Rattling the Cage: We can live with a nuclear Iran

If I could choose between living with a nuclear Iran or a non-nuclear Iran, I would choose the latter.

By LARRY DERFNER
December 15, 2005 13:23
4 minute read.
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larry derfner 88. (photo credit: )

 
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If I could choose between living with an Iran that had nuclear weapons and an Iran that didn't, I would choose the latter. And seeing as how Iran is going about the development of nuclear weapons, if there seemed a good chance that Israel could knock out its nascent capability as safely, or nearly as safely, as the Israel Air Force did with Iraq's in 1981, I'd be in favor of trying this route. A nuclear Iran is nothing to take lightly. But it doesn't have to drive Israel and Israelis crazy with fear and dread, which is what's happening because of the wrong-headed and at times reckless words of some of our leaders, from Ariel Sharon to Dan Halutz and on through the defense establishment. (Binyamin Netanyahu's campaign promise to destroy Iran's nuclear program was by far the most reckless statement of all, but I wouldn't include it on the list because nobody of sound judgment takes him seriously anymore.) Even the Defense Ministry's denial of the Sunday Times report that Israel is planning a March attack wasn't very reassuring. There are no such plans "at the moment, in the current phase," said the ministry's Amos Gilad, who added that "it's impossible to say, in advance, that all options will be ruled out." Put this together with Sharon's repeated warnings that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable," Halutz's prediction that international diplomacy will fail to prevent it and that afterward "we will have to rely on ourselves," and military intelligence chief Aharon Ze'evi's estimate that the deadline for diplomacy is next March, and the impression is that our leaders are at least thinking seriously about a military strike against Iran, sometime or other. I have no doubt that a wide majority of Israelis would support it. The thinking here is that Iran is crazed with Islamic fundamentalist hatred of Israel, crazed enough to nuke Israel even if it meant getting nuked itself. What this means, according to Israeli thinking, is that nothing else matters, no risk is too high - we have to do whatever is necessary to stop Iran from building the Bomb. The problem is that it looks like there's nothing we can do to stop it. Iran 2005 is a much, much tougher nut to crack than Iraq 1981. Iran's nuclear program is dispersed, some of it is underground - who knows where it all is? In 1981 the Israel Air Force had satellite photos of a few big buildings to bomb; there are no easy maps like that now. Also, we've pretty much lost the element of surprise. So it seems we're talking about an operation that would probably take more than a few hours, and include sending at least some Israeli soldiers onto Iranian turf. Can Israel get away with even trying something like that? What would Iran's partners Russia and China have to say? What would the US have to say? I DON'T think it's doable. I think Iran is going to get nuclear weapons. And while I'm not happy about the prospect, I'm not going to have a nightmare over it because Israel, you see, has an answer to a nuclear Iran - more and better nuclear weapons of its own. It also has more and better chemical and biological weapons than Iran has. And Israel is going to keep on improving its WMD arsenal indefinitely. This is called deterrence, and it works well. It's why Saddam Hussein didn't load his Scuds with WMD when he fired them at Tel Aviv in the 1991 Gulf War; he knew Israel's response would be catastrophic. This is why Israel's other enemies, whether nations or terrorist groups, don't manufacture or buy easily hidden, easily transportable WMD and use them against Israeli targets, even though they'd like to - because Israel's power to strike back is prohibitive. Lethal power, especially superior lethal power, isn't worthless in this world. It really does affect the actions of national leaders. When this power is lethal enough and superior enough, it can make leaders who talk like they're criminally insane - such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his threat to "wipe Israel off the map" - act with sanity and caution. Stalin was criminally insane at the end of his life when he had the hydrogen bomb; I'm sure he might have liked to use it on the US, but he didn't because it would have meant the destruction of the Soviet Union. The same was true of Mao in China. America's nuclear deterrence has a perfect record - and so does Israel's. This doesn't mean something can't go wrong in the future, which is why nobody can be indifferent to the specter of a nuclear Iran. But it does mean that so long as Israel maintains its WMD superiority in the Middle East - which it has every intention of doing - then I'd say global warming is just one of the dangers facing this country that's more worrisome than the Iranian nuclear program. Preemptive military attack is not a strategy for stopping the spread of nuclear weapons anymore; the changes in technology have made it obsolete. Concealing a nuclear start-up is so much easier now than it was in 1981, and it's only going to get easier yet. Throwing fighter jets, commandos and whatnot at Iran is more than risky; it's almost certainly futile, if not altogether impossible. Better for Israel and Israelis to forget about it, and instead meet the Iranian threat by making this country's deterrent power even more intimidating than it already is. A nuclear Iran isn't a cause for indifference, but neither is it a cause for dread, and certainly not for recklessness. A nuclear Iran is, actually, acceptable. We can live with it. The truth is we've been living here with threats very much like it all along.

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