Thursday, March 10, 2005

How to deter Iran

Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz:
Israel is convinced, on the basis of intelligence information, that Tehran has not called off its nuclear weapons project. Israel's basic assumption should be that Iran will finally realize its intentions, and arm itself with nuclear weapons. In Washington, there are some who believe Iran will carry on with its efforts to become a nuclear power, even if it undergoes a regime change.

Israel's strategic concept at present is that we cannot accept the possibility that Iran, which is calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, will have nuclear weapons. read more

In order to prevent the danger, Israel must help the international community to prevent Iran's achievement of nuclear capability, which is liable to lead to a nuclear arms race in the region. The criminal activity of Pakistani scientist Abdul Khader Khan, who sold or disseminated nuclear information, as well as the North Korean threat to sell military nuclear information, increases this possibility.

At the same time, Israel must determine what constitutes the best deterrence against Iran, and to work to achieve it. Prof. Shai Feldman was correct in saying in his farewell address, on retiring as director of the influential Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, that Iran can be deterred. Although Iran's declarations are extremist, the country is not usually foolhardy. At the same time, it is clear that the difference lies in the nature of the regime in an Iran equipped with nuclear weapons: whether it is an extremist regime of ayatollahs, or a more liberal and open regime.

Israel's deterrence must include several layers of protection. It must try not to stand alone against Iran, but to be part of a large organization. In light of the nuclear developments in Iran, Israel must give top priority to achieving a defense alliance with the United States. The question marks surrounding this subject in the past in Israel are being eliminated for the most part. The difficulty is to achieve such an alliance when Israel is continuing with its vague nuclear policy.
At the same time, Israel must attempt to improve its relations with NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It cannot be a member of the organization, but there are good models for becoming associated with it. That will also reinforce our deterrence capability.

Next in importance is the effort that Israel must make to achieve peace with the Palestinians and with Syria. There is no better way to soften and neutralize Iranian hostility than peace agreements with Arab countries. Peace with Syria will of necessity create a geopolitical barrier between Israel and Iran, and therefore such a peace should be seen as a strategic goal.

Although these are goals that are difficult to achieve, we must not allow the extremists among us, who are also dealing with the Iranian question, to undermine the proposals for achieving regional peace arrangements, or a renewal of the multilateral talks with the Arabs about weapons monitoring.

From Israel's point of view, the political solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is preferable. But Israel must prepare the military option for itself, as well. Such an option should be developed quietly, and not with belligerent statements and a show of strength, as is customary here from time to time. In the military option, we have to build the appropriate force, prepare the plans, and examine methods of clandestine activity inside Iran, as well. At the same time, we must not evade questions such as: What can Israel gain from employing a military option, and what will the Iranian response be.