Three's company

Israel, Iran and the U.S.


Three's company
by Trita Parsi

Treacherous Alliance
The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States
, (Yale University Press).
by Trita Parsi

There are few Western cities where Persian pop music blasts at full volume in shopping malls. Yet this is a daily, natural occurrence at Jerusalem’s high-security downtown bus terminal. Here, in the equivalent of New York’s Penn Station, eighteen-year-old Israeli soldiers wait for their rides home, assault rifles slung over their shoulders, Persian pop legends Moin and Ebi pounding in their ears. Most of the CD stores here are owned by Iranian Jews, and over the past twenty years they have created a market for Persian pop in the very heart of the Jewish State.

When one scratches the surface of the ferocious Israeli-Iranian enmity, an affinity between the two cultures emerges. In many ways they are more alike than different. Both tend to view themselves as somewhat superior to their Arab neighbors. Many Iranians think of the Arabs to their west and south as culturally inferior; as brutes who had the good fortune to have Persians as neighbors who could civilize and refine them.

Similarly, having defeated the Arabs in numerous wars, most Israelis have little respect for their capabilities. “We know what the Arabs can do, and it isn’t much,” an Israeli analyst told me arrogantly, months before the war with Hezbollah in 2006 might have sobered him a bit. Incapable of suppressing their sense of superiority or of convincing the Arabs to let go of their own stereotypes of Persians and Jews, Israelis feel they are left with no option but to view true peace as unattainable.

Some Israelis have all but given up the dream of living at peace with their neighbors, whether through true friendship or minimal but mutual recognition and acceptance, and have settled for a vision of “no war, no peace” built on a bedrock of Israeli military preponderance. The Iranians drew a similar conclusion centuries ago. “The Arabs are out to get us,” Israelis and Iranians often think as they go about their daily lives.

Perhaps most importantly, both view themselves as culturally and politically disconnected from the region where they are forced to face their regional foes through the lens of a Manichean mindset. Ethnically, the Jews of Israel are surrounded by a sea of Arabs who may not always have been at war with Israel, but who have never been at peace with Israel. Culturally, Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe dominate Israeli society, even though the profile of Mizrahi, or Oriental, Jews has risen in recent years. And religiously, of course, Israel is unique regionally and globally as the only state based on the Jewish faith.

In perhaps a natural response to the long Jewish history of persecution, Israel has a penchant for mistrusting the outside world. According to this mindset, international institutions and global alliances can never substitute for Israel’s own ability to protect itself. At the end of the day, a UN Security Council resolution can never protect Israel as well as two hundred nuclear warheads, Israelis believe. “These are weapons of peace,” an Israeli general told me proudly, failing to see the contradiction in terms.

The Iranians aren’t terribly different. Proud heirs to a civilization that precedes Islam by at least two millennia, they are the first to point out to Westerners that they are not Arabs. Iran, or the Land of the Aryans, as it is believed to mean, is largely populated by peoples speaking Indo-European tongues. Persian (or Farsi) is linguistically closer to French and Swedish than it is to Arabic, although it includes many Arabic words and is written in the Arabic script.

And though Iran was Islamized in the seventh century A.D., the Persians kept their language, cultural traditions, and the special quality that to this day connects them to their Zoroastrian past. The Iranian New Year, Nowruz (New Day), has been celebrated in Iran for more than three thousand years and remains the largest Iranian holiday today, far outshining any Islamic festival. When Ashura, the Shiite Muslim day of mourning commemorating the martyrdom of Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in the year A.D. 680, coincides with Nowruz, a day of rejoicing, the Zoroastrian soul of Iran wins in spite of the wishes of Iran’s clerical rulers.

Even as Muslims, the Iranians distinguish themselves from their surroundings by following the Shia line of Islam rather than the much larger and dominating Sunni camp. And like Israelis, Iranians are deeply suspicious of the outside world. While Jews have been persecuted and have survived a Holocaust, Iranians have fought colonization, annexation, decades of foreign intervention, and, last but not least, an eight-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in which virtually the entire world--including the United States--sided with Iraq.

When Saddam invaded Iran in 1980, the UN didn’t consider it a threat to international peace and security; it took the Security Council more than two years to call for withdrawal of the invading forces. (Compare that to Saddam’s 1990 assault on Kuwait, when a Security Council Resolution [UNSR 660] passed within twelve hours of the invasion, demanding an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces.) Another five years passed, mainly because of American procrastination, before the UN addressed Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians. (The United States and Western European countries either directly sold components for chemical weapons to Saddam or knew and quietly approved of such sales.)

Even then, Washington ensured that the UN resolutions would be watered down to protect Saddam. The United States later cited these same crimes to justify its invasion of Iraq in 2003. For the Iranians, the lesson was clear: When in danger, Iran can rely on neither the Geneva Conventions nor the UN Charter for protection. Just like Israel, Iran has concluded that it can rely only on itself.

"Treacherous Alliance" is available on

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Kaveh Nouraee

No, it's straight out of my HP desktop

by Kaveh Nouraee on



I am not familiar with David Harowitz (although I believe the correct spelling would be HOROWITZ) or his writings.


The fact that you feel compelled to qualify your statement with, ("I am not against either....") proves that you are in fact bigoted. That you do so with an emphasis on placing that portion of the statement in parentheses, so as to not contaminate or dilute the rest of your statement only shows how deep seated your bigotry actually is.


Fact is, you harbor an intense dislike or even hate for Jews and Baha'is, and you have been programmed to believe that they are inferior to you. But, hey, that's quite alright, because I am certain that there are many of them who feel the same way about you.


The first thing a hater of Jews like you do is equate Judaism with Zionism, calling Jews or people who don't share your feelings towards Jews Zionists. You operate from the "How To Hate a Jew" handbook, page for page, and cliche for cliche. There are Jews in the world who couldn't find Jerusalem on a map or Tel Aviv if they were in it, and think Hebrew is the first name of a hot dog vendor. But you immediately think they are an Israeli or a Zionist.


As far as your attitude towards Baha'is, I simply don't get it. You immediately adopt some kind of superiority complex.


Honestly, who gives a damn how anyone prays? They're not praying to YOU are they? They are praying to GOD. Remember HIM? Do you think GOD needs help? And if He did, what on earth do you have on your resume that makes you think YOU are the one He will turn to and hire as an assistant?


Dariush, get off your high horse, or shotor, or khar, or whatever the hell you have perched yourself upon. Yes, Israel simply want to be left alone. Your IRI heroes want to be left alone with no outsiders meddling, don't they? Does that mean no one else is entitled to want the same? Or is it that the people who live in Israel, who happen to be Jewish, aren't entitled?


Stop kissing up to a population that was abandoned by their own. India and Pakistan are killing each other over Kashmir, but I don't hear you mentioning that at all. Maybe because there aren't any Jews.


I will type this part slowly because I know you don't read that fast:


Once again, this is NOT about governments, either in Israel or Iran, or anywhere else. This is about the people that are supposed to be served by those governments, who have only served to be a disservice in one way or another.

To answer your statement on how Israel came about, I will give you a homework assignment: SHOW ME ONE COUNTRY THAT HAS COME INTO EXISTENCE WITHOUT VIOLENCE OR WAR AS A PART OF IT.



Both Arabs and Jews are

by jigsaw on

Both Arabs and Jews are semitic and their language is semitic.


In fact jews and Arabs are cousins.

Conflict between the two sons of Abraham began from the very start. Genesis 21:9 says the conflict began just after Isaac was weaned: "Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking."

Galatians 4 tells us that Ishmael had been "born according to the flesh" while Isaac had been "born according to the promise". Isaac replaced Ishmael as the favored son and heir. This, of course, made Ishmael jealous and bitter. As a result, he mocked and disdained his half-brother. Eventually the situation became so intolerable that Abraham's wife Sarah demanded that Ishmael and his Egyptian concubine mother, Hagar, be expelled permanently from Abraham’s family. Descendants of Ishmael became muslims. and descendants of Isaac became Jews.


However, Iranians are not semitic and different from both Jews and Arabs both in language, genetics and culture.

Kaveh Nouraee

Well, I'm not kidding

by Kaveh Nouraee on

No, you cannot only be Jewish by birth. You can convert, just like you can convert to any other religion, whether it be Catholicism, Buddhism, or Islam.  Besides, in the big picture, what's the difference? Religion has become like having an insurance policy with an agent. Do you really need an intermediary, be it a priest, a rabbi, or mollah? You want to talk with God? Go ahead. We don't need a middleman. Especially when they are even more flawed than we are.


As far as race vs. religion, get a room with a white guy, a black guy, and an Asian, for example. They all can be the same religion. They can all be the same nationality. But they are not all the same race. Their DNA has nothing in common. The notion of the comparisons you refer to stems more from cultural and social similarities than anything else. Certainly not similarities in government.


Peace to you too!!


Are you serious!?!

by tezol21 on

There seems to be a systematic approach in current discussions to portray the notion of Iranians being similar to Israelis and different than Arabs. There seems to be some orchestrated effort to do some fishing in dirty waters. This used to be called "divide and conquer", an old but effective tool of England. Currently it's being pursued under the name of "Diplomacy", since the war efforts are not going well.

There's a mention of the fact that "Jewish people are looked upon as a race". Well, maybe it's a perception that is more close to reality because of the actions of state of Israel. Whether you want it or not, Israel represent Jewish people and I parallel the actions of state of Israel with South African Apartheid than the culturally paralleling Jewish people with Iranian people. I hope I'm not making mistake, but I hear that you can only be born Jewish.Well That is not true with Catholics, Moslems or any other sect.

we humans need to pursue freedom, Liberty and Justice for all mankind equally without dividing humans based on any attributes that are allowed within human race irrespective of sex, religion....... 



straight out of David Harowitz book

by dariushabadi on



Your reply was almost word by word plagarized out of David Harowitz's book "A Case for Israel."


Are you a Jew or a Baha'i (I am not against either, but I'm curious what drives you to be so strong of a zionist)? Even monarchists don't defend Israel so staunchly that you just did. The sentence "All Israel wants is to be left alone" is blatantly ignorant and sheer propoganda. You are making a statement that Israel has never fought wars for greater land or for control over more water supplies. That Israel just wants to live its life, which is ignorant of its history and how it came about. It is like saying their is not a single Jewish terrorist (yes, Jews have blown up buses with Arab civilians in them, have you forgotton the 30's, 40's and 80's?)


No wonder you fight me so much and use tactics that I've only found Zionists use when making arguments. YOU HAVE BEEN EXPOSED.


Palestine was not an

by asefati on

Palestine was not an official state but
neither was Israel!
All were part of ottoman empire which failed and later was in hands of British.
It was the Jews who migrated from eastern Europe and through several managed violence
and what is referred today as terrorism, were able to win the land. They
continued their journey and to this day they are expanding their country by
building settlements while sending off Palestinians to camps.

Iranians never did and would never do this! You can think you are closer to Israelis but I for one, along with millions of other Iranians disagree with Israel's treatment of Palestinians and would never want to be compared ot them!




Well I am sure we could

by mertsi1340 on

Well I am sure we could find similarities or differences amongst all nations of the world depending on what we were looking for or wanted to prove. So this comparison amongst Iranians and Israelis is not really unique.

I personally do not have anything against Jews or Arabs. But I am very much against most Arab governments for oppressing their own people (I do not think I need to give you an example just pick any Arab country in the region) and against the Israeli government for treating millions of Palestinians so unfairly and heavy-handedly. The peace that the Israelis want is such that all of it's terms are dictated by Israel and the other party, the stone throwing one, has no choice but to accept what is offered by the Israelis which is not much. So they can call themselves peace-loving and others as war mongers for not accepting their peace efforts.

As for Israel not having occupied any land well what can I say? If a country called Palestine did not exist, does that give Israel the right to occupy lands that belonged to someone else? Those lands did not belong to Israel either and even the UN recognizes Israel as an occupational force in Gaza and the West bank. How about Golan heights? How about Sinai desert? How about Lebanon? Oh sorry attacking Lebanon and it's occupation was self-defense. Israeli special forces were going to raid Hizbollah positions inside Lebanon but the Hizbollah beat them to it and in the process captured a couple of Israeli soldiers. And That was the reason for destroying a mostly defenseless nation. I am not defending Hizbollah, on the contrary, I hate what they represent, but isn't war about soldiers killing and getting killed or captured? How come Israel in the name of war against terror has the right to arrest and imprison, torture and kill as many Arabs as they like but the opposing party does not have the right to do the same? How come Israeli jets have the right to bombard Lebanon into stone age, mostly hitting residential areas of Beirut and other cities which haven't the slightest military value, but they warn the Lebanese army not to shoot at their bombing planes? And tell me what kind of an army refrains from shooting enemy planes down? The same planes that killed over 1000 Lebanese and almost destroyed the country.

You talk about Iraqis killing each other with the help of IRI, that is probably right but whose fault is that? Who caused this mess in the first place? Why do you forget to mention the fact that against the advice of most governments in the world and despite millions of people opposing the war on Iraq, the Americans went ahead with their plans and look at the results. What do you expect the akhunds in Iran to do? Sit still and let the Americans tighten the noose around their neck? Of course they are going to make it as difficult for the Americans as possible. As much as I dislike the Islamic regime in Iran, but they see the situation in Iraq as a gift. As long as the Americans are bugged down in Iraq they are almost free to do whatever they want. And when they acquire the knowledge to produce nuclear arsenal, they can't be touched any more.

But I believe Israeli government, in their treatment of Arabs, and the Islamic regime in they way they treat their own people in Iran have hell of a lot in common.

I am sorry for digressing but I thought I throw in my 2 cents worth. But seriously people all over the world regardless of race, colour, religion or nationality are basically the same. They want the same things in life. So it is not that hard to find similarities amongst them.

Kaveh Nouraee

There's a double standard

by Kaveh Nouraee on

Culturally speaking, Iranians have more in common with Israelis. Let me VERY clear on this. I am referring to people, not governments.


Both Iranians and Israelis share a highly placed value upon education and knowledge, as well as ambition and a drive to succeed. The ambition and drive for success is based on a desire to support the family and ensure their security, especially that of the children and their future, rather than the steretypical notion of greed, money lust and materialism, which is found in EVERY culture.


Over time, Jewish people have been looked upon as a race, rather than what they truly are, which is followers of Judaism. To call Jews a race is the same as claiming there is Catholic race, Baptist race, or Moslem race, all of which we know to be ludicrous, as there are peole of all of these faiths from all over this planet, some with skin so light they need sunblock at night, to people with skin that is darker than Godiva chocolate.


To address your statement in detail, let's run it down:


1. No, we have never taken over another country, but neither did Israel. There has never been a sovereign nation called Palestine. The British and the French controlled that land previously.


2. Where a country gets its name from is insignificant unless you have a history exam in school tomorrow morning.


3. In addition to the government, there are many Iranians who feel they are indeed superior to other Iranians based upon religion. There are people like that everywhere. So-called religious superiority was the basis of Hitler's Final Solution and the Holocaust.


4. Nobody likes war, unless they are plain psycho. Israelis don't want war, and neither do the majority of Arabs. However, a troublemaking minority who are hell bent on inciting anarchy continue to threaten not only Israelis, but everyone else, including their own. Iraqis are killing each other with the IRIs help. Hezbollah is killing Israelis with the IRI's help. The IRI is killing Iranian children.  All Israel wants is to be left alone.


Your last paragraph is further proof of your self-perceived superiority.


Do you know the real difference between Israelis and Iranians? The fact that Israelis, and Jews in general, have each other's back, so to speak, because they know no one else does, whereas Iranians will sooner stab each other in the back.




I Disagree!

by asefati on

Ok you found some big deal! There are many common things
in each race and culture but let me tell you HUGE differences between Persians
and Israelis without writing a whole long article:

1. Iranians have always been Iranians. We never took over another country
and wiping out their entire population, culture. Iran
has always been Iran and
will always be Iran.

2. Iran,
despite being a Muslim vastly, is based on its heritage not a religion. Israel on the
other hand is based on Judaism and that is where it gets its name from.

3. Historically, Iran
and Iranians don't limit other Iranians based on their race or culture or their
religions. All are Iranian, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Bahais.
True current government doesn’t think that way but historically Iranians have
been fair minded nation. As opposed to Israel and Israelis who are mostly Jews
who believe they are the chosen ones and better than non Jews and they have
better social statues.

4. Iran and Iranian people
don't like war whereas Israel
and Israelis love and push for every war. Since the country was formed, it has
been in many war and please don't tell me it was for self defense. It was
mainly for pursuit of greater land power in the region!

5. Iranians generally don't believe they are superior to any race. They
don't hate Arabs, at least not as much as Jews and Israeli's do! Please don't
forget that a good portion of Iranians are Arabs in southern Iran and don't
forget majority have Iranians have great respect for prophets and founders of
Islam whom all are Arabs!

6. Iranians never go in streets supporting unjust wars, killing
innocent people. I still remember during Iran-Iraq war, many people were
opposing Iran's
relation against Iraqi cities because sadam was targeting Iranians cities.
There was a lot of pressure on government not to do the same. In gulf war of
1990, Iranians accepted Iraqi refugees with open arms. You will never see
such gestures from Israelis.

I believe, truly, your comparison is flawed as Iranians are much more noble
than Israelis which is why Iran
means land of nobles.