Despite the tough new attitude of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran
is becoming ever bolder about its strategic objectives, openly boasting over
recent weeks about the latest advances in its uranium enrichment activities and
the ranges and capabilities of its ballistic missile systems.
neighboring Arab states may be fearful of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and
Tehran’s bid for regional hegemony, but their diplomatic plans currently call
for challenging Israel’s presumed atomic arsenal at a UN-sponsored summit next
year aimed at achieving a nuclear-free Middle East.
According to a report
issued by the Israel Missile Defense Association, Iran scored a series of
startlingly successful ballistic missile tests during annual military exercises
in July. These came on the heels of a flurry of announcements from Iran’s
defense ministry which suggest the clerical regime may be close to achieving one
of if its key goals: using asymmetric, aggressive military capabilities to make
it a de facto regional and global power player.
Tehran is reportedly
seeking to triple its capacity to enrich uranium to weapons-grade purity,
installing advanced centrifuges in heavily protected facilities and already
stockpiling enough fissile material for at least three nuclear warheads. IMDA
analysts assessing these developments indicate Iran is not simply working on
producing a nuclear warhead – it is well on the way toward an entire production
line for multiple warheads.
To deliver these warheads, Iran has extended
the range of its Fateh-110 ballistic missiles to over 1,243 miles. Iran also
announced that these rockets now have advanced guidance systems, making them
extremely accurate in hitting targets on land or at sea.
they are being deployed on navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea, with plans to
soon have Iranian cruisers patrolling the Atlantic Ocean.
also disclosed that it has built a series of reinforced underground missile
silos – a very troubling fact given that no nation has ever used such missile
silos except to house and protect nuclear warheads.
The scope of Iran’s
military display, and the recent surge of Iranian-sponsored attacks on American
servicemen in Iraq show the depth of Tehran’s contempt for any Western
intervention to stop its nuclear drive, noted the IMDA report.
developments come as Israel prepares for yet another looming diplomatic battle –
next year’s summit on making the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass
A furious debate erupted over the issue at the UN conference
held in May 2010 to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel and
several Western powers wanted to focus attention on Iran’s renegade nuclear
program, but Arab countries refused to do this unless equal attention was paid to Israel’s alleged
The conference ended with a recommendation to hold
another conference in 2012 to discuss the proposal, but partly due to the
on-going political upheaval in the Arab world, little official progress has been
made towards scheduling it. However, the same “Arab Spring” has also drawn
attention away from Iran’s dramatic progress in developing nuclear
Dr. Emily Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies
at Tel Aviv University is one of the world’s foremost experts on nuclear
deterrence, proliferation and related security issues.
She recently told
The Christian Edition that while she is not opposed in principle to rendering
the Middle East free of WMDs, she insists the issue must be addressed within the
wider regional context.
“I think it’s important to understand what such a
WMD-free zone in the Middle East means and what is the best way to get there. It
cannot be dealt with outside of context, meaning inter-state relations in the
Middle East,” she stated.
“There’s a reason why states have tried to
acquire these WMDs, and there’s a question of how they’re thinking of employing
them in the Middle East. For example, if you take the Israeli case and the
Iranian case, these two cases are different in almost every
“When people talk about creating a WMD free-zone and declaring
that when that happens the danger will be gone, they forget about the context,”
continued Landau. “And that context is critically important if a state acquires
a WMD program for purely defensive reasons or if a state is going in that
direction in order to threaten its neighbors, or in order to enjoy immunity when
attacking another state through a third party (like Hezbollah in
“Today, with the [poor] quality of interstate relations in the
Middle East, there’s no way that a WMD free-zone will be a realistic option
anytime soon. They would have to improve dramatically for states to feel secure
enough to do away with WMDs,” concluded Landau.
Landau also contended
that Israel should maintain its traditional policy of ambiguity about its
theoretical nuclear arsenal.
“Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity is
good for Israel, but it’s also good for the region and the international
community,” she assessed. “It is actually a policy of being very low profile and
non-threatening. In all of Israel’s wars, except for a brief moment during the
1973 Yom Kippur War, the nuclear issue never came into play.
nuclear deterrent exists for one purpose only, and that is to ensure its
continued existence in the Middle East.
It is defensive, not offensive,
and it doesn’t come into play for anything short of an existential
“When Arab governments talk about Israel ending its policy of
ambiguity, in the next breath they inevitably talk about Israel signing the NPT,
and that necessarily means that Israel would join as a non-nuclear weapons
state. In turn, it would mean that Israel would have to disarm itself of
whatever nuclear capability it does indeed have. So calls for Israel to end its
nuclear ambiguity aren’t really about transparency and
Meantime, Landau expressed serious concern that “Iran’s
nuclear program is advancing all the time. There are international efforts to
try to stop Iran, to control its nuclear program, to prevent it from reaching a
nuclear weapons capability. Iran is suffering to a certain degree, but at the
same time is continuing with its nuclear program and its missile
She noted that “in the international discussion on Iran, you
see the question of where is Iran going in the nuclear realm is raised less and
less often, and more and more it is said that it’s clear where Iran is going in
the nuclear realm; that they are working towards a nuclear weapons capability
and that they’re probably unstoppable at this point.”
governments are now seeking Western assistance to build nuclear power plants,
arguing that it will allow them to export more oil and natural gas instead of
using it for their own domestic needs. But Landau agrees with numerous Western
analysts who see this as a reaction to the mounting Iranian nuclear
“This dynamic in the Arab world is very clearly linked to their
fears about Iran’s nuclear program,” she said.
“There is a civilian
rational for these programs, but basically I think they’re trying to send a
message to Iran, the region and the wider international community, that they’re
not just going to stand by and take it as Iran slowly moves to a nuclear weapons
capability with the international community almost helpless to stop
Landau believes the Israeli government should be more assertive in
differentiating between its own nuclear deterrence policy built on a defensive
posture, and the aggressive nature of Iran’s atomic drive.
to be heavily involved in the discussion and explain the real threat that Iran
poses not only to Israel, but to the region and the entire world,” she stated.