The Iran Natanz Attack Sorta Happened in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (and in a way instructive for us all!)

Two Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes with surprising resonance for the Middle East and the conflict involving Iran, Israel, and America provide solid lessons on conflict and diplomacy

By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedInFacebookTwitter @bfry1981) April 15, 2021; see my relevant Twitter thread on the Natanz attack

Minor spoilers for Clone Wars, some moderate spoilers for the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, Rogue One, and Original Trilogy


SILVER SPRING—They may not center on massive battles, lightsaber duels, or major developments for the most well-known Star Wars characters, but “Heroes on Both Sides” and Pursuit of Peace, episodes 10 and 11 in the Third Season of Clone Wars, bear some remarkable similarities to situation the world is still trying to understand surrounding the mysterious attack against Iran’s premier nuclear research and development facility at Natanz.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidential office on Apr. 10, 2021 shows a grab of a videoconference screen of an engineer inside Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, shown during a ceremony. (AFP photo/Ho/Iranian Presidency)
Real-World Background

On early Sunday local time, the power system within the secretive, isolated, and secure nuclear facility at Natanz in Iran was “completely destroyed” in an explosion both Israeli and American intelligence officials have confirmed Israel is at least partly (perhaps and probably mostly) behind, in what may not or may yet be determined to be a cyberattack.

Iran is asserting what it sees as its right to pursue nuclear technology, and Israel is pursuing what it sees as its right of self-defense against what it sees as an existential threat: a nuclear-weapons-armed Iran. 

Iran has claimed that its intentions are purely for civilian nuclear power, an explanation Israeli dismisses as a lie, and Iran has long been hostile to Israel, with the two having engaged in proxy conflict against each other among Palestinians and, currently, in Syria and Lebanon, which both border Israel (it should also be mentioned here that it is the worse kept secret in the Middle East that Israel is the only nuclear weapons power of all the countries in that region).  Even if Iran is lying about its nuclear intentions and fully plans to develop nuclear weapons, it is entirely possible that it wants them for purely defensive and deterrent reasons (every nuclear power since after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 has refrained from offensive use, or any use in war, for that matter, and Iran’s enemies have openly debated military campaigns against it), yet Israel’s people and military have been targets of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in the past.

Still, this concern about Iran’s nuclear intentions and ambitions is one shared by most world powers, to the degree that Iran and the five permanent-veto-wielding members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council—the U.S., the UK, France, Russia, and China—as well as Germany and the European Union (EU) all signed an agreement to severely limit nuclear activity on the part of Iran in exchange for partial relief of sanctions on Iran for much of Iran’s rogue activity involving military buildups, terrorism, and interference in the affairs of other countries in the Middle East.

Israel’s political leadership under long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-wing hawk with much in common with former U.S. President Donald Trump’s leadership style (which I noted in detail several times) was bitterly opposed to this deal, seeking to undermine anything that could benefit Iran without a total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program.  Furthermore, Israel has in the past put the kibosh on hostile regional powers’ nuclear ambitions with airstrikes against then-under-construction nuclear reactors in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981 (ironically with Iran’s help) and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria in 2007.  To thwart Iran’s project, Israel has carried out a series of operations—including sabotage, assassinations, and cyberattacks—against Iran’s nuclear program and nuclear personnel, Sunday’s only being the latest.  And it has long sought, and failed, to push the U.S. into militarily attacking Iran and, especially, its nuclear program.

But Israel did get both the Bush and Obama Administration’s help in carrying out Operation Olympic Games’ Stuxnet cyberwarfare attack against Natanz, an attack that took out many of Iran’s centrifuges used to enrich material needed for nuclear advancements and set back Iran’s nuclear development as much as two years, and to get both American administrations to engaged in other cyberwarfare with Iran (those wanting to know about this and cyberwarfare in general should check out Nicole Perlroth’s indispensable recent book on cyberwarfare, This is How They Tell Me the World Ends).

With its nuclear program sabotaged after Stuxnet and facing increasing economic sanctions as part of intense pressure from the international community organized and led by the Obama Administration, Iran agreed to the aforementioned nuclear deal in 2015.  But after Obama’s successor Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 (even though Iran had been in full compliance according to the most intrusive nuclear inspections in the history of such nuclear monitoring agreements, and, I would argue, foolishly withdrew, as the agreement was the only realistic, logical option), Iran has since begun activities beyond the agreement that move it closer towards (though not close to) nuclear weapons capability.  Saturday it was poised to make serious advances along this path until its Natanz facility was devastated Sunday.

Complicated Clone Wars

“OK, Brian, what the HELL does this have to do with Star Wars?” you may be asking.  By now, you’ve probably heard of, hopefully even seen, the stellar show Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the final season of which dominated streaming during our pandemic summer and, as I have noted, involves some of the best Star Wars ever made including the best movies (and far better than any of the Disney Star Wars movies); if not, get to it (especially before Bad Batch premieres on May the Fourth)!

The series takes place during the Clone War(s), which begin at the end of 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and ends during 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and are mainly a series of confusing battles and campaigns between the Galactic Republic and its breakaway Separatist Alliance.  The Republic is served by a religious order known as the Jedi—including Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker—whose members operate traditionally as peacekeepers and now generals, while the Separatist Alliance in Star Wars is clearly the side of “the bad guys,” led by Count Dooku, an ex-Jedi turned Sith Lord (the Sith are the ancient enemy of the Jedi).

Dooku and key Separatist military leaders are clearly evil and clearly carry out war crimes and atrocities the Republic takes pains to avoid.  While most but hardly all of the soldiers for the Separatists are droids and, thus, not usually moral actors, it is very different for the political leaders and citizens of the planets that voted to leave the Republic and form the Separatist Alliance (a.k.a. Confederacy of Independent Systems), as noted by famous Republic Senator Padmé Amidala in Clone Wars’s “Heroes on Both Sides.”

Padmé is Naboo’s now former queen from 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and is thus one of the most famous senators of the Galactic Senate (her new role after stepping down as queen).  She is also secretly married to Anakin Skywalker as of the end of Attack of the Clones, a big no-no for a Jedi and a senator.

After a debate on the war’s politics in the Senate, Anakin suggests his secret wife Padmé teach Ashoka Tano—his padawan apprentice (and now a rising superstar in the Star Wars universe)—about politics.  Anakin keeps talking, and presents a black-and-white view of the conflict with the Separatists, with which Padmé expresses disagreement and then takes Ahsoka under her wing, take up Anakin on his earlier suggestion.

Shortly after, we hear Padmé tell Ahsoka that she has friends who are Separatists, that they are not simply evil “pawns” in Dooku’s war.  She complains that she is not able to talk or meet with them because the Senate has made any formal negotiations with the Separatists illegal for fear of legitimizing their secession and cause, noting Ashoka with her clearance as a Jedi could get Padmé to neutral Mandalore, from which they could travel to Raxus to see her old mentor and current Separatist Senator Mina Bonteri.  Up for breaking the rules to help Padmé initiate peace talks, Ahsoka travels undercover with Padmé to see Bonteri on the Separatist capital of Raxus while the Separatist Senate is in session.

In a discussion with Bonteri and Padmé, Ahsoka learns that many Separatists view the Republic (and the Jedi) as the bad guys and that far from being all mindless droids or heartless killers like General Grievous and Asajj Ventress, many Separatist are real people with families who fight—and die—to defend their families and their worlds as well as their right to separate from the Republic.  Among those who died fighting Republic forces were Mina’s husband and father to their son Lux, with whom Ahsoka has humanizing exchange: he and her mom are the first Separatists besides military officers like Grievous and Ventress Ahsoka has met, she the first Jedi he has met.

When Padmé reveals there are many Republic senators eager to explore peace, despite their sharp differences of opinion, Mina decides to introduce a motion to her Separatist Senate to begin formal peace negotiations with the Republic, a motion that easily passes, Dooku himself presiding remotely over the session.

Greedy members of the Trade Federation, Banking Clan, and Techno Union are distressed by this news, as an end to the war is bad for their business interests (in which they get to play both sides off of each other [SPOILERS: as the Sith are doing]), but Dooku assures them an attack is being planned against Coruscant, the Republic’s capital world where the Senate is located, that will derail the peace process and ensure the war will continue.

In fact, it was even in motion before the possibility of peace talks, apparently timed to ensure a vote to allow deregulation of banks so that the Republic can obtain more funding to produce and purchase more clone troopers (the bulk of the Republic’s fighting forces) would pass after the obvious outrage and bloodlust such an attack would inspire.  The special droid units that will carry out the attack have been designed to look just like the Republic cleaning droids that service one of Coruscant’s main power generators, right by the Senate.  These droids also have been given security passes that will allow them to bypass security.  All in all, it’s a pretty sophisticated plan, utilizing information obtained from the inside and obviously planned long before we find out about it.

Shortly before the deregulation vote, when Padmé tells Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the leader of the Republic (from her planet Naboo and a senator from there before becoming Chancellor, with Padmé’s help, at the end of The Phantom Menace), that they should give the Separatist offer to engage in peace talks a serious chance, he responds by saying “I can see why you would want so badly to believe that the Separatists. desire peace…In the past whenever we’ve reached out our hands in peace, they’ve been slapped away.  Can we believe that they’re ready to sue for peace so easily?” (such is a common refrain from many in the real world arguing against peace talks or diplomacy).

In response, Padmé confides to Palpatine that she knows the offer is genuine because she “been in contact” with her “old friend” Mina Bonteri and that Bonteri is the sponsor of the proposal.  The Chancellor takes special note of remembering it was Bonteri, (SPOILER) as he is secretly Dooku’s Sith Lord master, orchestrating the war from both sides so his power can rise and the Jedi can fall both in public opinion and from their position of power in the Republic, to be cute down and wiped out (we already see the war, from Lux’s point of view, has damaged the reputation of the Jedi for many regular Separatist citizens).

Just as voting begins in light of the new Separatist peace proposal, the Separatists droids, which have been smuggled into Coruscant and the nearby power station, change form from their cleaning droid disguises to instruments of death and destruction, killing the generator workers and then turning themselves into bombs for a “suicide bombing” (as the intro the next episode calls it) that destroys the power station, plunging that sector of the capital into chaos as the power goes off for millions (maybe even billions) of people and explosions rock the area, terrifying civilians.

Sirens wail inside the Senate as eerie red emergency lighting kicks in, and it doesn’t take long for some Senators realize (or are told?) it is a Separatist attack.  Outraged, they begin calling for revenge and to pass the bill to deregulate the banks so they can pay for more clones.  Padmé pleads with her fellow senators that the peace proposal is serious, an argument not well-received by the panicked and angry Senate.  “Obviously a tactic to lower our defenses and launch this attack,” responds Palpatine’s right-hand man.

On their way out of the main Senate chamber and still bathed in the emergency lighting, Ahsoka and Padmé are approached by Anakin in the hallway, scolding them for their unsanctioned diplomacy, but Ashoka closes out the episode by admitting that while maybe she had gone too far, “I did realize something: the politics of this war and not as black and white as I once thought they were.”

The next episode, “Pursuit of Peace,” we learn that the Senate in their anger has “overwhelmingly” passed the bill to deregulate the banks so they can move forward on new loans for more clones and an intensification of the war effort, but Padmé isn’t giving up on her pursuit of peace. 

But many of her colleagues feel differently.  A Senator (a Kaminoan, the species responsible for manufacturing the clones) proposes legislation to purchase five million more clones from the Kaminoan government and to raise the funds from the Banking Clan (now free to charge exorbitant interest that would bankrupt the Republic) to make the purchase.  When Padmé states she’d rather “stop the war, not escalate it,” the Senate erupts, many calling her a traitor and a Separatist.

The Naboo senator hardly backs down: “Whoever attacked the power grid wants us to continue the fight.  It’s a calculated attempt to destroy the peace process,” she pleads earnestly to the Senate.  Almost immediately after, a message is received and played from Count Dooku, informing the Senate that an apparent Republic attack has killed Mina Bonteri and that he is formally withdrawing the peace proposal as a result.

Padmé is crushed; the Chancellor tries to contain a smile.

Leaving the Senate chamber, her ally Senator Bail Organa (later the adoptive father of Anakin’s and Padmé daughter, Leia) approaches Padmé to let her know Republic spies found out that Dooku’s people were the ones who killed her friend, Mina, making Dooku’s message pure gaslighting (SOILERS: what many viewers will know but which probably only Dooku and Palpatine will know in the Star Wars universe is that Palpatine would have been the one to pass onto Dooku that Bonteri was responsible for the peace process on the Separatist side after Padmé confided this to Palpatine and Palpatine’s telling reaction to this information, such that Palpatine clearly instructed Dooku to silence Bonteri to derail the peace process on the Separatist side).

Aside from Senators who genuinely want to increase the war effort, Bonteri’s death—though she is a Separatist—has a chilling, intimidating effect on those in the Republic Senate who are undecided or wanting to vote against the proposed legislation.  Furthermore, Dooku has hired underworld elements to intimidate (even beat) key Senators wavering or against the bill, including Organa, and to eventually try to assassinate Padmé (and let us not forget that, in our own world, former President Trump clearly tried just a few months ago to incite a violent insurrectionist mob to intimidate Congress into overturning the results of an election he lost, members of whom wanted to assassinate Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, and others).  This is a great episode where a lot of important things happen, but for our purposes we can end this review by noting Padmé, after just barely surviving an assassination attempt, ends up delivering on the Senate floor one of the best speeches of the whole series, preventing the passage of the bill that would bankrupt the Republic and escalate the war effort.  But the chance for peace has been dashed and the war will go on and on.

Real-World Debates and Another Attack on a Power System

Back to our own world.

The tactic to time an attack to derail diplomacy or undermine one or more factions, and the responses to those seeking peace that “we cannot take the other side seriously because diplomacy didn’t work last time” or that “negotiations themselves are a ploy meant to get us to let our guard down” are extremely common in real life; so is questioning the loyalty of those wanting peace, or calling them traitors who side with the enemy.

As far as the situation in the Middle East there is some important context to what very much seems to be the Israeli (or at least Israeli-led) attack on Natanz and its power station.  The day before, Iran had just introduced and announced putting into operation advanced centrifuges at Natanz.  Just a few days later would be Israel’s Independence Day.  And the week before, negotiations between the original nuclear deal signatories were beginning in Vienna.  Netanyahu has made no secret of his longstanding opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, opposition shared by most Israelis but that fails to recognize the constraints of reality.  Though it was a top priority of the Obama Administration, Netanyahu actively campaigned against it, even both challenging it in a direct address to the U.S. Congress in 2015 and claiming in 2018 to have convinced Trump to follow through on his pledged to scrap it. 

Apart from symbolically playing to a domestic audience just before Israel Independence Day and hitting Iran’s centrifuges just as Iran was celebrating their upgrades, then, there is the far more substantive timing-related goals of Netanyahu’s to derail the restart of the diplomatic process with Iran that Biden and many others hope will resurrect the nuclear deal Trump destroyed and to sabotage Iran’s program until it can be destroyed or ended.

Clearly, Netanyahu prefers confrontation and war (ideally, for him, led by the U.S.) that will rid Iran both of its nuclear program and its current regime entirely, a preference shared by his new Gulf friends in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have been brought together through their hatred of Iran and at Trump’s encouragement; in essence, a Sunni-Shiite Cold War led by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other has merged into the longstanding hostilities between Israel and Iran and the U.S. and Iran, making for some strange yet enthusiastic bedfellows.

So, much like Dooku, Netanyahu seems to have launched an attack that hit a power station that was about more about attacking a power station.  Like the attack on Coruscant, a big part of the rationale for the attack on Natanz was derailing promising diplomatic negotiations, to destroy trust between the parties, and provoke a reaction that will make good-faith negotiations much, much harder.  As in Clone Wars with the Republic, Iran sees this as a terrorist attack.  Like the Separatists and the Republic, there are complicated factions and rivalries both on and under the surface: segments allied and in relationships with or part of the parties meeting in Vienna that are not fully on board with the negotiations and want them to fail whether or not they say so publicly, and who supported an attack and will want the other side to think those with whom they are negotiating supported the attack, too.

In fact, there is vigorous debate in both America and Iran, as we saw in the Republic and Separatist Senates, about pursuing war vs. diplomacy, with moderate and liberal camps in each emphasizing diplomacy and hardliners in both camps preferring confrontation.  To some degree, the U.S. as Israel’s closest ally is tainted by this attack regardless of whether it was for or against it or took part in it or not; at the same time, those in the Iranian diplomatic delegation know that they, too, may be painted by Iran’s response if it is deemed to go “too far.”

Still, unlike with the Separatists successfully derailing peace negotiations, it is very likely the nuclear negotiations will continue (indeed, they have already resumed with Iranian officials, as of today) and that a breakthrough will be reached eventually, as, unlike the Separatists, Iran has few friends and no massive Separatist Alliance spread throughout the galaxy, let alone a Sith Lord like Dooku to lead it; Iran, thus, is in a far weaker position than the Separatists, one only further weakened now that this attack is estimated to have set Iran’s nuclear program back around nine months, undermining its position for negotiations.

Diplomacy resumed in Vienna Thursday. European Union Delegation in Vienna, via Getty Images

As Clone Wars teaches us, things are not “always as black and white” as we think or as straightforward as they seem, Natanz being a prime example.  As in “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace” demonstrate, conflict can often be complex and multilayered, so we should look at the Natanz attack and its motivations and surrounding issues as complex and multilayered, and avoid simplistic criticism or reductionism in most cases.  Only then can we begin to truly understand the broader strategic and tactical calculations at work in the minds of the various parties here.

Padmé, Portman, Politics, and Blowback

I would also like to note that I remember seeing this pair of episodes for the first time and realizing how perfectly these roles for Padmé would suit Natalie Portman, who played Padmé in the live-action movies (nothing against the excellent Catherine Taber, who voices her in Clone Wars).

I say this because Portman as a young Jewish, Israeli-born adult became quite a vocal defender of Israel at a time when Israel became one of the centers of world politics as the Second Intifada (the second main grassroots rebellion of Palestinians against Israeli occupation and their own ineffective leaders) raged.  And yet, in more recent years, she has not shied away from criticizing the Israeli government and Prime Minister Netanyahu for their right-wing (in her words, “racist”) policies, to the degree that she even refused to accept an the Israeli Genesis Award, often referred to as Israel’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize.  For this, an Israeli government minister said that “Natalie Portman’s actions border on anti-Semitism,” that she “played into the hands of the haters of Israel and those who aspire to destroy the State of Israel,” sounding an awful lot like Padmé’s fellow senators’ criticism of her in the “Pursuit of Peace” episode. 

The politically active and passionate Portman, then, is someone who could appreciate both sides of a conflict and would have appreciated her character’s role in these Clone Wars episodes that mirror not only the Natanz attack today but other issues that were fairly common in the past in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Portman’s own life perhaps influencing at least a little the showrunners’ interpretation of Padmé in Clone Wars.

(Minor SPOILERS next two paragraphs) It is also worth noting that, in the following season, we find Lux Bonteri has become radicalized after the death of his mother and seeks out an alliance with an extremist Mandalorian terrorist group—the Death Watch—to plot revenge against Dooku for ordering his mother to be murdered… kind of like happens so many times in war or counterterrorism operations, when collateral damage turns family and friends of the wounded and dead into violent extremists who support and/or join terrorist or insurgent movements all around the world.

In the following season, Lux has joined a rebel movement to overthrow a Separatist-controlled government on his homeworld of Onderon.  A key member of this rebel group is Saw Gerrera, who is radicalized further in this fight after the death of his sister, Steela, and would be instrumental in the future in helping the Rebel Alliance from the Original Trilogy get off its feet and, in particular, in the events that led to the Rebels discovering the secret weakness of the Empire’s first Death Star in Rogue One, a discovery that allowed Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star at the end of the very first Star Wars movie, Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.  The willingness of Palpatine and Dooku to use Lux’s mother and the people of Onderon as pawns in their game would end up leading, over many years, to the Sith’s undoing.

The lesson here?  It’s always worth considering the less-anticipated potential effects of any particular action.  In our present, Iran, Israel, and the U.S. may find their actions will come to haunt them in unimaginable ways for years to come if they are not careful.

Dooku Disclaimers

I want to be clear: I am not claiming the Israelis are just like the Separatists or that Netanyahu is an evil Sith Lord (nor, for that matter, am I claiming that Iran is like the Republic in any general, overall sense).  I am in no way claiming the Jewish people or Israelis are like “the bad guys” in Star Wars, just simply noting how specific plot and thematic elements from these Clone Wars episodes fit illustratively into the current events discussed (and even in Clone Wars, we can see that most of the civilian Separatists dislike the Republic, understandably, for its very real corruption on display in these episodes more than usual and that they take their ideals and independence seriously).

Count Dooku and Chancellor Palpatine could in part certainly fit the descriptions in longstanding anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories—shadowy, big-nosed, behind-the-scenes manipulators in dark robes practicing the occult and controlling financial interests—but that is not the at all the intent of George Lucas or the showrunner Dave Filoni, nor the producers, cast, and staff of Clone Wars, nor is that how we should read into any of thisAnd yes, the Banking Clan is led by the Muun species that has big noses, but it’s a stretch to claim they are supposed to represent or denigrate Jewish people: they are aliens who look like… aliens. 

At a time of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and elsewhere, it is crucial to note that there is no serious hint at Dooku, Palpatine, or the Muuns being Jewish or that the intent of portraying the Sith Lords or Muuns in these ways is to try to equate them with or make them resemble Jews or associate their factions with the real-world Jewish state of Israel.  Anyone who really thinks this is what Star Wars is getting at simply does not understand the true spirit of Star Wars or the artists’ intent, though it’s understandable some would interpret this differently in our hyper-politicized, hyper-racialized times.  At its heart, Star Wars celebrates diversity, with waking carpets, humans of different colors and genders, and even robots coming together to fight for freedom and justice throughout the galaxy.

Yet as “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace” demonstrate, conflict can get ugly and complicated, whether in Star Wars or our current Earth, including the attack at Natanz.  I lived for over five years in the Middle East, from 2014-2019, studied abroad there briefly in 2011, studied the region from afar for many other years.  And I can tell you that, while, yes, some things are pretty black-and-white—say, ISIS is terrible—other things are a lot more complicated.  As examples:

  • Iran is seen by many as a bad-guy pariah in the region, yet the current pretty awful government only came to power in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 after, and in reaction to, the U.S. and British orchestrating the overthrow of the democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in a 1953 coup that saw a far more monarchical and repressive government put in its place, and while expanding its power through supporting various Shiite Islamic militias throughout the Middle East that many view as terrorists, it is important to remember that Iran is only serious Shiite Muslim power and that Shiite Islam has been oppressed by Sunni Muslim leaders throughout the region for centuries (Sunnis are by far the largest bloc of Muslims, Shiites being the one major minority), to the degree that, without Shiite militias and Iran’s support for them in places like Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, often few if any people stick up for the rights and dignity of Shiite Muslims.
  • Saudi Arabia is one of America’s oldest allies in the Middle East and supplies much of the world with oil, but has a terrible human rights record and when it comes to Islamic extremism, the Saudis are, to quote Brookings scholar William McCants from an amazing article by the amazing journalist Scott Shane, “both the arsonists and the firefighters.”
  • Israel and Turkey are two other longtime regional allies of the U.S., Israel a fellow democracy and Turkey a longtime member of the de-facto-U.S.-led NATO Alliance, but both have been veering hard to the right under right-wing leaders (Turkey into dictatorship territory) and actively oppressing the region’s Palestinians and Kurds, respectively. 
  • And while America promotes human rights throughout the Middle East—even saving Yazidis from Genocide in 2014 with anti-ISIS airstrikes and coordination with Kurdish forces on the ground ordered by Obama—it has often supported oppressive dictators and kings, such as Saddam Hussein when he was willing to fight Iran (until we didn’t, eventually overthrowing him in a disastrous war launched in 2003), even as it still confronts its own domestic injustices in the present. 

I could go on, but the point is, there are a lot of complicated motivations and behaviors going on, often many good and many bad acts being committed by the same leader or country, and even many of the more destabilizing and violent actors have their own very legitimate grievances while some of the actors with the best of intentions inflict incredible amounts of harm.  There is often plenty of blame to go around.  As just one example, Israel deserves a lot of the criticism directed at it, while at the same time, a lot of the criticism direct at Israel is outlandishly unfair and anti-Semitic; the context and specifics of each specific criticism need to be evaluated separately. 

This is hardly to claim that all the parties involved in this Natanz drama are morally equal or moral equivalents (far from it), but we’re not going to focus on such questions (which I have dealt with elsewhere) here; the main takeaway is that Ahsoka’s lesson from “Heroes on Both Sides” is quite applicable to our current drama.

In the end, I am simply noting the similarities in details and context between some events from two great episodes of Clone Wars and our own reality, how pondering the fictional galaxy from a long time ago and far, far away can shed light on our real world, how a Star Wars cartoon can surprisingly teach us lessons about nuclear intrigue and Middle East diplomacy in 2021 as well as about our past and even our future.

Diplomacy is complicated.

© 2021 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome

Also see Brian’s Twitter thread on the Natanz attack and his eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here), and be sure to check out my podcast interview with Georgia election officials Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, both cited in Trump’s second Senate trial!

eBook cover

If you appreciate Brian’s unique content, you can support him and his work by donating here

Feel free to share and repost this article on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter. If you think your site or another would be a good place for this or would like to have Brian generate content for you, your site, or your organization, please do not hesitate to reach out to him!