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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →