Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

A Nuclear-Armed Iran Would Have No Hotline to Avert Catastrophe

July 17, 2012 1:07 pm 0 comments

Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev debating at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959, part of what came to be known as the Kitchen Debate. Photo: wiki commons.

In the debate about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a steady stream of voices have argued that the best response would be adopt a policy of “containment,” as the United States did with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.

For example, Daniel Larison writing for the American Conservative last month, argued: “America outlasted what may have been the greatest security threat in our history partly because of a policy of containment. Iran is far weaker than any threat the USSR ever posed.”

But the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran facing a similarly-armed Israel is far more dangerous. For one thing, there would be no nuclear hotline their leaders could use to stave off a crisis or resolve a misunderstanding. Unlike the United States and the Soviet Union back then and India and Pakistan today, there are no contacts between Tehran and Jerusalem – not even people-to-people contacts. Iran’s leaders maintain a policy of boycotting the “Zionist entity” at all levels. Even North and South Korea have vastly more contacts than do Israel and Iran.

A chilling recent novel, “The Last Israelis” by Noah Beck, imagines a scenario in which Iran has launched a nuclear attack on Israel. The last Israelis of his title are a submarine crew who are cut off from their country who must decide whether or not to fire their own nuclear missiles in retaliation.

The famous Moscow-Washington hotline was set up after the superpowers came to the brink of nuclear disaster in the 1962 Cuba missile crisis. But even in the midst of that standoff, they were able to communicate. The crisis was eventually defused after President Nikita Khrushchev sent President Kennedy a 3,000-word message.

The two superpowers had many ways of communicating. They had maintained diplomatic relations since 1933 and there had been a string of visits and summits between their leaders who knew each other personally. Vice President Nixon visited Moscow in July 1959 and engaged in the famous “kitchen debate” with Khrushchev. It was heated – but at least they were talking. Khrushchev then came to the United States two months later.

In an Israeli-Iranian confrontation, who would their leaders call? How would they communicate? There may be backchannels but these are slow, cumbersome and unreliable. The danger of a catastrophe would be unacceptably high.

The Washington-Moscow hotline, once it was in place, was used several times. The first was in 1967, during the Six-Day War, when both superpowers informed each other of military moves which might have been provocative or ambiguous. They used it again in 1971 during the Indo-Pakistani War; in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War; in 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus; in 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and several times during the Reagan Administration.

Since those days, the closest the world has come to a nuclear exchange was in 2002 between India and Pakistan. Two years later, those two nations established their own nuclear hotline.

Despite their hostility, the two nations have kept up a regular series of contacts. Just last April, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, visited Delhi. And of course there are regular sporting and cultural links between the nations which vie fiercely for supremacy on the cricket pitch.

Similarly, North and South Korea have repeatedly faced each other in qualifying matches for soccer’s World Cup. Their presidents last met in 2007.

Ordinary Iranians and Israelis bear no hatred toward one another. Iranian-born Israeli pop idol Rita recently released an album of songs in Farsi which became an immediate sensation in Israel and also gathered a significant underground following in Iran.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “Rita’s fans within Iran, where the government heavily filters the Internet, use tricky software to furtively download her songs online. Bootleg CD sellers in the back alley of Tehran’s old bazaar wrap her albums in unmarked packages and hush any inquiries when asked if they sell her music.

“Iranian fans responded overwhelmingly, bombarding her with emails and messages online. ‘Rita, I want one of these concerts in Iran. You have an amazing voice and you are another pride for Iran,’ wrote an Iranian fan on one of her videos on YouTube.”

But of course, Iran’s leaders want to wipe Israel off the map. The Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps, wrote last July that Rita is Israel’s “latest plot in a soft war,” to gain access to the hearts and minds of Iranians.

A nuclear-armed Iran would be a deadly risk to the world. Unlike during the era of containment and even the situation between India and Pakistan today, there would be no fail safe mechanisms, no fallbacks, no circuit breakers, no safety nets.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →