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Could Israel live with a nuclear Iran? A gaming exercise suggests yes.

Israeli intelligence experts role-played Iran in a simulation exploring the 'day after' scenario if Iran were to launch a nuclear explosive test. The results suggest war would not break out immediately.

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The general also said that a nuclear Iran could also deter Israel from striking at Hamas and Hezbollah.

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Escalating tensions

In recent weeks, concerns about the standoff have heightened as Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil-tanker traffic and an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated on the streets of Tehran.

That triggered Iranian accusations against Israel and pledges of retaliation against Israeli targets. In an apparent effort to defuse tension, Israel said on Monday that a missile-defense drill to be carried out jointly with the US planned for the coming weeks had been postponed.

There is little if any discussion in public that Israel, an undeclared nuclear power, might be compelled to become accustomed to a situation of mutual deterrence with Iran. Statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad that Israel will be wiped off the map have prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others to draw comparisons between Iran and Nazi Germany.

However, many consider this to be an inaccurate view of the Iranian leadership. The recently resigned chief of Israel's Mossad, Meir Dagan, recently suggested that Iranian strategy is not irrational and that its leaders might be sufficiently deterred from an attack by Israel’s capability to strike back.

'Game-changing' step

But the results of the simulation do suggest a "game change" for the Middle East, as had been expected.  

In the simulation, Saudi Arabia moved to acquire its own nuclear weapon. Israel considered for the first time a formal defense pact with the US, while keeping the option open of a military strike against a nuclear Tehran. Iran decided to use its new status to get economic sanctions lifted in return for a promise not to use the weapon.

"It’s a political tool," says Mr. Guzansky. "I think that Iran is rational, although it’s a different type of rationality than ours."

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