As Iran continues to demonstrate a desire and capability to attain nuclear weapons, Israel is determined to make sure that does not happen. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that Israel’s patience with the Islamic Republic is growing thin and that diplomacy may soon come to an end.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported Netanyahu as saying on Oct. 31, “If I had to summarize what will happen in our region, I would use two terms: instability and uncertainty.”
He continued, “A nuclear Iran would pose a terrible threat on the Middle East and on the entire world. And of course, it poses a great, direct threat on us (Israel) too … A security philosophy cannot rely on defense alone. It must also include offensive capabilities, which is the very foundation of deterrence.
“We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is ‘if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,’ and the second is ‘if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.’”
A top official in Iran issued a response warning Wednesday, saying that Iran will “punish” any threat by Israel, according to CNN.
Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is for nonviolent energy purposes. However, the West continues to be concerned about a nuclear Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization that promotes the safe and secure use of nuclear technologies, is supposed to focus on the Iranian nuclear program later this month. The U.S. is urging for a deadline to be set for Iran to start cooperating with the IAEA.
Some experts wonder if this is an Israeli bluff, intending to make themselves look tougher in the Middle East.
“The Israelis are known to bluff with the intention of pushing Iran in a certain direction. A military strike against Iran would be difficult because of the distance and the fact that Iran has protected its arsenal underground,” Edward Turzanski , senior fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute, told The Christian Post.
“With that said, the Israelis are not necessarily bluffing but sending an open signal to anyone who is inclined to support Iran or is in Iran’s circle of influence, most specifically Syrian.”
Syria is an ally of Iran and has been going through seven months of social unrest. The ruling Assad regime has been under attack in the most recent disturbance of the Arab Spring.
“This could be a way for Israel to tell Iran, ‘hey you’ve got some problems in this region and we can see that some of those problems come back your way.’”
Furthermore, Israel is getting hammered by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who are reportedly backed by Iran. The rockets fired by Hamas have an “Iranian return address on them” and “Israel wants to signal to Iran that they are not going to play games,” according to Turzanski.
The advent of the Arab Spring has taken the media’s attention away from Iran’s steady nuclear build-up. According to Elliott Abrams, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of Israel’s goals in threatening Iran may be to bring the world’s attention back on their hostile northern neighbor.
“They will be pleased if this discussion of military options brings Iran back to everyone’s attention. But I believe that Israel genuinely does not think it can permit an Iranian nuclear weapon, and in the end will act to stop the ayatollahs from getting the bomb,” Abrams told The Christian Post.
“I would not call it a bluff.”
If Israeli’s words were to turn into actions, it is unclear what kind of effect this would have on the Middle East region. Turzanski wonders how the Arab Spring would react. At the beginning of the year, the West was excited about the possibility of an Arab Spring bringing prosperity, modernization, and freedom to a region that has mostly known authoritarian regimes.
However, Turzanski explains that “what has really happened is a bunch of mobs have taken down authoritarian regimes and have proved, in some cases, to be more violent and more intolerant than some of the regimes they replaced.”
“The mobs probably wouldn’t rally around Iran, but they could certainly rally against Israel, making Iran more aggressive.”
Abrams contends that Iran does not have the ability to strike back, therefore a general Middle East war would not be produced. He explains Iran’s options to an Israeli attack:
“Iran’s options for striking back are limited. Terrorism: sure, but they do that now anyway. They have threatened to hit American bases across the Gulf but that would be suicidal for them. They could close the Straits of Hormuz, but American and allied forces could open them. They could ask Hezbollah to have a war with Israel, but – especially if their ally Assad in Syria has fallen – it isn’t so clear Hezbollah would comply. They could shoot missiles at Israel’s nuclear sites, but Israel might be able to shoot those missiles down.”
Both experts believe that the U.S. should support Israel.
“The U.S. should mean what they say,” said Abrams. “It is unacceptable for the Iranian regime to get nuclear weapons. If Israel acts, we should back her up.”