costs alone were roughly 1 million killed or injured.
And since the reformulation of Iran's political system into an Islamic Republic in 1979, it has come under trenchant economic sanctions that have led to the deaths and suffering of ordinary civilians.
In recent years, due to US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has become literally surrounded by the American military apparatus, with increasing instability on its borders. At times, this instability, mingled with Iran's challenged domestic model of governance, has allowed terrorist elements to attack its civilian population, as seen in the Zahedan terrorist attacks on July 15.
American and European contention over its nuclear program, its disagreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, US duplicity in nuclear deals with regional states such as India, and sanctions by the UN Security Council have only re-inforced Iran's sense of mistrust.
This contemporary history does not validate the internal policies of either government, nor does it justify their external behavior. Yet it does provide crucial context to explain many of their actions.
The worldviews of these nations have been forged by their experiences with the perceived incapacity of international law and global norms to protect their basic security interests. Their behaviors today merely reflect that perception.
Neoconservatives who defend Israel and make the case that international pressure upon it will decrease the likelihood of their political leaders making painful concessions for peace are essentially correct. Yet they fail to see that this same principle applies to Iran and its security concerns.
As long as international law fails to allocate to Iran and Israel the normative aspects of security that most nations derive from it, neither nation will fully abide by its rules. In so doing, they will stand together – apart from the rest of the world.