Israel and Iran’s Nuclear Program

by MOHAMMED AYOOB

Leading Israeli figures including Prime Minister Netenyahu and Defense Minister Barak have once again begun to make loud noises about Iran’s nuclear program and the inevitability of an Israeli strike against Iran to destroy its capacity to enrich uranium. Whether the Israelis are serious this time or merely crying wolf as usual is anyone’s guess. However, it is clear that the politics surrounding Iran’s nuclear enrichment program – totally civilian according to Tehran, ambiguous according to the IAEA, and military according to Israel and the United States – is getting “curiouser and curiouser” to the extent that it has almost begun to resemble Alice’s experience in Wonderland. This is the case for a number of reasons.

First, the charge against the Iranian nuclear program is led by Israel, which is the sole nuclear weapons power in the Middle East. This defies any logic except the logic of Israeli exceptionalism. Israel’s current rhetoric would have made sense had Israel put its own nuclear weapons on the table, accepted the idea of a NWFZ in all of the Middle East including Israel and Iran, and offered to sign the NPT and then made the point that it had the right to attack Iran if the latter did not accept this offer. But, denying Iran’s right to go nuclear (assuming that that is what Tehran desires) while holding on to its own nuclear arsenal and delivery systems makes Israel appear self-righteous and devious at the same time. The argument that Israel needs nuclear weapons because enemies surround it makes little sense in light of the fact that Israel is the dominant military power in its neighborhood and perpetuating this dominance is an integral part of American policy toward the Middle East.

Second, the case gets even curiouser if one scrutinizes the argument that an Iran in possession of rudimentary nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel which is in possession of several hundred nuclear weapons of varying sophistication and size plus multiple, some of them state of the art, delivery
systems. Iran’s rulers would have to be desperate morons, which by all accounts they are not, if they decide to launch a first strike against Israel in the context of this nuclear reality. Iran’s mullahs, however unpalatable their rule may appear to be to many in the West, are not in the business of committing national suicide.

Third, the argument that Iran will be able to enhance its political influence in the Middle East especially in the Persian Gulf by acquiring nuclear weapons capability also makes little sense. Nuclear weapons may have deterrent capacity but are of little use as instruments of influence or of warfare. In fact, as current reports about the Gulf states acquiring anti-missile defense capability from the West testify, a nuclear Iran is likely to drive Iran’s Arab neighbors further into the arms of the United States thus increasing its isolation.

Moreover, of late Iran’s political stock has been falling among the neighboring countries both because of its ruthless suppression of the democratic movement in the country in 2009 and because of its current support to the Assad regime engaged in suppressing the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. Adding a few rudimentary nuclear weapons to its arsenal is not going to buy Iran political influence in this context and may, in fact, turn out to be counterproductive politically.

Fourth, and the “curiousest” of them all is the fact that one member of the United Nations – Israel – is repeatedly threatening a military attack on another – Iran – without any fear of negative repercussions from the members of that august body for threatening international peace and security. Such repeated aggressive rhetoric by any other member of the UN would have led the Security Council go into overdrive and pass resolutions threatening the state expressing such aggressive intent with action, including military action, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

In this case, on the contrary, every escalation in the aggressive Israeli rhetoric has led to senior American officials rushing to Jerusalem not to warn it of dire consequences if it attacked Iran but to plead with the Israeli government to give the P5+1 more time through economic sanctions and by other means to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The curious thing about these episodes is that they take place while the American intelligence is nearly unanimous that Iran is not about to go nuclear any time soon.

Israel’s rhetoric makes much about the fact that Iran is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions by continuing with its uranium enrichment plan and that this justifies an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. If this logic goes unchallenged it would allow member states to appropriate the powers of the UN Security Council and determine what actions individual states or groups of states can take to implement Security Council resolutions that they find desirable. This is a recipe for mayhem and anarchy in the international system.

Just imagine if Iran or Egypt made the case that Israel is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 by not withdrawing from occupied Palestinian territories and that this gives them the right to bomb Tel Aviv. Would Defense Secretary Leon Panetta be rushing to Tehran or Cairo to plead with Khamenei or Morsi to give the US and its allies more time to force Israel to withdraw by imposing ever more stringent economic sanctions on it? Or would the United States immediately convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to undertake harsh measures under Chapter VII of the Charter against Iran or Egypt for threatening international peace and security? One can reasonably assume that the latter would be the course of action followed by Washington and other members of the P5+1. If this conclusion is correct, then should the same logic not apply to Israeli threats against Iran’s nuclear facilities?

Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University and  Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is the author of The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World.

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
Dmitry Kolesnik
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: A New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone