If I were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser, I would advise attacking Iran. It doesn't have to happen immediately. Although Iran has crossed the "technological threshold" and already has most of the know-how, the equipment and the materials to enable it to create a nuclear bomb, it will take anther year at least, and maybe even three, to implement the potential and the capability it has accumulated.
In any case, Israel must wait in order to not disrupt U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy of talking to Iran, a strategy that is destined to fail.
These are the main considerations that should determine whether or not to attack:
1. Would nuclear weapons in Iranian hands really constitute a clear and present danger to the existence of Israel?
2. Does Israel have the intelligence and operational capability to enable it to strike hard at Iran's nuclear sites?
3. What damage would be caused to Israel by an Iranian response?
4. Would an Israeli attack harm vital U.S. interests?
5. How would the Arab world react to such an attack?
As an adviser, here are my answers.
1. It is not certain that nuclear bombs in Iranian hands would necessarily constitute an existential threat to Israel. The Gulf states, such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, should be more afraid than Israel, and in fact they are extremely worried. It is also difficult to imagine that the ayatollahs would use nuclear weapons. Such a use would not only eradicate the nation being attacked, it would also destroy the regime of the religious leaders as well as the lives of millions of people in Iran. But Israel will still have difficulty trusting in the rationalism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Ali Khomanei.
2. Israel has the military ability to cause serious damage to the Iranian nuclear program, to hit the nerve centers of production: the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and several additional sites where they are working on assembling the bomb. Such as attack would delay Iran's nuclear capability by several years, but would not destroy it entirely.
3. Iran has about 100 missiles that can reach Israel, and would also activate Hezbollah and its terror networks worldwide. But in spite of its technological achievements, Iran is a backward country, burdened with the problems of prostitution, drugs, poverty, ignorance and above all, corruption. It is doubtful whether a country that is riddled with rot is capable of maintaining a strong and efficient army. Iran is a paper tiger.
4. An attack that is not coordinated with Washington would cause a deep rift with the United States and lead to the imposition of harsh sanctions against Israel.
5. The Arab and Muslim world would condemn Israel.
Ostensibly, the obvious conclusion from these answers is that an attack against Iran is too great a gamble, one that the Israeli leadership should not take. That is also the reigning opinion among senior members of the Obama administration - from Vice President Joe Biden to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who recently spoke on the subject - and most U.S. experts.
An exception to this group thinking can be found in words written recently by editor David Samuels in the online magazine Slate, in an article entitled, "Why Israel will bomb Iran." The essence of his assumptions, which favor attack, are as follows: Israel's special status in the United States stems not only from common cultural values and the Christian belief in the Holy Land and from the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust, but also, and primarily, from Israel's image as the lone ranger who fights the bad guys in the Wild West of the Middle East, in order to defend its existence. Recently there have been cracks in this image due to what are seen as Israel's failures in the most recent campaigns against Hezbollah and Hamas. In Samuels' opinion, Israeli weakness is undermining strategic cooperation with the United States, while Iran is trying to achieve regional hegemony.
According to Samuels, while an Israeli attack may serve American interests, it will force the Obama administration to behave as though those interests have actually been harmed. The angry Arab and Muslim world will always suspect that Washington was a secret partner and gave Israel the green light to attack. In order to assuage Arab Muslim anger, the United States will have to force Israel to withdraw from the territories and enable the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Therefore, a good adviser must tell Netanyahu: Don't wait until they force you to do something you don't want to do. Preempt it. An attack on Iran is a window of opportunity that could not only remove the nuclear threat, but also restore Israel's status as a regional superpower and its image as crazy and unpredictable and a state which will stop at nothing.
The truth is that such an attack serves the interests of the United States, the West and the Arab world, but they would find it difficult to admit it and would be forced to respond harshly to an Israeli offensive. Therefore, if I were the national security adviser, I would explain to the prime minister than an attack alone, even if it succeeds, would not serve Israel's true national interests.
In order to implement a strategic breakthrough, the Israeli government will have to orchestrate a formative historic event. It must agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state and operate at a feverish pace to that end. In such a case, not only would the United States and the pro-Western Sunni Arab world accept the attack on their Shi'ite rival, they would even welcome it, thus making it possible to pave the way to more peace agreements with Arab nations, security arangements a strategic alliance based on common interests.
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