What are Israel's options regarding Iran?

Dr. Norman Bailey

Norman Bailey discusses what Israel can do in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal.

All right, we now know the following things:

The six powers signed one of the worst deals in history with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which will now have a greased path to develop the capacity to produce nuclear weapons (if it does not already have them); and receive tens of billions of dollar to restore its economy and greatly increase inward investment and petroleum exports, as well as to increase its interference in regional conflicts and its support of terrorist organizations of all sizes and flavors. Finally, it places Israel in a position of serious existential danger over the next few years.

The current administration in Washington, which has another year and a half in office, doesn’t care.

It makes no difference what the US Congress does or does not do. The trade and investment sanctions are gone through a unanimous vote of the UN Security Council and hotel rooms are already in short supply in Tehran due to the massive influx of Western businessmen and government officials looking to pick up some of the newly-released billions. The financial sanctions in the US were imposed by executive order and can be revoked by executive order, as was already done in November of 2013, when $12 billion were released. Even in the unlikely event Congress rejected the deal by a veto-proof majority of both houses, the only effect would be to prevent American firms from feeding at the Iranian trough, already crowded by the French, Germans, Russians, Chinese, etc. etc.

So, where does that leave Israel? What are its options? Please note the parenthetical phrase above about whether Iran already has nuclear weapons. Some of the Western intelligence services believe that recent low-level nuclear tests in North Korea were really Iranian devices. This would make sense. North Korea knows it can produce nuclear weapons and is doing so. It has even announced that it has succeeded in miniaturizing them, which is highly dangerous for the rest of the world. It could be such devices that it was testing. On the other hand, Iran could hardly perform testing on its own territory while proclaiming to the world that it was only developing “peaceful” nuclear power.

In light of all the above, Israel has the following alternatives: (1) It can adopt a wait and see attitude while continuing to perfect its defensive missile shields. That would, however, even if entirely successful, only protect against Iranian nuclear missiles, an attack most unlikely to actually take place, since Iran knows that Israel has its own nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver those weapons. It would do nothing to protect Israel from eventual miniaturized nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian proxies. (2) Israel could actively prepare for a military attack on Iran following the announcement by that country of a nuclear capability as well as the possibility of a new administration in Washington more favorable to Israel and more hostile to Iran. The success of such an attack would be more than problematical, given the present level of armaments available to Israel. Israel could, alternatively, attack the Iranian physical infrastructure instead of its nuclear facilities, which would, however, invite massive international condemnation, as well as retaliation by Iranian proxies. (3) Israel could continue to develop and perfect its capacity to conduct cyber-attacks on the

Iranian nuclear facilities, even more devastating than the Stuxnet episode. No reason not to do this, but eventual success is not guaranteed and in any case, the Iranians are no slouches at cyber-warfare themselves. (4) Hopefully, along with a new administration in the U.S., try to foment regime change in Tehran, and/or uprisings by the ethnic minorities, which are about half the population of that country. Unfortunately for this alternative, the deluge of dollars which will now descend on Tehran will make it much easier for the mullahs to deflect popular unrest, while maintaining firm political control.

Some aspects of all these alternatives are likely to be pursued by the current or future Israeli governments. None, as we have seen, is particularly promising. Of course, many other factors are involved and Iran could find itself over-extended and in trouble regardless of what Israel does or does not do. Hope springs eternal, as they say, but do not forget that hope was the only scourge of mankind that Pandora was able to retain in her box.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 4, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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