There are growing international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, but very little attention is paid to the most obvious, well known nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel.Reply
An article on the Guardian Unlimited suggests that the Iranians’ insistence to pursue nuclear technology was a direct result of Israel’s persistence in preserving its nuclear monopoly in the region. The Iranian nuclear standoff with the West has been predictable for decades. The crisis could have been triggered if any other Middle Eastern country, friendly or not to the West, chose the same path. What makes things worse is that Tehran is the most unfriendly of all other countries in the region, fueling widespread speculations that it alone is responsible for igniting the crisis, and solving it. But is this true?
If Iran is really seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction, it would deal a major blow to an already fragile international non-proliferation regime. Iran’s acquisition of WMD would definitely involve a huge deceit to the international community. It would certainly make the U.S., which classifies nuclear powers as responsible and irresponsible, view the Islamic Republic as irresponsible, beside Tehran’s old classification as one of the worst "rogue states". Of course, a “rogue state”, which is anti-American and has powerful military capabilities, pose a serious threat to the region, especially Israel.
But unlike Israel, Iran’s nuclear quest is essentially defensive. Nothing more could have convinced the Iranians to possess an unconventional deterrent than the fate of that other "rogue state", Iraq, which didn’t even possess such weapons.
However, in nuclear terms, Israel is the only sinner in the Middle East. It is widely believed to possess around 200 nuclear warheads. The Guardian article suggests that non-proliferation must be universal; if a country in a zone of potential conflict goes nuclear, its adversaries can't be expected not to. By violating this principle, Israel would always be blamed for the consequences.
Moreover, Israel’s deceit and the ambiguity that surrounds its nuclear program is even more than Iran’s. Mindful of Israel’s dishonesty, the CIA warned in 1963 that the Jewish state would exploit its nuclear power to “intimidate” the Arabs. This points to Israel’s initial excuses for going nuclear. It has claimed in the past that it needs nuclear power as the last resort against neighbors bent on destroying it. But there is no such threat now.
The question now is why there was a threat to Israel’s security? Israel has always behaved like a “rogue state“. Arabs view it as a major threat to the stability of the Middle East, through its violence, aggression and ethnic cleansing. Such a settler-state could only achieve true legitimacy, true integration into the region, by restoring the Palestinian rights it violated in its creation and growth.
This is what the stalled "peace process" is all about. But this peace process doesn’t even ensure the full independence of the Palestinian people because Israel resists that compromise. Its nuclear power, in addition to its powerful military capabilities, protect it.
It isn’t the risk that Iran will attack Israel that makes the Iranian nuclear program so dangerous. But that Israel will strike Iran, or the U.S. will accomplish the mission on its behalf. In fact, Israel is ready to do anything to develop its nuclear arsenal and protect it. Israeli leaders have indicated in the past that the Jewish state might use its powers in a way that is certainly irresponsible. Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said that "acquiring a superior weapons system would mean the possibility of using it for compellent purposes - that is, forcing the other side to accept Israeli political demands".
Surprisingly, Moshe Sneh, a leading Israeli strategist, once said: "I don't want the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to be held under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb." As if the Arabs haven’t had to negotiate under the shadow of an Israeli atomic bomb for the past four decades.
Another problem is the U.S.’s support for Israel, which the U.S. strategic analyst Mark Gaffney describes as so "blind and stupid" because Washington allows “another state (Israel) to control its foreign policy". In a brilliant study, Gaffney warned that a U.S. attack on Iran could lead to a catastrophe because Iran’s possession of the fearsome 3M-82 Moskit could turn the Persian Gulf into a death trap for the U.S. fleet.
According to Israeli military analyst Ze'ev Schiff, “There is only one way to avoid a nuclear balance of terror: to use the time left, while we still have a monopoly in this field, to make peace ... In the framework of peace, a nuclear-free zone can be established."
Schiff’s words are sensible but the solution he presented is the other way round. To make peace, Israel doesn’t need nuclear weapons. Instead, it needs the spirit of compromise. The West might easily persuade Iran to scrap its nuclear plans if Israel agreed to do likewise. Such a move would indicate a fundamental change in the U.S.’s whole approach to the region and this alone might have several positive impacts beyond the nuclear issue.
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