Hebrew University - Gabi Sheffer (Dept of Political Science)
serves as apologist for the Iranian Nuke
Nuclear Iran wouldn't pose existential
threat to Israel
By Gabi Sheffer
There is no need to hear the repeated
declarations by Benjamin Netanyahu, his political allies, his aides
(particularly Uzi Arad) and senior officers to know that the state
of the Iranian regime and the perception of the looming Iranian
nuclear threat has become a political tool for them.
They repeat the same mantras that the current
Iranian regime will continue to rule, that it will become even more
extreme, that Iran will attain a nuclear military capability, that
it will not hesitate to use it directly or through terrorist
intermediaries, and that it would set off reactionary nuclear
armament in other Middle Eastern countries which, in their view,
would cause a disaster.
Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel
and other politicians and generals in the West and Middle East have
voiced more restrained fears. Most observers say that if the major
powers do not take significant steps to prevent Iran from attaining
nuclear weapons, even if the regime there changes in character, its
nuclearization is irreversible. In addition, more liberal leaders in
Iran would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against anyone they
hate for political and religious reasons. At the top of the list, of
course, are the United States and its allies, particularly Israel.
These individuals offer a variety of possible
actions, beginning with the vital, immediate need to use force
against Iran, which would compel it to stop developing the atomic
bomb; to continue with the need to combine diplomatic pressure with
harsh sanctions; and to hold direct and indirect diplomatic contacts
in order to persuade the Iranian regime to stop developing nuclear
weapons. In the background, preparations are being made for military
operations against various nuclear installations in Iran.
Undoubtably, it is important to force Iran -
like any other state irrespective of the regime in place - to stop
its nuclear program that will lead to it attaining the atomic bomb.
Yet even if there are no diplomatic contacts, which the United
States and other countries would like to have in order to stop
Iran's nuclear program; even if the sanctions are instituted, if
indeed they are enforced effectively they will not have an influence
on Iran; and even if the threat of military action does not leave an
impression on the religious leadership and politicians there, the
most basic question must be asked: Does Iran indeed pose a real
existential threat rather than an imagined existential threat
against those states that are threatened by it, particularly Israel?
The answer is that there are three basic
reservations regarding these much-talked-about concerns over Iran.
First, like other small states, Iran seeks to
attain nuclear weapons in order to deter other nuclear-armed states
from attacking it. So if Iran is not attacked, it will not attack.
Second, Iran's goal is primarily to boost its
influence in the Muslim world.
Third, and most important, with the exception
of two atomic bombs that were needlessly used by none other than the
democratic and liberal United States - since Japan was very near
surrender - no other country possessing nuclear weapons has used
The other reasons for not using nuclear weapons
are numerous. The main reason is these states' fears, including
Iran's, of a response by other nuclear-armed countries. Even if any
country, including Israel, were to be attacked by an Iranian nuclear
weapon, other countries would respond with force. This is not
because of the damage that would be caused to the attacked country,
but particularly due to the fear that they too would be harmed.
Other reasons for refraining from using nuclear
weapons include moral considerations, fear of mistakenly striking
allies in the region, concern over widespread destabilization and
other related factors.
The conclusion is that even if Iran attains
nuclear weapons, it does not pose a real existential threat to other
countries, Israel included. It would behoove Israeli politicians and
defense officials to take these considerations into account and
cease disseminating statements about the existence of this threat
and military operations against Iran.
Even if the Iranian threat is not completely
imagined, it is completely weak and the Israeli public should
understand this rather than allow itself to be dragged into
supporting a destructive military operation.
The writer is a political science professor
at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and
do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il