Israel must do what it can to end Iran's nuclear program and the regime

Israel and the US must work together not only to delay Iran’s nuclear program but also to assist the Iranian opposition in bringing down the Iranian regime.

former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021. (photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021.
(photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Israel and Iran used to be partners on several levels until 1979, when the Islamic Revolution started the Iranian–Israeli conflict. It has been a kind of cold war. Iran seeks to produce nuclear weapons, not only because of Israel. Nevertheless, following Iran’s desire to destroy Israel and Iran’s actions, such as supporting guerrilla and terror organizations that attack Israel, the latter is deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli leaders emphasized over and again Israel would not permit Iran to have nuclear weapons.

For Israel, its conflict with Iran is with the Iranian regime and not the Iranian people since many of them don’t want this conflict. Furthermore, some in Iran see their regime and not Israel, as their main enemy. A series of economic hardships and ongoing repression brought waves of unrest in Iran, as the current one. The Iranian regime is aware of the danger.

It is not yet clear when the unrest would end, and how. Although the probability of toppling the Iranian regime seems right now quite low there might be a sudden change that would put it at risk. Even if the current unrest would not lead to that, the next wave of protests is only a matter of time. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime makes progress with its nuclear program.

What would happen first? Would Iran have a nuclear arsenal or regime change? Israel concentrates on Iran’s nuclear program, yet Israel should not ignore the effort to topple the Iranian regime. Israel must do whatever it can to both slow down Iran’s nuclear program and to bring down the Iranian regime. With all the uncertainty on what kind of Iranian rule would be in power it is clear the current one is the worse for Israel, the United States and many others, including the Iranian people.

Israel has many important priorities, not only security ones. Even regarding Iran, there are several key tasks, such as reducing as much as possible the delivery of military aid from Iran to Syria and Lebanon, and crippling the establishment of an Iranian base in Syria. Nevertheless, Israel’s top priority must be dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, including by trying to topple the Iranian regime.

 THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in 2015. Bibi correctly calculated that maintaining consensus support for Israel in America did not necessitate a willingness to downplay opposition to Iran, says the writer. (credit: GARY CAMERON/REUTERS) THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in 2015. Bibi correctly calculated that maintaining consensus support for Israel in America did not necessitate a willingness to downplay opposition to Iran, says the writer. (credit: GARY CAMERON/REUTERS)

ISRAEL NEEDS allies, mostly its American patron, which signed the JCPOA, the agreement about Iran’s nuclear program, on July 14, 2015. The Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, and imposed more sanctions on Iran, which pleased Israel. The hope then was that it would cripple Iran, forcing it to accept serious restrictions, including on its nuclear project or risk unrest that might topple the regime. It was a kind of calculated risk that did not work, unless an unrest, the current or the next one, in Iran would bring down the regime, following among others the US pressure on Iran. The Biden administration, by having sanctions on Iran, continues with that approach. Yet meanwhile, Iran gets closer to producing nuclear weapons.

Other priorities 

UNLIKE ISRAEL, for the US, Iran’s nuclear program is not the most urgent national security threat. The Biden administration, although it strongly opposes Iran having nuclear weapons, has other priorities, internal and external ones. Furthermore, the Biden administration did not present a military option against Iran.

The Biden administration might support taking some military steps against Iran but it has ruled out a vast offensive against Iran’s nuclear sites, let alone one that would be carried out by the US military. The Biden administration did not give up on a diplomatic solution, which has not worked so far.

Israel and the US must work together not only to delay Iran’s nuclear program but also to assist the Iranian opposition in bringing down the Iranian regime. Each goal requires different measures and there is also some contradiction between them since many Iranians hate their regime but might want to keep their nuclear program and maybe even to have nuclear weapons. Yet Israel and the US can take this risk and still support the Iranian opposition, particularly since the latter focuses first of all on bringing down the regime.

The Iranian opposition lacks a joint leadership, ideology, etc. and its members are split across the country, struggling to organize and coordinate their moves. Yet they are persistent, brave and willing to pay a high price, by jeopardizing their freedom and sometimes their lives. They also learn lessons as the unrest continues.

Therefore, despite their hardships and flaws they deserve help, particularly since without support the fight to topple the Iranian regime will be longer and it might even fail. It is essential to develop cooperation between the Iranian opposition and those outside Iran who are eager to get rid of the Iranian regime.

The Iranian regime lost any right to condemn others for intervening in Iran because the Iranian regime has been doing that all over the Middle East and in Ukraine, as well. Saving regimes in Arab states and in Europe requires bringing down the Iranian regime, besides other basic interests that require toppling the Iranian regime. The latter also already accused foreign powers of helping the Iranian opposition, which did not affect the unrest, so there is no concern that helping the Iranian opposition would make her look bad at home.

All in all, Israel and the US have to do their best not only to delay Iran’s nuclear program but also to encourage and assist the Iranian opposition in its heroic battle to topple the evil regime there.

The writer has been dealing with and studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the Israeli military and later worked for the Defense Ministry as a researcher. He has published six books in the US. His latest is Israeli Strategies in the Middle East: The Case of Iran (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).