Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Response to Marc Lynch: Israel and Iran’s Nuclear Weapons

Posted in Israel by Dan on June 22, 2009

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Regardless of who emerges victorious after Iran’s demonstrations dwindle, there is no doubt that Israel may eventually be forced into taking active steps with respect to the nuclear issue. Unless the Iranian people themselves embark on a new revolution to oust Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from his position as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Tehran’s nuclear program will continue to develop and improve in the months ahead.

This position of power (the Supreme Leader) is the key to Israel and the Arab world when confronting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. As long as Khamenei or a pro-Khamenei successor continues to rule Iran’s people with an iron fist, any chances of reconciliation or negotiation on its nuclear sites will prove meaningless.

On a similar note, If Khamenei successfully crushes the democratic camps lingering within Iranian politics (as he is currently doing in the face of peaceful demonstrations), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may find military force to be his only option in curtailing Iran’s enrichment capabilities.

Historically, such a move by Israel may not be a complete failure as some analysts have predicted. After all, Israeli Defense Forces performed this very same military operation against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear installations in 1981. Not only did the strike against Iraq buy Israel some time against a rising Arab power; it also created a more stable Middle East by eliminating a potential arms race by Iraq’s neighbors. Who is to say that a similar approach may not work?

If Israel does choose to implement a preemptive air strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities, it would be extremely wise for the United States to stay out of the conflict. In fact, U.S. interference would not only threaten American troops with Iranian-sponsored attacks in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Such U.S. meddling could go a step further by severely damaging the already strained American image in the Middle East. At a time when President Obama is gradually mending the differences between Washington and members of the Islamic world, poor P.R. is the last thing the White House needs.

In my eyes, a Mousavi victory over Ahmadinejad would be the same thing as a re-election of Ahmadinejad himself. The two have made it publicly known that Iran’s nuclear development will continue in the face of further U.N, U.S, and Israeli pressure.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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4 Responses

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  1. Joe V. said, on June 22, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    THE NUCLEAR PENDULUM

    No matter who wins, once the frenzy’s over the international issue will still be nuclear proliferation. To me this is an opportunity to reduce weapons by having Israel disarm in exchange for a regional ban on the weapons. Would Iran agree to this? Israel should be comfortable so long as the US is there (as with Japan) to guarantee its security.

  2. J. Thomas said, on June 22, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    My guess is that israel would
    by J Thomas on Sun, 06/21/2009 – 10:03pm

    My guess is that israel would not trust any level of inspection to prove that iran was not building bombs. And they would certainly not accept the level of inspection needed to show that they aren’t building more bombs.

    So I expect the argument would fall on several levels.

    1. Why should israel give up their nukes — their advantage — merely to prevent iran from getting nukes that the world shoul prevent them from having anyway?

    2. Israel has both the right to nukes and an existential need for them. Iran has no right to nukes and no need for them. Israel’s existence is constantly threatened but nobody threatens iran with anything at all.

    3. Israel’s nukes are no threat to anybody. Israel is a democracy and democracies never attack anybody who doesn’t 100% deserve it. But iran’s nukes would be a threat to everybody. Iranians are insane and they might attack anybody out of their religious insanity.

    4. So the proper response is that the world (and specifically the USA) should do whatever it takes to stop iran from getting nukes and to destroy iran’s nuclear production facilities. If necessary destroy iran. But everybody should just leave israel’s nukes alone. The way it ought to be is that israel stays the only nuclear power in the middle east.

  3. J. Thomas said, on June 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Regardless of who emerges
    Tue, 06/23/2009 – 9:56am

    Regardless of who emerges victorious after Iran’s demonstrations dwindle, there is no doubt that Israel may eventually be forced into taking active steps with respect to the nuclear issue.

    Right. Somebody’s going to pull out the mind-control rays and force the israeli military to take active steps. ;>

    As long as Khamenei or a pro-Khamenei successor continues to rule Iran’s people with an iron fist, any chances of reconciliation or negotiation on its nuclear sites will prove meaningless.

    Yeah, Khamenei issued a fatwa about no nukes. No hope to negotiate with him about it.

    Historically, such a move by Israel may not be a complete failure as some analysts have predicted. After all, Israeli Defense Forces performed this very same military operation against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear installations in 1981.

    Yeah, they destroyed a civilian reactor before it was charged. They were convinced that it had military uses because the one the french made for *them* had. They were convinced there were lots of secret tunnels underneath it that had weapons stuff, because *their own* reactor had those. Captured records show that Saddam had not taken his bomb program seriously until the israelis claimed he was close to success and it would be easy for him to get nukes. Then he increased the funding 700% and actually started a serious weapons program.

    Sweet. But it did get an israeli PM re-elected.

    Who is to say that a similar approach may not work?

    I am to say that, along with every rational analyst who’s looked at the issue. Your plan is batshit insane. No, it cannot work. It is a tale told by an idiot.

    If Israel does choose to implement a preemptive air strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities, it would be extremely wise for the United States to stay out of the conflict.

    How could the US stay out? Would israel do it without crossing iraq? Using israeli refueling craft that the USA didn’t give them? If it “succeeds” then the USA is complicit.

    In fact, U.S. interference would not only threaten American troops with Iranian-sponsored attacks in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Why wouldn’t they do that anyway? Israel can’t make that raid without US assistance and the iranians know it.

    However, there is a way the USA could come out of that deal smelling like a rose. It goes like this: The raid begins. US aircraft based in iraq shoot down part of the israeli airforce, particularly some of the tankers. Not enough to stop the raid. Then when the israeli airforce comes back, the US shoots down the rest. Without the tankers the israeli planes can’t make it home anyway, so it’s OK if we miss a few.

    Result: The iranian nuclear program is damaged and israel gets all the blame. The USA gets no blame at all from anybody who matters. US/israeli relations get a reset button and are re-established on a far more realistic basis.

    Everybody wins! Israel gets to damage iranian nuclear installations at an acceptable cost, the USA gets a propaganda victory, and middle east peace comes much closer to reality.

    We should do it.

  4. Daniel R. DePetris said, on June 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for your input J. Thomas
    by depetris@wordpr… on Tue, 06/23/2009 – 6:15pm

    First and foremost, I believe we can have an intellectual discussion without resorting to childlike phrases such as “it is a tale told by an idiot.” Such comments convince me of nothing when it comes to your opinion about Iran’s nuclear program. You are certainly entitled to your own conclusions, but lambasting my point of view is not only arrogant, but downright narrow-minded. If we are too truly understand Israel’s options regarding Iran’s leadership, all suggestions (including yours) must be discussed in an impartial manner.

    Second of all, your point that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons in the past is inconsistent with his current rhetoric. Khamenei and other high-ranking Islamic clerics have made it widely known to the international community that Iran will not sit down and negotiate a gradual drawdown of its nuclear ambitions. When looking back at the Ayatollah’s recent speeches to the Iranian people, any “rational” person (as you like to say) would find it extremely difficult to oppose such an argument. Let’s remember that it is the Supreme Leader himself that has the last say in Iranian foreign and defense policy: this includes Tehran’s unwillingness to abide by international norms when it comes to nuclear nonproliferation. If you wish to believe the words of an anti-Jewish zealot without any question or criticism, be my guest. The reality is that nuclear weapons development is, and will continue to be, a main prerogative of the Islamic Republic. Nuclear proliferation is in Tehran’s best national-interest. “Every rational analyst that has looked at the issue” confirms this belief: what better way to expand Iran’s hegemony in the Middle East than to build a large deterrent?

    You suggest that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is farfetched and irrational. If this policy is so asinine, why does the Israeli Government consider military force to be a viable alternative? Are you questioning the competency of a state that has been dealing with this same issue successfully for the past last thirty years? If so, it seems that your recommendations are far-fetched.

    As far as Israel lacking the capability of a preemptive mission (as you seem to suggest when claiming that U.S. support would be needed), such a statement could not be further from the truth. As I have cited earlier, the IDF has already performed this same mission successfully close to thirty years ago against Iraq’s nuclear instillations. In addition, Israel’s air force was fully intact after the strike. Did the United States help the Israeli’s with this success story? Certainly not. In fact, the U.S. Government fully condemned the decision. If Jerusalem was able to act independently in the past, there is no reason to believe that a technologically-improved Israel would be unable to accomplish this similar feat against the Iranian Government. The United States would not be needed for technical expertise.

    But thank you J. Thomas… your comments are warranted, although your perception of the facts are sketchy.

    -Daniel R. DePetris


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