Iran, it is believed, is on the fast track to develop nuclear weapons which Israel sees as a direct threat to not only its security, but to its very existence. The question is just how real is the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran?
Would the Islamic Republic deploy nukes against the Jewish state? In spite the rhetoric from its leadership, primarily its president, the possibility of an Iranian strike against Israel is most unlikely. Iran knows the repost will be instantaneous and devastating.
Analysts who know the region well are predicting the possibility of war with Iran before the end of the year. At the same time they are pulling the alarm signal, warning that such a war would be a monumental mistake and detrimental to the national security of the United States.
Indeed, it would be sheer folly to engage in a new conflict at this juncture despite the threats posed to the region and beyond by the Iranians. But here is the sixty-million-dollar question: just how much of a threat does the Islamic Republic really pose?
Since its inception as an Islamic republic, Iran has tried to export its revolution to the rest of the region and had little success until recently. There are logical explanations for both Iran’s failures and its successes.
The big drawback for Iran is the fact that they are not Arabs and trying to sell their revolution to the Arab world. Animosity between the Arabs and Persians goes back several millennia. History in this part of the world is current. In other words while we in the West study history as something of the past, many people in the Middle East regard their past as part of their direct heritage.
In the Shiite community it is not unusual for grown men to weep the deaths of their beloved imams Ali and Hussein. Imam Ali was the grandson of the Prophet Mohamad. The two imams were killed in the battle of Karbala, in what is modern day Iraq, and gave birth to the Sunni-Shiite schism, which continues to this day. A young resident of Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, told me some years ago, “we used to be Christians but now we are Muslim.” When I asked what he meant exactly, he replied, “Seven-hundred and fifty years ago we were Christians…”
So why the hype over Iran’s nuclear program? Because while a strike by the Iranian government is unlikely there remains the distinct possibility that Iran could provide the weapon to a third party. We mentioned earlier that Iran’s success have been limited until recently. True, but now the tides appear to have shifted and Iran is now right on two of Israel’s borders. They face Israel on its northern border, along the Lebanese frontier through their proxy militia, Hezbollah. And they face Israel along its southern border through its support of Hamas, the Palestinians Islamic Resistance. Tactical nukes could, in theory, be deployed on either front.
From either its northern or southern borders Israeli centers of populations could easily be targeted. But that’s the theory. It could and it could not be put into practice.
Iran’s other advance into the Arab world comes from its relations with Syria, the only Arab country to have engaged Iran directly. And that success comes about largely as a result of a long string of failed US foreign policy regarding Syria.
Other Arab countries regard Iran as a threat. Iraq, who shares a long border with Iran, looks at their neighbor with great trepidation. Saudi Arabia, one of the largest powers in the Gulf looks at Iran as the major threat to the stability of the region. As does Kuwait and the tiny kingdom of Bahrain, where a large Shiite community lives.
For the moment and while President Barak Obama is in the White House it seems unlikely that the US is going to become involved in a new Middle East conflict. That, at least, is the logic. But when did logic prevail in the Middle East?
In either case, a unilateral attack by Israel or jointly with the U.S. would be equally disastrous for all the parties involved. No one in the Middle East will believe for a nano-second that Israel could make such a decision on its own, at least without the discreet nod from the United States.
The possibility of a unilateral attack by Israel is high. Israel might well decide that it has no option but to take it upon itself to address what it regards as a matter of imminent danger to the survival of the Jewish state. When the future of the very existence of the Jewish people comes into question Israel will act, whether it has the backing of the US or not. The country’s leadership adopts the notion of “damn the torpedoes, full speed a head.”
The best security for Israel – and its allies – is not more violence but a negotiated peace. That and that alone will secure the future of the Jewish state. Not a pre-emptive strike, not a war or two or ten. Peace is the only solution to the Middle East problem.
By Claude Salhani for OilPrice.com - the no.1 source for oil price information