WASHINGTON – While Iran swears it doesn’t have nuclear weapons, the Western thinking that it’s working on such a program despite crippling sanctions of questionable results is having the effect of enhancing the Islamic republic’s international stature, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, gives members the right to enrich uranium for fuel reactors and use for medical research, among other civilian uses.
The NPT doesn’t preclude the possibility Iran or any other NPT signatory or member of the International Atomic Energy Agency could build the components to make a nuclear weapon, without actually putting the components together to make one.
The question of the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program – absent firm intelligence – helps Iran leave open the possibility that such a program exists and that it could possess the means to build a nuclear bomb rapidly, without actually having such a program, analysts say.
To these analysts, this approach has allowed Iran to rub shoulders with the “big boys” – the P5+1, or United Nations Security Council members of the permanent five of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China plus Germany.
In pressing its right under the NPT to enrich uranium despite sanctions, Iran actually has gained considerable concessions, and is able to meet with the members. It also has been successful at meetings to kick the proverbial can down the road – to get the P5+1 members to agree to meet again. This has bought Iran more time for developing its nuclear program – the West, including Israel, believe.
And this is where the U.S. and Israel disagree – the U.S., unlike Israel, doesn’t believe that Iran has achieved the technological breakthrough to make a nuclear weapon, let alone the capability of placing it on a missile requiring additional technology know-how that Iran isn’t yet assessed to possess. On the other hand, Israel believes Iran is only months away of such breakthroughs.
The heart of the problem, according to analysts, appears to be the exchange of rhetoric between Israel and Iran.
According to George Friedman of the open intelligence group Stratfor, Israel – and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular – looks on Iran as an irrational actor and that armed with a nuclear weapon it would act irrationally and make every effort to destroy Israel.
While Iran has expressed what Friedman says is irrational rhetoric, Iran actually has been cautious in its actions, “engaging instead in reckless rhetoric.”
Given this fundamental difference in perceptions, Israel believes it is intolerable for Iran to have nuclear weapons in a mutually assured destruction, or MAD, relationship, similar to what worked during the Cold War between the then-Soviet Union and the United States and its allies.
All of this assumes that Iran indeed is embarked on a nuclear weapons program. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, saying that its nuclear development program is not intended to make a nuclear weapon.
Given Iran’s irrational talk about Israel’s destruction, however, Netanyahu firmly believes that such irrational Iranian talk means that the Islamic republic indeed is embarked on developing a nuclear weapon and actually intends to use it against Israel.
Israel, however, appears divided on this issue. Netanyahu’s view that Iran is an irrational actor is contrary to the assessment of his own military and intelligence chiefs.
Given Netanyahu’s prevalent thinking, the notion of MAD won’t work. Any actual Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, analysts suggest, actually could accelerate an Iranian effort to turn its nuclear program into developing nuclear weapons.
This prospect has been reinforced by separate research that showed the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor actually pushed then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to try to make nuclear weapons.
Yet, Israel hasn’t taken action, claiming it is waiting for the U.S. to join it in destroying Iran’s nuclear sites.
In looking at a years-long rhetorical exchange between Israel and Iran, Friedman lays out their respective strategies in his recent article, “War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States.”
“Up to this point, the Iranians have not even fielded a device for testing, let alone a deliverable weapon. For all their activity, either their technical limitations or a political decision has kept them from actually crossing the obvious redlines and left Israel trying to define some developmental redline.
“Iran’s approach has created a slowly unfolding crisis, reinforced by Israel’s slowly rolling response. For its part, all of Israel’s rhetoric – and periodic threats of imminent attack – has been going on for several years, but the Israelis have done little beyond some cover and cyberattacks to block the Iranian nuclear program. Just as the gap between Iranian rhetoric and action has been telling, so, too, has the gap between Israeli rhetoric and reality. Both want to appear more fearsome than either is actually willing to act.
“The Iranian strategy has been to maintain ambiguity on the status of its program, while making it appear that the program is capable of sudden success – without ever achieving that success. The Israeli strategy has been to appear constantly on the verge of attack without ever attacking and to use the United States as its reason for withholding attacks, along with the studied ambiguity of the Iranian program. The United States, for its part, has been content playing the role of holding Israel back from an attack that Israel doesn’t seem to want to launch. The United States sees the crumbling of Iran’s position in Syria as a major Iranian reversal and is content to see this play out alongside sanctions.”
Iran, however, has dispersed its nuclear program around the country to the point that any military attack may produce questionable results unless Israel uses some exotic weapon, such as an electromagnetic pulse from a high-altitude nuclear explosion over central Iran. That would affect all electronics not only in Iran but the entire Middle East.
This approach, analysts say, would allow Israel to proceed with bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities virtually without detection or resistance.
Separately, WND/G2Bulletin recently reported that an EMP attack is one option Israel is considering.
Friedman says that while Israel on the surface has been driving U.S. policy, he said the reverse may be true.
“Israel has bluffed an attack for years and never acted. Perhaps now it will act, but the risks of failure are substantial,” Friedman said. “If Israel really wants to act, this is not obvious.
“Speeches by politicians do not constitute clear guidelines,” he said. “If the Israelis want to get the United States to participate in the attack, rhetoric won’t work. Washington wants to proceed by increasing pressure to isolate Iran.
“Simply getting rid of a nuclear program not clearly intended to produce a device is not U.S. policy,” he added. “Containing Iran without being drawn into a war is. To this end, Israeli rhetoric is useful.”
Friedman sees Netanyahu’s rhetoric as actually aiding U.S. policy.
“Israel’s bellicosity is not meant to signal an imminent attack, but to support the U.S. agenda of isolating and maintaining pressure on Iran,” he said. “That would indicate more speeches from Netanyahu and greater fear of war. But speeches and emotions aside, intensifying psychological pressure on Iran is more likely than war.”
Or is it?
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