Israel and Iran

Dec 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report on 8 November on Iran?s nuclear program.  The IAEA says that it ?has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran?s nuclear program.  After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible . . . that Iran has carried out activities to the development of a nuclear explosive device.?  A 12-page appendix to the report provides a compelling narrative of Iran?s progress towards become a nuclear power.  The Economist reports that ?It says that Iran created computer models of nuclear explosions in 2008 and 2009 and conducted experiments on nuclear triggers.  It says that the simulations focused on how shock waves from conventional explosives could compress the spherical fuel at the core of a nuclear device, which starts the chain reaction that ends in an explosion.  The report goes on the state that Iran went beyond such theoretical studies and built a large containment vessel at its Parchin military base, starting in 2000, to test the feasibility of such explosive compression.  It calls such tests ?strong indicators of possible weapon development.??  Western intelligence sources believe that Iran now has enough highly enriched uranium to build at least one nuclear weapon within a year and that this could be followed rapidly by several more.  What is not known is whether Iran can mount miniaturized warheads on its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles.  Obviously, such developments are a mortal threat to Israel.

All of this has raised the possibility of Israel attacking Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz, at Atak and at Bushehr.  Why would Israel be contemplating this radical action now?  There are four reasons:  1. Iran is rapidly moving centrifuges to its once-secret site at Fordow, buried deep inside a mountain and possibly invulnerable to attack by conventional weapons.  2. Syria?s internal chaos may take Iran?s most important regional ally out of the political game.  3.  The departure of America?s forces from Iraq removes both a focus for Iranian retaliation and a constraint on America.  4. The weakened political clout of President Obama may actually aid Israel, for Obama needs the Jewish vote if he has any hope of re-election.  Perhaps, they reason, Obama will support an effort to destroy Iran?s facilities.

Twice Israel destroyed two of its enemies who were building nuclear weapons?Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.  Both were successful.  Israel legitimately fears the theocratic regime of Iran that embraces the Shia tradition of martyrdom.  Those fears are genuine.  The world community seems paralyzed to stop Iran?s nuclear weapons program.  If it cannot, or will not act, Israel has little choice but a preemptive attack on Iran.  Such an attack may not be imminent, but it is increasingly more probable.  Year 2012 may be a most interesting year!

See The Economist (12 November 2011), pp. 16-18 and 53. PRINT PDF

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