What If Iran Gets the Bomb? The Iranian Challenge to the West

Ephraim Kam (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) - * The Iranians are conducting a clandestine nuclear program in parallel to the public one, the aim of which is clearly the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Israeli intelligence assessment speaks of three or four years; the Americans add another year or two to this timetable. * The Americans conducted a large-scale operation in Iraq in order to bring down a regime which was engaged, it was thought at the time, in supporting terrorism and having weapons of mass destruction programs. Iran is clearly in the same category, and therefore it is concerned about an American/Israeli operation against its nuclear facilities. * From the Israeli viewpoint, an Iranian bomb will mean that for the first time an enemy country - and Iran is an enemy country by all definitions - will acquire the capability to inflict a very heavy blow on Israel. The more so since the formal Iranian position is that Israel should disappear from the map, that the solution of the Palestinian problem should be the establishment of a Palestinian state not alongside Israel but instead of Israel. No Arab government today holds such a position. * A nuclear Iran has to take into account certain important constraints. One is American deterrence. The Iranians have no doubt about the balance of power between themselves and the Americans. And if they had any doubts, the American conduct of the war in Iraq left no doubt about American capabilities. The Iranians must also take into account that if Iran uses a nuclear bomb against any of the allies of the U.S., especially against Israel, America will regard this as an attack against itself, and will react accordingly. * If Iran acquires the bomb, it will encourage other countries in the Middle East to join this nuclear arms race, especially Egypt, and perhaps Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Algeria, and Syria. It would be difficult for a country like Egypt, the leader of the Arab world, to stay out of this circle. The writer is Deputy Head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

2005-09-29 00:00:00

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