Over the last few weeks, discussions on foreign policy have been dominated by speculation about the increasingly tense standoff occurring between Israel and Iran. Israel feels threatened by the apparent growth of Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the re-emergence of anti-Zionist rhetoric by the Holocaust-denying President-cum-tyrant of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Feeling intimidated, Israel has launched a series of verbal threats, insinuating the potential of a pre-emptive strike in an attempt to cripple Iran’s capacity to produce and potentially use a nuclear weapon.
Geo-political conflicts tend to be extremely complex, especially in the Middle East, and it is imperative that certain facts be brought to light when making a determination as to who really is threatened in this standoff.
Israel has been producing and has held a stockpile of nuclear weapons since 1967, and currently the IHS global information company estimates Israel’s nuclear weapon supply to number between 100 to 300 warheads. There is no hard evidence that incriminates Iran with the creation of a nuclear weapon, and the evidence that has been presented is circumstantial at best. This past January, U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta in an interview on “Face the Nation,” when asked about Iran, responded by saying: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.” A pre-emptive Israeli strike would be based upon a judgement about Iran’s intention to produce a nuclear weapon, and opinions on this are easily skewed by a common misunderstanding that having a nuclear capacity and possessing nuclear weaponry development are the same. However, the nuclear fuel cycle generates plutonium, which can then be used as an energy source or for the production of weapons. Iran, as a sovereign and independent nation, has the right to pursue their nuclear program for power-generation purposes without interference. Israel has concluded that due to Ahmadinejad’s refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, coupled with their robust nuclear energy capabilities, a nuclear attack is undeniably imminent. These two variables are independent of one another—and to assume otherwise is erroneous.
In the unlikely circumstance that Iran were to have a functioning nuclear weapon and actually decide to use it, the U.S, a close Israeli ally, would immediately retaliate utilizing its 44 military bases that surround Iran. An Iranian decision to attack Israel is simply illogical.
To turn this situation from ironic to satirical, the last time a nation attacked another based on feeble data and flawed decision making, the result was a 8 year long war, 4805 dead soldiers and almost a trillion dollars spent. This was the War in Iraq and let us not forget the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Some say history repeats itself, maybe because we never learn from it.
Despite all of this, if Israel still decides to justify their position on being defenceless and threatened, what is the likelihood of their pre-emptive strike actually aiding their cause? Based on the assumption that Iran is producing nuclear weapons, it is highly probable that these facilities are scattered throughout Iran, within its mountainous regions as well as deep underground. The actual airstrike mission itself would be highly complicated as a number of countries, including Syria and Iraq, are geographically contingent on Israel and Iran. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the strikes would do any real, long-term damage. It is likely, rather, that a strike would set Iran back a few years, and, in response, Iran would pour even more state resources towards the development of a nuclear weapon regardless of whether they even had one completed previously. This single attack, justified or unjustified, successful or unsuccessful, could truly be the catalyst to a global nuclear war.
– Faraz Alidina