This week, a high-ranking Israeli official urged the US “and the rest of the free world” to deal with the “Iranian threat before it is too late”.
The remarks – reminiscent of the vitriolic propaganda campaign against Iraq prior to the Anglo-American invasion of the Arab country last year – coincided with the publication of an article by a leading Israeli military historian Martin Van-Creveld, suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might very well order an attack on Iranian nuclear plants.
Writing in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune on 21 August, Creveld opined an Israeli or American (or a joint Israeli-American) attack on Iranian nuclear plants might be carried out before the US November elections.
Israel reportedly possess a big arsenal of nuclear weapons – estimates range from 100 to 400 weapons and bombs – along with efficient delivery systems, including a fleet of long-range American-supplied F-15 fighter bombers as well as the medium range ballistic missile Yeriho.
Seeking to justify Tel Aviv’s fixation on Iran, Israeli leaders are citing three reasons why Iran ought to dispose of its alleged would-be nuclear capability.
“Israel simply wants to keep five hundred million Muslims in this region under the mercy of its nuclear arsenal”
Abd Al-Sattar Qasim,
These include the Islamist nature of the Iranian regime, Iran’s refusal to recognise Israel and the Islamic republic’s alleged support of resistance groups fighting Israeli occupation and colonisation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem as well as part of Southern Lebanon.
However, according to Abd Al-Sattar Qasim, Professor of Political Science at the Najah University in Nablus, these are only “pretexts”.
“I believe that Israel is the most dangerous state in the world today. Imagine what state the stability and security of the world would be in if the messianic Jewish extremists of Gush Euminim reached power in Israel and suddenly found themselves in control of Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal.”
Qasim believes the sole motive behind Israel’s currently evolving showdown with Iran is the Israeli determination to “maintain its nuclear monopoly and strategic supremacy in this region”.
“Israel simply wants to keep five hundred million Muslims in this region under the mercy of its nuclear arsenal. The appearance of any possible strategic deterrence would upset Israel’s strategic calculations and might rectify the strategic balance of power in the Middle East.”
Creveld tacitly agrees, saying: “Iran would be crazy” not to try developing a nuclear capability, given Israel’s aggrandising nuclear armaments, including the reported deployment of nuclear-equipped submarines in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and perhaps the Persian Gulf.
Israel reportedly makes nuclear
“It all depends on Ariel Sharon – an old war-horse who back in 1982 led Israel into a disastrous invasion of Lebanon. One can only hope that this time he will think twice,” the military historian said.
In the public relations battle, Israel argues that Iran is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, a claim that is much less than true since Iran has said repeatedly that it will accept any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will be acceptable to the Palestinians.
Furthermore, Iran could also make a similar argument, quoting statements by Israeli ministers and officials calling for the extermination of millions of Muslims.
No easy target
Israeli strategists recognise that attacking and destroying Iranian nuclear installations would not be an easy job.
These facilities, they admit, are widely dispersed, well-guarded and housed in underground bunkers.
“It wouldn’t be as easy as the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor,” said Ephraim Ascolai, a nuclear weapons expert at the Jafee Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, alluding to the Israeli attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981.
But in an interview with Aljazeera.net, Ascolai pointed out an Israeli attack on Iranian facilities was not unthinkable.
He argued, however, that the “Iranian nuclear crisis” was not an exclusively Israeli problem, but a world problem.
“You see, this is not only between Israel and Iran. The US, Australia and Europe have a vital interest in stopping Iran from going nuclear,” he said.
Israel faces a host of problems carrying out a successful attack on Iranian nuclear plants, not the least of which being the would-be expected Iranian retaliation.
Iran Defence Minister Shamkhani
Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani has said on more than one occasion that Tehran will carry out a massive retaliation if Israel attacked Iran.
In a recent interview with Aljazeera, Shamkhani warned that his country would not sit down idly awaiting an Israeli strike and would resort to a pre-emptive option against Israel and the US.
“The concept of a pre-emptive strike is not an American exclusivity,” he said.
True, Shamkhani’s statements do have a large rhetorical content since a non-nuclear Iran possesses no strategic deterrent against a supposedly nuclear Israel, backed by its guardian-ally, the US.
But it would be utterly naive to assume the Iranians would do nothing in the face of a flagrant and unprovoked Israeli or American attack on their country.
Leaving to US
In addition, Israel would have serious logistical problems carrying out an attack on the Iranian installations.
Turkey, with its at least nominally Islamic government, is unlikely to allow Israel to use its airspace to launch attacks on a neighbouring Islamic country with which Ankara has been seeking to improve and upgrade political and economic relations.
Moreover, using the “Jordanian-Iraqi conduit” would further enforce convictions, already salient among most Arabs and Muslims, that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq was carried out first and foremost to serve Israel’s regional strategic interests.
“I think the safest thing for Israel is to let the Americans do it”
This, coupled with US brazen support of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank, would likely bring American credibility in this part of the world to an all-time low.
In that light, Israel’s most workable approach would be to leave it to the Americans, according to Ira Sharkansky, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“I think the safest thing for Israel is to let the Americans do it,” he told Aljazeera.net.
And Israel, directly and through its powerful lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has been making strenuous efforts to get Washington to “do something” about Iran.
It is not clear yet what the repercussions of the reported FBI apprehension of an Israeli spy operating in the Pentagon will be for Israel’s efforts to get the US to attack Iran.
The alleged spy – reportedly Larry Franklin, who worked in the office of Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith – is said to have passed sensitive documents pertaining to Iran to Israel via two AIPAC representatives.
He reportedly had a close association with two Pentagon Jewish officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, both of whom are strong advocates of a tough American policy on Iran.
“We will not see an immediate effect, but many American officials … would think twice before deciding to have too-close relations with Israel”
Israeli analyst Allan Pappie,
And Iran’s alleged nuclear programme was said to be the main focus of Franklin’s activities.
Israeli analyst Allan Pappie of Haifa University believes the Franklin affair will deal “a very serious blow” to American-Israeli relations at the intelligence level.
In an interview with Aljazeera.net, Pappie has said the affair will have a long-term negative effect on US-Israeli relations and on the way Israel and its supporters in the US are perceived.
“We will not see an immediate effect, but many American officials, especially at the intelligence and defence levels, would think twice before deciding to have too-close relations with Israel.”
Tel Aviv’s most immediate and serious concern, however, may be whether the scandal will scuttle its efforts to persuade Washington to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.