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...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.