An Israeli strike won’t delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It will start it.
In spite of the hype, there is no definitive evidence Iran is working to develop a nuclear weapon. A new study suggests that the one thing that could launch an Iranian drive to weaponize, however, would be an Israeli strike.
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It is clear that senior echelons of the Israeli national security establishment understand this dynamic perfectly and are firmly against any strike on Iran.Skip to next paragraph
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For instance, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy recently told Haaretz: “[W]hat I recommend is trying to calm the Iranian-Israeli conflict and not escalate it.”
He continues: “It is possible that, in the end, we will have no choice and will be forced to attack.....But before venturing on such an extreme and dangerous action, I suggest making a supreme effort to avoid it. We must not hem the Iranians in and we must not push them into a corner. We have to try to give them an honorable way out. It’s always worth remembering that the greatest victory in war is the victory that is achieved without firing a shot.”
It seems to be only some of Israel’s top political leaders who are calling for a strike. Commentators Nahum Barnea and Simon Shiffer wrote in Israel’s biggest-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth: “Insofar as it depends on Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran will take place in these coming autumn months, before the US elections in November.”
They later explain: “There is not a single senior official in the establishment – neither among the [Israeli Defense Forces] top brass nor in the security branches, or even the president – who supports an Israeli strike at the moment.”
So if an Israeli strike on Iran is such a transparently bad idea, why does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keep threatening one? Many – including Israeli politicians – speculate that this posturing is simply a cynical ploy to try to influence the outcome of the US elections by trying to paint Obama as weak on defense.
Former Israeli defense minister and current Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz put it bluntly to Mr. Netanyahu, saying recently, “Mr. Prime Minister, you want a crude, rude, unprecedented, reckless, and risky intervention in the US elections. Tell us who you serve and for what? Why are you putting your hand deep into the ballot boxes of the American electorate?”
Quite apart from the fact that an Israeli attack on Iran would be against international law, it would likely convince Iran to kick out IAEA inspectors and kick off full-fledged nuclear weaponization.
As Ms. Braut-Hegghammer’s new analysis of the consequences of the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq explains: “Such attacks may not only speed the targeted state’s efforts to produce nuclear weapons, but also create a false sense of security in the outside world.”
Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is professor and scientist-in-residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The views expressed are his own.