Will America Act Against Iran?

(Israel Hayom) Dore Gold - In the internal debate in Israel over Iran, it is assumed by many that at the end of the day the U.S. will destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure when it becomes clear that sanctions and negotiations have failed. But is that a reliable assumption? Writing in Ha'aretz on August 8, Israel's former ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, warns that it cannot be assumed that Washington will act in the Iranian case. He correctly noted that in the past, the U.S. in fact condemned Israel's 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and refused to take military action against the Syrian nuclear program. The case of North Korea stands out as an instance in which the U.S. would not take action against a dangerous rogue state that was developing a nuclear weapons capability. In March 1994, North Korea blocked inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from inspecting its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. By June, it appeared that the North Koreans were about to take the spent fuel rods from the reactor and extract enough weapons-grade plutonium for five or six bombs. Just like today, high-level U.S. officials said that all options are on the table - but that was as far as they went. Negotiations were launched with North Korea that led to the signing of the "Agreed Framework," which the North Koreans violated within a few years. In December 2002, North Korea removed the IAEA seals from the containers with the spent fuel rods and began to produce plutonium from them. North Korea then expelled the IAEA inspectors and announced in early 2003 that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Four years later on October 8, 2006, the North Koreans conducted their first underground test of an atomic bomb. Why has the U.S. not taken more forceful action against rogue states crossing the nuclear threshold? First, there is the issue of intelligence. Even a superpower, like the U.S., may not have a sufficiently clear intelligence picture that would allow it to detect that a state like North Korea, which is isolated from the world, is about to conduct a nuclear test. This is also a problem for the American intelligence agencies in Iran. Just two years ago, secretary of defense Robert M. Gates was quoted as saying about the Iranians: "If their policy is to go to the threshold but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled? I don't actually know how you would verify that." Finally, it must be remembered that the U.S. is a superpower with global commitments. That means it has conflicting priorities, which constrain its ability to take on missions against rogue states that are in the last phase of assembling nuclear weapons. The Bush administration was focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, which undoubtedly affected its approach to North Korea - and later Syria. Perhaps, in the near future, the Obama administration will be involved in supporting an international intervention against the Assad regime in Syria, and will not be focused on the Iranian issue. Thus, while the U.S. unquestionably has the military power to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the world's most dangerous states or organizations, repeatedly, successive administrations have been reluctant to use their vast military capabilities for that purpose because of the international circumstances they faced. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

2012-08-17 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive