Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

If Israel wants to end the race, let it get rid of its nukes

Iran didn’t start the Mideast nuclear arms race – Israel did.

Nearly all the frightening forecasts of what life would be like with a nuclear Iran strike me as being hollow. I’m not worried about Iran nuking Israel – because the Iranians don’t want to commit suicide. I’m not worried about Iran giving nukes to terror organizations that would nuke Israel – because Israel’s second-strike capacity, with its estimated 200 nuclear bombs, would devastate the Islamic world and the Islamic world knows it. I’m not worried that Iran’s “proxies,” such as Hezbollah and Hamas, would feel free under an Iranian “nuclear umbrella” to attack  Israel at will – because, again, the Iranians don’t want to commit suicide. And I’m not worried that terrified Israelis or the money of terrified foreign investors would leave the country en masse – because this never happened in any of the many, many other countries of the world that have nuclear-armed enemies.

But I said “nearly” all the forecasts are hollow; one strikes me as being very realistic: that a nuclear Iran would set off a Middle East nuclear arms race, which would be highly destabilizing, escalate tensions and create the possibility that somebody would start a nuclear war simply out of fear of being attacked first.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it makes perfect sense to me that Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and other countries around here would want to follow suit ASAP. In fact, even if Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons, I see no reason why other ambitious countries, in the Middle East and elsewhere, wouldn’t want to build or otherwise acquire their own. All the best countries have them, don’t they? (Except Germany and Japan, but that could change one day.)

This is not good; nuclear proliferation is very dangerous, especially in a place like the Middle East, and it should be prevented if possible. So Israel and the U.S. do have one solid argument for why Iran must be prevented from going nuclear at all costs.

The problem is – who the hell is Israel or the U.S. to tell anyone not to go nuclear? Who is Israel or the U.S. to start a war with Iran for the sake of enforcing nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East?

The nuclear arms race in the Middle East was started by Israel over 40 years ago. If Israel and the U.S. want to stop it, let Israel give up its nukes and sign a non-proliferation agreement with Iran, Egypt and the rest of the region.

I can understand, though, why Israel, even with the best of intentions,  would not want to do that – for fear that an enemy country would cheat, build the bomb and have Israel at its mercy.

Fine. If Israel wants to keep its nukes, it is well within its rights to do so, in my opinion. But it is not within its rights to bomb other countries or kill their scientists because they want to build nukes, too – even if those other countries’ leaders publicly wish Israel to disappear and deny the Holocaust, or give arms to Hamas and Hezbollah. If every country that gave arms to another country’s enemies became a legitimate target for attack, there would be no peace anywhere, anytime, certainly not in Israel or the U.S.

Israel and America may think they have the right to bomb Iran because, after all, they’re good and Iran is bad, Iran wants to kill and enslave people while Israel and the U.S. only want people to be free and happy. But this is a tough sell when they’re the ones threatening to start the war, not Iran. And even if we set the whole issue of Iran aside, there are a lot of people in the world who can make a strong case against Israel’s and America’s claims to be forces for only goodness, peace and freedom.

The chance of Israel attacking Iran before the November 6 U.S. election now is nil, but the chance of America doing it it with or without Israel’s help not too long after the election is considerable. In Iran, the centrifuges are still spinning, as Bibi likes to say, and Western powers aren’t going to just sit back and take it like wimps – they’re kicking the Iranians out, they’re cranking up the sanctions. 

We are still on track for a U.S./Israeli strike on Iran, which, aside from being a war of aggression with unimaginable consequences, is no way to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The 57 Muslim nations will not accept that the region’s one Jewish country can hold the exclusive franchise on nukes and bomb any country that “violates” it, and with the backing of the world’s first and greatest nuclear power – the only country that ever dropped the bomb, and on two cities, yet.

If Israel and America want to prevent a Middle East nuclear arms race, let Israel give up its nukes first. And if Israel is unwilling to do that, let Israel and America stop complaining about Iran – or anyone else.

Click here for +972′s special coverage on Iran

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. Jack

      Very good article I agree with most of the arguments you make.

      The main point, the scaremongering isnt working to the extent as the warmongers thought from the beginning because obviously too many people are actually thinking and are rational about this issue. Its simply not credible to deny that some folks do, that nukes have been in the middle east for decades which have opened for a nuke race.

      Sure proliferation is not a good thing but the west cant seriously believe that you could end proliferation by cherry picking states. The hysterical obsession with this issue, isnt sane.

      At the same time the factor that one state have nukes (Israel) have as you said triggered not only a nuclear race it have also triggered a destabilized situation. To get the middle east even, it could be to the benefit if another regional state get nukes too, that is if Israel keep its nuclear weapons.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Simon Wolfendale

      Here here. What you said.

      Reply to Comment
      • rayan

        let’s be serious, the chances that the united states attack iran even after the elections are very thin. iran will not commit the mistake of publicly announce its intention to move toward nuclear weapon, they will probably follow the path of israel (secretly)

        person in a pentagon does not want war with Iran, even if it mean a nuclear Iran. Americans military highest ranking have for long time advised U.S. governments bush, n obama, that: an attack will not stop Iran nuclear, but could guarantee that.

        the only option to prevent a nuclear Iran is an invasion and occupation over the long term, you really think obama or romney give such an order, or the Pentagon to oppose no resistance?

        even Congress will not swallow her in such an adventure

        Reply to Comment
        • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

          >> person in a pentagon does not want war with Iran

          the extra-messy and clearly unwinnable war in Afghanistan also isn’t popular within the Pentagon. But it happened; Mr Obama CRANKED UP this “land war in Asia”, and it will drag on and on, if he wins re-election.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Mitchell Cohen

      I might not be against Israel giving up nuclear weapons, in principle, but for her to be the first (or only one) in the Middle East to do so would be insane. Your first paragraph confirms that….

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack

        Mitchell Cohen,

        Could you tell us what benefit nuclear weapons have given Israel?

        Reply to Comment
      • Will

        So if Israel is the first and only Middle Eastern country to have nuclear weapons, and if you believe it is insane for Israel to give her weapons up first, then that means that nuclear disarmament in the ME is only possible by your criteria if Iran or another country gains nuclear weapons. Correct?

        Reply to Comment
    4. The other elephant in the room. Great article!

      If we take a step back and look at the larger picture, climate change is the gravest threat to life as we know it. The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty offers an example of the type of global agreement which is immediately needed to address climate change. Rather than embarking on a disatrous, expensive and time consuming war (which would destroy the NPT), the nations of the world must work to replicate the NPT to address the immediate threat of climate change. Accordingly, our military budgets must also shift to dedicate needed resources to this effort – and a nuclear free Middle East would illustrate to the world our real priorities.

      Otherwise “those who survive will envy the dead”.

      My apologies for the distracting thoughts.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Hear! Hear! For once, I fully agree with Derfner.

      I’m glad he also pointed the finger of hypocrisy at the US, who started the whole thing.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mitchell Cohen

      Jack,

      Larry explains it well in his first paragraph. I need not repeat it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack

        Mitchell,

        Actually I couldnt find an answer, could you elaborate?

        Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      “Israel and America may think they have the right to bomb Iran because, after all, they’re good and Iran is bad….” Well, yeah, I do think that’s a valid claim, if not stated as crudely as that. I think you could easily get Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and some other states to sign on to that, in private; in fact, they already have (Wikileaks).

      “Good” and “bad” is just a caricature, of course; it’s a question of danger and stability. Israel’s nukes are not a threat to the region; Iran’s potential nukes are. At least, that’s how states in the region perceive it.

      I’m not saying Israel should do anything about Iran’s program, only that it has the right to intervene militarily, if that were a practical (which it probably isn’t).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Here’s the other point I disagree with: The article says that “Iran” and “the Iranians” won’t attack Israel because it’s suicidal. I agree that neither the government nor the people is suicidal. The fear, though, is that some crazy, messianic elements *within* the command structure will do something irrational.

      The usual answer seems to be, “That’s highly unlikely.” Yes, that’s true. But *how* highly unlikely? If it’s, say, one chance in a hundred, then that’s an *extremely* frightening risk. On in a million? Ignore it. One in a thousand? I don’t know. How do you reason about low-probability, high-cost risks like this?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        If you use that reasoning, the first thing to do is destroy Israel.

        Reply to Comment
      • Max

        The fear is that some crazy, messianic elements *within* the command structure will do something irrational. My bet is that there are far more messianic guys in the Israeli than in the Iranian command.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      I agree with much of the article, in the sense of desiring deescalation of the conflict(s), rather than escalation.

      I disagree with a couple fundamental assumptions.

      1. MAD. The idea that if one is attacked that the attacked country responds by grand escalation. If someone insults you or even punches you (limited strike), do you feel permission to escalate, even as maintaining your “rep”? I don’t.

      I don’t believe that the logic of excessive deterrence applies really anywhere, except to define ALL that hold any weapons to a very very low moral status.

      A reasonable person would not retaliate. A reasonable state would not escalate.

      2. I think it is reasonable that Iran be expected to renounce any nuclear weapons ambitions, even contingencies.

      Those that state that it is not actively developing nuclear weapons may be accurate. Those that state that it has renounced nuclear weapons are lying.

      The FACT of Iran’s development of intercontinental missile systems contributes to the view that Iran is preparing to aggress, or even act “mad”. The “proxy” Hezbollah arsenals remain relevant, not dismissable in any math (they speak of an attack on Iran as an attack on “us”, calmly, matter of factly, assuming that they would “retaliate” for an attack on Iran, even without an attack on southern Lebanon).

      When the rest of the world including Iran recognizes Israel and establishes diplomatic relations, even contesting borders and policies, then the question of Israeli nukes can get onto the table.

      Its not really possible before that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack

        Richard Witty,

        1. No, MAD is the theory of nuclear balance, when balance is achived there is no reason for any state to use these weapons. Israel not only have these weapons, they also have a second-strike capability.

        2. Thats what they have been doing for decades, that is, saying that they dont pursue nuclear weapons and even have a fatwa against them.
        Iran has neither developed intercontinental capability.

        Peace will come when Israel comply with law, as Jimmy Carter said.

        “Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law.”
        contreinfo.info/article.php3?id_article=316

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          Its the logic of deterrence. Balance is of deterrence, which assumes “I am willing to undertake a second strike”.

          Most in practice realize ‘what good is to be gained by destroying their culture after mine is destroyed?’.

          If known, then the logic of MAD ends.

          MAD only functions with permanent enemies, and only from a distance. Once conditional acceptance of the other enters into the picture, or the enemy relationship becomes more intimate (actually threatening close up) then MAD becomes an irrational game.

          That possibility of conditional acceptance is important. And, the relationships of threat are much much more intimate with the actual proxy relationship of highly armed Hezbollah on Israel’s border, with the ability to hit anywhere and grossly.

          If Hezbollah had used language like “if Iran asks for our help we will give it”, an independent truly third party, and not “‘WE’ will retaliate”, then the proxy assumption could be questioned.

          The deterrent precedent of 2006, gave Hezbollah a motivation to be independent of Iran’s cues, as harsh as it was.

          Absent, active and threatened active aggression, by Iran, I don’t recall an instance of Israeli unilateral threat on Iran. But, the proxy relationship of Hezbollah (even if qualified), is an active and intimate threat on Israel.

          From my eyes, it looks like Iran is threatening Israel and NOT the other way around.

          Iran feels politically isolated in control of the Persian Gulf, wants to be a peer+ in controlling the straights of Hormuz.

          And, Israel is used as a scapegoat, commonly in the race for street credibility among parties (“we are better at sticking it to Israel and Israelis than you are” – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, anti-normalization BDS even) and in the geo-political race for Islamic world leadership (“we are better at sticking it to Israel and Israelis than you are”).

          Reply to Comment
          • Jack

            Richard Witty,

            MAD works like any other conflict, the theory of MAD doesnt change dependent on states involved. Its fixiated.
            Israel have also admit this through various statements, indicate a recognition of MAD.

            Saying that Iran is the one threatening Israel with war isnt credible for one bit. You surely dont belive that yourself, I understand that you will make such an argument for the sake of argumentation debate.

            Hezbollah have neither threatened Israel with a first strike, they have however repeatedly said that they could help Iran IF Iran would be attacked by Israel.

            Using the word proxy is a bit repetitive too in the debate. The lebanese group are no longer a “proxy” its independent. Likewise no one wold call Israel a proxy to United States etc.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            MAD is dependent on an agreement to mutually retaliate to the point of annihilation if attacked.

            A humane state does not consider annihilation of another, even after a strike, certainly not after a limited strike.

            It is only a successful theory of deterrence when the parties are geographically remote.

            When there is any intimate violence, the theory breaks down.

            Again, Hezbollah has crossed the threshold of proxy, in referring to an attack on Iran as a retaliation (implying that they are attacked).

            The only extent that they are genuinely independent is very sadly because of the 2006 excessive war.

            The presence of Iran and as proxy, and of active support of resistance oriented to the dissolution of Israel, changes the nature of the relationship.

            They then no longer engage in remote deterrence, but in active aggression and escalation.

            It is reasonable for progressives to insist on deescalation, and to oppose changes that amount to destabilization of an actual deterrent relationship.

            Absent Iran developing weaponry actively defining Israel as the targeted range, Israel has not aggressed on Iran that I’m aware of.

            Can you site an instance in which Israel aggressed on Iran prior to that escalation?

            Reply to Comment
          • Jack

            Richard Witty,

            MAD is about nukes, there is no such things as “limited strike” when it comes to this area – (you may be thinking of conventional weapons, which WMDs are not), MAD implies massive response which makes it no sense for 2 nuclear states to wage war, especially if one of the states have a second strike capability.

            Thats not what a proxy is that is considered an allied partner if anything, likewise does Israel have allies that would help in case of war. Nothing strange about it.

            Israel have threatened and argumented for an attack on Iran for decades. You could google and see for yourself how it has advanced during the years.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            Jack,
            You are again not taking in what I am saying.

            A moral state will not engage in a second strike. The logic of “I am dead, I will kill you” is not a moral stance.

            If that is known, then the logic of MAD is mute. It depends on the second strike. If the second strike is mute, then MAD is mute.

            Israel does not have allies that border Iran, and have historically shelled Iranian civilians.

            Hezbollah has crossed the proxy threshold. They do not act independently.

            The actual reality is different than you describe, and perhaps think.

            Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      Kenneth Waltz claims that nuclear weapons are inherently stabilizing and that it is efforts at non-proliferation that are destabilizing. His argument is that the more countries with nukes, the better. There will be less warfare and saber rattling. If you’re interested in reading an interesting debate on this then I suggest “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate” by Kenneth N. Waltz and Scott D. Kagan. Kagan argues against proliferation and in favor of the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons as a counter-point to Waltz’s assertion that “more is better.”

      Reply to Comment
    11. Dani

      Excellent article.

      To those who are worried about leaking of material from the iranian government to terrorists, that train has already left the station.

      Pakistan, India, North Korea and some former Soviet Union countries all are potential sources for nuclear material ending in the wrong hands.

      To focus this specific danger on Iran therefore is wrong at best.

      Reply to Comment
    12. XYZ

      Iran’s drive to get the bomb has nothing to do with Israel nor with any “Middle East Arms Race”. Iran would want the bomb even if Israel didn’t exist or did not have nuclear weapons.
      Why?
      Because Iran views itself as a regional superpower. The Shah talked about a desire to have Iran become a nuclear power.
      Because the Iranians love nursing ancient grievances about British and American intervention in their affairs, and they tell themselves that if those countries have nuclear weapons, why can’t they? (BTW-Iranian whining about foreign intervention in their affairs doesn’t seem to prevent them from intervening in Lebanona’s and Syria’s affairs).
      Iran was involved in a bloody, largely stalemated war of attrition in which there were hundreds of thousands of Iranian casualties for something like nine years with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. A desire to prevent a similar situation from arising in the future is at least somewhat understandable.
      Iran and Israel do not share a border and have no inherent conflict between them. Thus, Iran’s drive for the bomb has nothing to do with Israel, and Israel supposedly giving up its nuclear capability would not affect the Iranian program in the least.

      Reply to Comment
    13. glenn

      it’s ludicrous to believe that disarming Israel will make Iran stop.

      Reply to Comment
    14. ken

      This is the Worst publication I have read in a while…

      I will never come back…This is not news..this is propaganda.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Ken, it’s called “opinion.”

        Reply to Comment
    15. Mitchell Cohen

      “Mitchell,

      Actually I couldnt find an answer, could you elaborate?” [End of Jack]

      Sorry, I am not real good at translating English to English….

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack

        Elaborate isnt the same as a translate. However I accept your reply and take it as you couldnt reply to my question.

        Reply to Comment
    16. delia ruhe

      Makes perfect sense to me.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Philos

      On another note we also have to look into the legal, ethical and moral ramifications of a solo Israeli job. First off of the bat, the crime of aggression. Don’t let the neo-cons fool you; attacking another country based on a hunch is a war crime, preventative war is aggression.
      .
      Also, if the war goes the wrong way for Israel they should expect some indictments with the backing of very strong states who would be forced to intervene to calm the whole place down.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Ali Saleh Shamkhani

      I believe that Iran and the US will sign a nonaggression pact once Obama is re-elected. Then this whole question will be moot
      nonaggr

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Another Hopium eater. Place not thy hope in Obama, for he is an empty suit.

        Reply to Comment
    19. dave

      Comment deleted

      Reply to Comment
    20. dave

      Comment deleted

      Reply to Comment
    21. Jack

      Richard Witty,

      If you posses a second strike capability you have already made that decision (that you can strike) this is like ‘double-deterrence’, that you could strike. So obviously the moral thing have already been dealt with.

      What matters does it make if Israel doesnt have an allied on its borders? And do you think US/Israel is a proxy to each other?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Laurent Szyster

      In substance, Dr Larry “Pangloss” Derfner tells us that Israel should get rid of its best deterent in exchange for the good words of a bunch of medieval theocrats and psychopatic jew haters who have lied to the UN atomic agency all along the past decade.

      Yeah, let’s disarm in front of those homicidal maniacs and “everything will be for the better in the best possible world”.

      Brilliant.

      Reply to Comment
    23. litvac120

      Larry, if you want to commit
      suicide will free to do it anytime. You have no right to
      offer Israel. What is it with the Jewish leftists that the
      approval from other leftists
      ( many of them anti-Semites)
      is more important to them the lives of their fellow
      Jews.
      litvac120

      Reply to Comment
    24. Click here to load previous comments

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel