Iran's Nuclear Program and Israel

[Washington Institute for Near East Policy] Ehud Yaari - Israel has no great appetite for taking on Iran on its own, recognizing the difficulties involved in an attack as well as the potential that Iran could retaliate either with its Shehab-3 missiles, already operational, by embarking upon a large-scale terrorism campaign, or by having Hizbullah ignite a conflict on the Lebanese front. The Israeli leadership would, therefore, prefer action by the U.S. to stop Iran from acquiring a bomb either through diplomatic dialogue, effective sanctions, or - if it came to it - military strikes. Needless to say, a U.S. attack is bound to be much wider in scope and more devastating than any blow delivered by the Israel Defense Forces. At the same time, many in Israel feel strongly that the country does possess the military capability to launch a successful strike against a limited number of Iranian nuclear installations to delay the pace of Iran's nuclear program by at least a couple of years. At least some in Israel believe that Iranian reprisals would be more restrained than public warnings from Tehran might indicate. Some Israelis argue that Iran would not necessarily retaliate against the U.S. and its Arab allies in the Gulf or Iraq for fear of compelling President Obama to strike back. The Israelis are well aware that they would not be able to completely eliminate Iran's nuclear capabilities, but Israel feels it could gain time for additional efforts by the U.S. and others to persuade the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. From an Israeli point of view, delaying the threat by a few years is a worthy goal. The majority view is that Hamas seeks to avoid a repetition of the Gaza operation, even if it were promised that Israel would also be engaged on the Lebanese front and exchanging blows with Iran itself. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has already quietly warned his Iranian sponsors that any nuclear attack against Israel is bound to hit many Palestinians. The current assessment in Israel is that although the Iranian regime long ago decided to get "within reach" of a bomb, no decision has yet been made to go for a "breakout." The reason is that Iran would not risk the consequences of a breakout for a bomb or two but rather would only contemplate such a dramatic step when it had enough enriched uranium for an "arsenal" of half a dozen bombs. The writer is a Washington Institute Lafer international fellow and Middle East correspondent for Israel's Channel Two Television.

2009-11-06 06:00:00

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