Israel Takes the Lead on Iran, Questions Remain
The Islamic Republic is complaining following the November release of a damning IAEA report on Iranian nuclear weapons research, based on reliable documentation from multiple sources including satellite images and eye witness testimony. Its findings were presented to member states prior to the report’s dissemination.
Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, admonished the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its chief, Yukiya Amano, saying they are “bowing to western pressure…using the nuclear issue as ‘a pretext’ to weaken Iran.” The Iranian official told reporters “there is no proof that Iranian activities are directed towards military purposes.” (Der Spiegel)
The political climate is tense; chatter has gone from discussion of the “existential” threat to planning the development of methods to deter, and ultimately, to stop, Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Does Israel now consider that it is no longer possible that economic sanctions or diplomacy can stem Iran’s the development of nuclear weapons capability?
In October, with conclusions of the IAEA report already anticipated, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, visited Israel. Some assumed his visit might be related to negotiations for the release of Ilan Grapel, then held captive in Egypt. During what was officially categorized as a private meeting concerning the peace process, Panetta is said to have requested “an unshakable guarantee that Israel would not carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations without first seeking Washington’s clearance.” (JPost)
No such assurances were given, according to sources quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
For the first time in three years, Israel has conducted testing of a ballistic missile able to reach Iran. Recent exercises including air-to-air refueling have taken place. Whether – if – military action will occur – by Israel on Iran, or by Iran on Israel – remains a matter of speculation and concern. Are the Israeli’s bluffing? Are the Iranians bluffing? Can – will – the international community cooperate in the imposition of sanctions that could lead to the end – or at the least, change the direction of the regime? Will Russia and China, in the end, cooperative with the West? Is there sufficient popular support within Iran to cause change from within? Nazee Moinian, formerly with the Council on Foreign Affairs, wrote that political cycles in Iran are typically about 30 years long. Will its banking scandals, the pressures of international economic sanctions, and international condemnation of its nuclear intentions put the Islamic Republic on its final stretch?
Choices may be limited. Intelligence assessments suggest that Tehran is preparing to move its nuclear production facility inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom. Ronen Bergman, senior military analyst for Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper says “people outside Israel don’t understand how profound memories of the Holocaust are, and how they affect future policy making,” said Mr. Bergman. “At the end of the day, this policy of ‘never again’ would dictate Israel’s behavior when intelligence comes through that Iran has come close to a bomb.”