Editorial: Focus on Iran’s nukes

In today's geopolitical reality, Israel must maintain uncontested military superiority for the sake of regional peace.

September 6, 2010 22:24
3 minute read.
IAEA head Yukia Amano

Yukia Amano 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It emerged over the weekend that during his low-key visit to these parts at the end of August, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked Israel to consider signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This was the latest chapter in an ongoing campaign, fueled primarily by Egypt, other Arab states, and Iran, to force Israel to commit itself to a nuclear-free Middle East.

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Israel is the only country in the region that purportedly has nuclear warheads.

Arab countries scored a major victory with May’s NPT Review Conference resolution, which ignored Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA while singling out Israel for censure, though the US communicated important clarifications to Israel ensuring that Israel would not be forced to change its policy.

Amano’s aversion to atomic weapons is understandable.

Born in Japan just two years after the nightmarish destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the IAEA head, like many of his Japanese peers, is haunted by “the bomb.” A better suited head for an international watchdog dedicated to the utopian goal of eradicating nuclear weapons would be hard to come by.

Still, Amano’s warm relations with the Jewish state, which contrast with predecessor Mohamed elBaradei’s critical stance, should help him appreciate Israel’s predicament.

Living in the shadow of the Holocaust, Israelis have their own historical baggage. Paradoxically, the State of Israel, conceived and created to put an end to the Jews’ precarious existence, now faces its most serious existential threat. The Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations, coupled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls to “wipe Israel off the map,” are widely perceived by Jews as a sign that Iran is preparing to stage a new attempt at genocide. Ominous in this context is Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.

“I take Holocaust denial as Holocaust affirmation,” journalist Christopher Hitchens recently said of Iran’s leader.

“People who say it didn’t happen are people who wish it would happen again.”

NOW IS not the time to coerce Israel into ending its four-decade long, highly responsible policy of nuclear ambiguity, under which the Jewish state neither confirms nor denies its alleged nuclear capability, even for the sake of deterrence – such as during the Yom Kippur War, when Israel was on the verge of being overrun by the combined armies of the Arab nations.

As Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pointed out in a July 26 letter to the IAEA, singling out Israel “seriously detracts” from efforts to stop Iran and Syria, the Middle East’s “real proliferation challenges.”

In fact, forcing Israel to abandon opacity could actually spark a nuclearization race in the Middle East and unravel the NPT. In March 2008 the Arab League’s member states announced that they would withdraw from the treaty if Israel acknowledged it had nuclear weapons.

Nor is it likely that Israel’s many detractors would accept the type of deal reached in July 2005 between India and the US, which allowed India to join Russia, Britain, France, China, and Pakistan in openly possessing nuclear arms without violating international obligations.

Israel has pledged not to be the first to introduce the use of nuclear arms in this region, and has demonstrated responsibility and restraint for decades. That should be enough.

NEITHER ISRAEL nor the democracies of the world that value freedom can afford to change the status quo at a time when all energies must directed against Iran’s push to obtain nuclear weapons. Just this week, Ahmadinejad provided additional proof that he must be stopped. While visiting Qatar, he threatened that any military attack on Iran aimed at stopping its nuclear program would result in “the eradication of the Zionist entity.”

Meanwhile, Iran-supported Hamas in the Gaza Strip has split the Palestinian leadership and created an immense obstacle to the implementation of any comprehensive peace deal to which the renewed negotiating effort might lead. Iran-supported Hizbullah has destabilized Lebanon, increasing chances of a further conflagration on Israel’s northern border.

The Islamic Republic is also working to undermine the fragile stability achieved by US forces in Iraq.

In this geopolitical reality, Israel must maintain uncontested military superiority for the sake of regional peace.

Iran cannot be allowed to upset the balance of power.

Perhaps one day Amano’s vision of a nuclear-free world can be realized. For the time being a nuclear-free Iran should be his main concern.

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