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The morning after the attack on Iran

One of the less discussed aspects of a possible Israeli attack on Iran is the international community’s response. A plausible scenario that should be taken into account is the possibility of massive international pressure on Israel. This would consist of American pressure (assuming the attack is carried out without the United States’ agreement ) for disarming from the nuclear weapons Israel supposedly has, or to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s supervision.

This scenario becomes less imaginary in view of the decision made by the treaty’s review conference in June regarding Israel, and especially the change in the United States’ position on the global nuclear arms issue. An attack launched by a state believed to possess nuclear weapons outside the NPT on another, even if the latter aspires to obtain nuclear weapons, will be comprehensively and totally condemned.

Even those few researchers of Israel’s defense policy who think, as I do, that Israel must reach an agreement to disarm the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction deem this scenario undesirable, to put it mildly. If Israel withstands the pressure, it could find itself in isolation, possibly including an embargo on weapons, materiel and equipment for both military and civilian uses. If Israel succumbs to the pressure, it will be forced to give up a strategic bargaining chip that could lead to a regional defense regimen, including a reliable nuclear demilitarization (with regional supervision and monitoring systems with higher credibility standards that IAEA’s ).

Yet again it transpires that Israel’s nuclear policy is fundamentally erroneous. There is no proof this policy has achieved even one of its declared goals. It did not prevent attacks on populated areas in the Gulf War, the Second Lebanon War or from Gaza. A nuclear threat cannot be used to quash an intifada. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, in which Israel’s nuclear capability played no role, significantly reduced the conventional threat on Israel. And most importantly, every time someone in the Middle East begins developing nuclear weapons, we stop believing in nuclear deterrence and set out to destroy the Arab/Iranian potential.

There is considerable evidence attesting that Israel’s nuclear capability constituted both an incentive and a model for the attempts of several states in the region to develop nuclear weapons, and accelerated the chemical and biological capabilities of Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and even Egypt. If the Israeli offensive fails, or if Israel is “persuaded” to refrain from attacking and Iran obtains a nuclear capability, other states in the region could follow in its footsteps.

The reality of a nuclear Middle East is becoming increasingly likely. The dilemma Israel faces in the longer run is between a nuclear Middle East and a demilitarized one. Either everyone in the region has nuclear weapons or no state has.

The growing likelihood of tomorrow’s scenario also requires a reexamination of nuclear policy. An Israeli initiative for a complete demilitarization of the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction should be considered. Israel could lead a move that would create a defense regimen on its own terms – instead of unilateral disarmament following international pressure. The nuclear horizon is not so distant. It is time to consider what lies beyond it.


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