Thursday, September 22, 2005

Between North Korea and Iran

Ephraim Sneh, The Jerusalem Post:
North Korea's declaration that it will dismantle its nuclear program awakened hopes among many that this might hasten a similar announcement on the part of Iran. Sadly, the chances of that happening are slim.

Two things set the North Korean case apart from the Iranian one: First, North Korea was confronted by a unified coalition of major states – the US, China, Japan and South Korea – which was willing to grant it important economic and diplomatic incentives if it abandoned its nuclear option. These perks were conditioned on a genuine, verifiable cessation of the production of all nuclear weapons by North Korea. Moreover, the coalition was also willing to impose sanctions on North Korea if it refused to cooperate.

Iran, on the other hand, has not been confronted by a unified, consolidated front. There are significant differences in the approach taken by the US, which vehemently opposes the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the countries of the European Union, which although they have now despaired of wooing Iran diplomatically, still feel quite uneasy about imposing tough sanctions against the regime. China and Russia are unprepared to take any real steps against Iran.

The second difference is even more fundamental. For North Korea, its nuclear program served mainly as a bargaining chip to enable it to gain political guarantees for its continued independent existence and the economic benefits that it desperately needs. For Iran, on the other hand, nuclear arms are central to achieving other, more ambitious strategic goals. READ MORE

Iran is striving to become an Islamic superpower with hegemony over the greater Middle East that would extend assistance to Muslims everywhere. That is why it is developing ballistic missiles able to deliver nuclear weapons with a range of thousands of kilometers. The new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly declared this.

For the Teheran regime, relinquishing its nuclear arms and long-range missiles would be tantamount to relinquishing its goals and very raison d'etre. At best, Iran will continue with its tricks to gain time, while secretly moving ahead with its plans to obtain a nuclear bomb.

Iran's nuclear objectives cannot be separated from its war against the Jewish state, which is based on a two-level strategy. On the first level, Iran directs, finances and encourages terrorist organizations to carry out terror attacks against Israel, and has cast a network of 13,000 rockets and missiles in southern Lebanon whose range covers the entire northern part of Israel, almost as far south as Hadera.

The second level would be achieved when the regime develops nuclear warheads that can be mounted on the Shihab-3 missiles aimed at Israel, changing our strategic situation drastically. Not only would our citizens live in constant fear of a nuclear strike, but all future negotiations Israel with any Arab partner would be held in the shadow of nuclear extortion.

It must be noted that this scenario does not preclude an even worse one: an actual nuclear strike by the regime. There should be no delusions regarding our vulnerability to such a strike. Two nuclear devices striking between Haifa and Ashdod would turn Israel into a scorched wilderness, ending our existence as a developed nation. The Zionist dream would be gone, never to rise again.

WHAT CAN be done? What needs to be done?

We must continue to explain to the international community that nuclear blackmail by the ayatollahs of Iran will not end with Israel, but will be turned against the countries of the European Union, Russia and the Middle East too. Even if they want to avoid imposing economic sanctions, Iran can be confronted with a total diplomatic boycott, which can be no less effective.

In addition, the people of Iran, who want to rid themselves of Islamic dictatorship, should be encouraged to take their fate into their own hands. The women, young people, students – they are the ones that desire a modern, secular, democratic government, and they represent the majority of the Iranian people. The Western countries knew how to send that message to the Ukrainian nation. The Iranian people deserve no less.

If the West continues the humiliating courtship of the regime of the ayatollahs it will send the Iranian people the wrong messagethat Europe and the US do not want to topple the Iranian government, but rather to reach a compromise with it. In addition, the Iranian opposition organizations must be taken off the terrorist list in the US, and especially in the European Union. This is unjustified factually and legally, and there is certainly no political justification for it.

Israel cannot under any circumstances accept a nuclear Iran as long as it is governed by an extremist Islamic regime for which enmity of Israel remains an ideological article of faith. The Jewish people cannot ignore this deadly combination of anti-Semitism and enormous military might.

I am not advocating the military option. That can only be a last resort and every effort must be made so that we do not have to use it. But Israel cannot rely on others where its very existence is concerned. Such a situation requires us to strengthen our power of deterrence and our long-range capabilities.

We established the Jewish state so that it would serve to protect the Jewish people, and on this matter, there is no room for concessions and compromises.

The writer, a Knesset member, chairs the Knesset Subcommittee for Defense Planning and Policy and the Labor Knesset faction