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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.