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(photo credit: Israel Air Force web site)
The prevention of a nuclear Iran constitutes a top US national security priority. It sheds light on a special aspect of US-Israel relationship: defiance of mutual threats.
Iran pursues nuclear capabilities to advance strategic goals, which are led by the super-goal: hegemony over the Persian Gulf and its natural resources. Those who undermine the super-goal are considered super-enemies, targeted by super-capabilities. Hence, Teheran would use its nuclear power/threat, first and foremost, to force the US and NATO out of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It would then turn it against Iraq - its arch rival since the seventh century - and against Saudi Arabia, which is considered an apostate regime. All Gulf states are perceived by Iran as a key prize, required in order to control the flow and the price of oil and to bankroll its megalomaniac regional and global aspirations (e.g. leading Islam's drive to dominate the globe).
The Jewish state constitutes a non-Gulf basin target for Iran, not a primary target. Moreover, Israel is expected to retaliate in a traumatic manner, which would paralyze much of Iran's military and civilian infrastructure. Therefore, Iran would not sacrifice its super-goal (forcing the US out of the Gulf and subjugating the Gulf states) on the altar of a secondary-goal (obliterating the Jewish state).
FOR THE US AND ISRAEL, the preferred option against Iran is preemption rather than retaliation. Recent precedents suggest that the two countries benefit from leveraging each other's unique experience, as well as from bold unilateral military action against rogue threats.
In September 2007, the IAF destroyed a Syrian-North Korean nuclear plant, extending the US's strategic arm. It provided the US with vital information on Russian air defense systems, which are also employed by Iran. It bolstered the US posture of deterrence and refuted the claim that US-Israel relations have been shaped by political expediency.
In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, providing the US with a conventional option in 1991 and 2003, preventing a mega-billion dollar, mega-casualty nuclear war. In 1970, while the US was bogged down in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Israel forced the rollback of a pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan. It prevented a pro-Soviet "domino effect" into the Persian Gulf, which would have shattered US economy.
In 2009, Israel shares with the US its battle-tested experience in combating Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorism, which are the role model of anti-US Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. US GIs benefit from Israel's battle tactics against car bombs, improvised explosive devices and homicide bombing. An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf would have spared the need to dispatch US troops to Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE and NATO commander Alexander Haig refers to the Jewish state as the largest cost-effective, combat-experienced US aircraft carrier that does not require US personnel, cannot be sunk and is located in a most critical region for US national security interests.
While the US has been Israel's indispensable ally, Israel's battle experience has been integrated into the US defense industry. For example, the F-16 includes more than 600 Israeli modifications, sparing the US a mega-billion dollar and a multi-year research and development budget. A litany of state-of-the-art US military systems have been upgraded in a similar manner, enhancing US national and homeland security and expanding US employment and exports.
Iran's nuclear threat is a symptom of endemic Middle East violent unpredictability and Muslim hostility toward Western democracies. It calls for an upgraded US-Israel win-win relationship, which requires a strong Israel as a national security producer. A weak Israel, pushed into a nine-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, pressured to concede the mountain ridges of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, relying on foreign troops and guarantees, would become a national security consumer. It would be a burden rather than an asset to the US in a bad neighborhood, which is crucial for vital US interests.
Iran would benefit from an ineffective Israel. However, the US would have to deploy to the eastern flank of the Mediterranean real aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of US servicemen, costing scores of billions of dollars annually, denied the benefits of Israel - the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US sailor.
The writer is chairman of special projects at the Ariel Center for Policy Research.