Encountering Peace: Nukes out of the box

The repercussions of an Israeli attack are far beyond the ability of any expert to predict.

IAEA in Vienna 370 (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
IAEA in Vienna 370
(photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
A unilateral Israeli attack against Iran is insane; too risky, dangerous irresponsible and strategically ill-conceived.
Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran is not an existential threat to Israel, it is an existential threat to the world. A nuclear Iran will create an arms race in the region and with so many terrorist organizations and so much state-supported terror the world cannot afford for so much enriched nuclear fuel to be available in the market place of the Middle East.
Common thinking in Israel and among its republican friends in the US is that Iran can only be stopped by military action. The arguments among those advocating an attack are about when it must take place. These debates revolve primarily around differing definition of the “red line” – the point of no return, when the Iranian program becomes weaponized, or nearly weaponized. For the time being there is consensus among the experts that Iran has not yet made the decision to construct a bomb. There is no consensus on whether or not Iran is already at a stage of being weapon-capable.
Most of the former heads of Israel’s security establishment have come out clearly against a unilateral Israeli strike. They speak about the limitations of such an attack – how much damage to the Iranian nuclear program can be achieved? They also speak of the consequences; mainly the potential damage from the retaliation of Iran and Hezbollah.
In light of the retaliatory potential of Hezbollah with its long-range missile arsenal, there is now talk in the Israeli security establishment of the need to not only hit targets in Iran but to also include a simultaneous pre-emptive attack against Hezbollah. In other words, they are planning a regional war.
In the calculus of this planning there is the Israeli belief that the Arab Sunni states of the region would a priori bless the Israeli attack and be relieved if the Iranian nuclear program were degraded. I contend that this is a false assumption and should not be taken for granted.
I CONTEND that the new regimes and the Arab and Muslim street will not support an Israeli attack against Iran, quite the opposite, even if they too are fearful of an Iranian bomb and the strengthening of the regime of the Ayatollahs.
But more important, the repercussions of an Israeli attack are far beyond the ability of any expert to predict. The risks are enormous, the potential damage to our economy and infrastructure, and the potential loss of human life are simply too high to venture into the planned attack.
There is no way to ensure that hundreds of missiles from Iran or from Lebanon would not rain on the civilian population in the center of the country or on vital and strategic infrastructure all around the country.
Yes, Iran cannot be allowed to achieve a nuclear bomb. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claims that the international community is not doing enough to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The international community must take responsibility for ensuring that it will not happen. So must Israel. That is clearly the responsibility of the government to its people. A military attack against Iran is not the only contribution that Israel can make to the process. More creativity and thinking out-of- the-box is required to avert the potential disastrous effects of a new Middle East War.
The diplomatic toolbox is not limited to bombs. In an article I wrote several months ago called “The unintended consequences of an Israel attack against Iran” I wrote that the outcome of such an attack may be a demand from the international community for Israel to put an end to its policy of ambiguity regarding the existence of Israeli nuclear bombs, and that Israel may be required to join the non-proliferation treaty. I now call for Israel to voluntarily undertake these steps as a means to exert additional pressure on the international community and on Iran to prevent both the Iranian weaponization and a possible Israeli attack against Iran.
At the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Final Document in the section titled: “The Middle East” reads as follows: 2. The Conference reaffirms its endorsement of the aims and objectives of the Middle East peace process, and recognizes that efforts in this regard, as well as other efforts, contribute to, inter alia, a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction.
5. The Conference recalls the reaffirmation by the 2000 Review Conference of the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.
7. (a) The Secretary-General of the United Nations... in consultation with the States of the region, will convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction....
The Conference on the establishment of a Middle East Zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction is planned for the end of 2012. In advance of that conference, which Israel should announce now that it will attend, Israel should also pre-emptively announce that it is ending its policy of ambiguity and should invite the inspectors of the IAEA to come to Israel to document the full extent of Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal.
But it does not stop there. Israel should announce its intention and it strategic goal of ensuring that the entire Middle East becomes a region free of all weapons of mass destruction and that Israel will play its part in achieving that in the framework of regional and international agreements.
With this strategy adopted by the government of Israel, the international community would be fully empowered to use the full force of diplomacy, including Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter enabling the use of force endorsed by the full international community, including Russia and China, against Iran. This would be a much more strategically sound and safe Israeli policy.
Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.