A theocratic government leads this nation, imposing its laws and ethics upon the members of the minority religions among its population. While the government attempts to maintain the guise of a secular administration, the ruling figures in both the government and the military are, almost by default, members of the majority religious group and seek the insight and blessing of their religious leaders to validate their decisions. Their belief that their cause is just and blessed diminishes any attempt to argue on more rational or diplomatic grounds. Noted religious leaders instruct their followers to pray for the destruction of their enemies.
Their military is among the world's elite. They are well stocked, well armed and battle trained. Wars with their neighbors have honed their skills and they use the threat of further force against those neighbors as a political tool. They seek, and acquire, the latest military technologies, either directly or through espionage. Within the last year they have tested a long-range ballistic missile that demonstrates their ability to reach their enemies throughout the region. There are suggestions that they have, or will soon obtain, missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
And therein lies their greatest threat to the region as a whole. Nestled away in a "top secret" location sits a nuclear reactor, quietly turning away, supplying power to much of the country, but also developing fissile material for nuclear weapons. The facility lies outside the oversight of the international community and the government refuses to acknowledge international treaties that would govern its uses, peaceful or otherwise.
Now, if the Western media is your guide to current events, you no doubt think that the above description is of Iran. But in fact, I am talking about Israel.
For the past few months, the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been threatening to launch a military attack on Iran, with the stated intent of destroying Iran’s fledgling nuclear program. Despite evidence to the contrary, Israel has styled the threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon to be a clear and immediate danger to the regions only other nuclear power.
In 1981, Israel launched Operation Opera to destroy the Iraqi nuclear power plant, Osirak. Launched in the weeks leading up to elections in the Israeli Knesset, the Osirak operation, ironically, followed an earlier Iranian attack on the same site. In 2007, a similar attack was launched, Operation Orchard, this time targeting a Syrian site which Israel claimed was the early phase of a Syrian nuclear program. Israel’s willingness to launch such an attack is unquestionable, but, unlike these previous secret operations, however, they are publicly, and loudly, discussing the likelihood of this attack.
While the drum beats of war started with Netanyahu’s re-election in 2009, it has been within the last few months that Israel has been most actively soliciting international support for a pre-emptive strike against Iran. In July, Israeli President Shimon Peres told CNN that Israel was in an “open war” with Iran. In August, Israel began handing out gas masks, building new bomb shelters and testing early-warning systems. If the latter is any indicator, Israel is not expecting its attack on Iran to be as easy, or as free of consequences, as its earlier strikes had been. Israel has further demanded that the United States declare an absolute deadline, a “red line” which Iran must not cross or face military engagement.
Despite the obvious pressure put on an administration in the throes of an election year, the US has said no more than that it will “not tolerate” a nuclear Iran. While Israeli Rabbis pray to “bring an end” to Iran, the Obama administration has seemed blessedly immune to Netanyahu’s propaganda. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, recently stated that the US would not “be complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran. And despite dire warnings that the “window for military action” may be closing, the US seems to be steering the diplomatic course that avoids further breaching international law and which might actually yield results beyond a regional war.
Part of the US reluctance to start a war with Iran may have something to do with the research being gathered about the Iranian nuclear program. A Pentagon report merely states that Iran may be “technically capable” to flight-test an intercontinental missile by 2015. Not strike Israel in the near term, but test that ability 3 years from now. U.S. Defense Secretary himself has acknowledged that Iran does not currently have nuclear weapons.
A recent report prepared by the Congressional Research Service threw into stark light some the concerns held by the US regarding a unilateral Israeli attack. Would an Israeli attack successfully destroy, or only delay, the Iranian program? Worse, would such an attack intensify Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons? What effect would such an attack have on future international negotiations with Tehran? What effect would it have on public support for the Iranian regime and/or the nascent Green Revolution?
In the end, of course, the immediate military and political affects are second-hand. What will happen to the people of Israel and Iran should such an attack be launched? Israel is clearly thinking of the consequences, as Iran undoubtedly is. What will be the larger effect throughout the region? What would be the effect on the already shaky global economy? Notable figures in the Israeli establishment are speaking out against such an attack. A public campaign has been started to show that the Israeli and Iranian people themselves are not ready to die in this war.
So while it appears that Israel may be slowly stepping back from the hard line it drew for war with Iran, the question remains, has Israel merely been playing a game of nuclear bluster? Is a cold war at the nuclear level the future for this region?By Ted Graham, Aslan Media Columnist