Existential Threats from Iran

[Commentary] Michael B. Oren - Rarely in modern history have nations faced genuine existential threats. Wars are waged to change regimes, alter borders, acquire resources, and impose ideologies, but almost never to eliminate another state and its people. Yet the State of Israel copes with numerous existential threats on a daily basis. The most manifest existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran emanates from its routinely declared desire to "wipe Israel off the map," and from the fact that cold war calculi of nuclear deterrence through mutually assured destruction may not apply to Islamist radicals eager for martyrdom. Beyond the perils of an Iranian first-strike attack against Israel, the possibility exists that Iran will transfer its nuclear capabilities to terrorist groups, which will then unleash them on Israel via the country's porous ports and border crossings. A nuclear Iran will also deny Israel the ability to respond to terrorist attacks: in response to an Israeli retaliation against Hizbullah, for example, Iran would go on nuclear alert. Finally, and most menacing, many Middle Eastern states have declared their intention to develop nuclear capabilities of their own once Iran acquires the bomb. Israel cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel should work in close tandem with the U.S., supporting the current administration's diplomatic efforts to dissuade the Iranians from going nuclear. But Israel must not allow its hands to be tied - it must remain free to initiate other, covert measures to impede Iran's nuclear program, while continuing to develop the plans and intelligence necessary for a military operation. The writer is the new Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.

2009-05-08 06:00:00

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