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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Israel will strike Iran before November

piero scaruffi

piero scaruffi

March 24, 2012

First of all, I do not believe for a second that Iran ever had any intention of destroying Israel. I believe the Iranian regime is a very rational and pragmatic regime, one that has worked with Russia and China (both guilty of atrocities against Muslims) and whose closest ally is Syria (a Sunni country). We are always told that the enemy (whether the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein) is an irrational demon in order to justify our own irrational behavior, but later find out that the demon’s first priority was its own survival.

That said, I also believe that Iran is indeed working on a nuclear weapon.

First of all, I don’t see why it shouldn’t: Israel is the regional superpower because in 1956 it illegally acquired nuclear capabilities.

Secondly, recent events have demonstrated that the only way to prevent a US invasion is to acquire a nuclear bomb: Saddam Hussein was attacked because he did not have one, and Qaddafi was liquidated after he surrendered his weapons of mass destruction, whereas North Korea is handled with peace negotiations, Pakistan’s double games are tolerated, and India has even become a close ally of the USA. The difference in treatment is obvious: a nuclear-armed Iran would be treated with much higher deference than it is now.

Israel views a nuclear Iran as a mortal danger. The USA views it as a destabilizing factor that would lead to an arms race in one of the most unstable regions of the world. Therefore they are both determined to stop Iran before it’s too late. Israel is probably behind the campaign of assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists (and so much for accusing Iran of sponsoring terrorism) and the USA has led the campaign to isolate Iran with economic sanctions. Nonetheless, there is only one way to make sure that Iran will not succeed, and that’s a bombing campaign against the nuclear facilities.

There is now mounting pressure on Israel’s prime minister to do it sooner rather than later. The coincidence of favorable circumstances might not repeat itself for many years.

1. It is an election year in the USA, and all candidates want to please the powerful Jewish lobby, and are therefore making strong statements of support of Israel: Obama would not condemn an Israeli strike this year, but might do so if reelected for a second term, as he has consistently preferred diplomacy to warfare, and he seems convinced that diplomacy is working, albeit slowly. Iran’s ally Syria is torn apart by a civil war, leaving Syria’s proxy in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and in Gaza (Hamas) weaker than they have ever been; both are the only military organizations capable of truly inflicting pain on Israel with their rocket attacks and suicide bombers. Whichever way the Syrian civil war goes, the next regime might need anti-Israeli propaganda to shore up domestic support, while the current regime is too busy fighting the protesters to start a war against Israel or sponsor attacks by its proxies.

2. Anti-Israeli sentiment is at a record low after the Arab Spring: the Arab masses are preoccupied with their own future, and hardly pay attention to what Israel does. Once those Arab states stabilize, they might be less tolerant towards Israeli aggression.

3. There is strong silent support by the members of the Arab League, who view Iran as either a troublemaker (the Gulf states, who have sizable Shiite minorities or even majorities stirred by Iran’s secret services) or as a dangerous rival for regional influence (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) or as a bullying neighbor (Iraq). Once Iran acquires the bomb, the richer Arab contries might simply decide to build their own bomb instead of trying to stop Iran.

Even the consequences might not be as severe as the USA fears. Israel has learned that, when hit by a spectacular strike, Islamic dictators try to hide the event. So did Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein when Israel destroyed its nuclear weapons plant, and so did Syria’s dictator Assad when Israel destroyed its plant: those dictators don’t want to admit that their government is so incapable and weak. Therefore they will rather claim that nothing happened. The Iranian regime, embarrassed that the Israeli destroyed its nuclear facilities, will probably claim that Israel struck irrelevant facilities and will insist that there were no nuclear facilities to bomb in the first place.

The Iranian regime will need to retaliate against an illegal attack against its own territory, like any other state would do, but it’s more likely to be a diplomatic effort at the United Nations, presenting itself as the victim of an unwarranted aggression, than an all-out war against Israel that would certainly end with Iran’s defeat.

Iran is not even likely to retaliate against the USA. First of all, Iran probably knows that Israel does not take orders from the USA. But, more importantly, Iran has learned first-hand from what happened to its neighbors Afghanistan and Iraq that the USA is the proverbial elephant in the china glass shop: if provoked, the USA could retaliate with devastating strikes, not Israel’s surgical strikes.

Last but not least, the one country that cannot afford a war in that region is Iran’s main customer: China. China’s economy has been slowing down, and might fall below what is considered the minimum to avoid social unrest if Iran starts a war in the region and the oil supply is jeopardized.

Even some kind of economic retaliation is unlikely, because Iran is already too impoverished and restricting its exports of oil would cause additional hardship on its people. It would be a move that would probably backfire against the regime.

Israel is probably also counting on the fact that any reaction by Iran is likely to boost the critics of the regime, and therefore increase the likelihood of new demonstrations against the regime like the ones that failed in 2009. The Iranian regime has to be very careful not to create the preconditions for its own internal downfall.

Hence Iran will not have many options: it will probably sponsor some terrorist attacks against Israeli and Western targets. These might indeed cause severe damage, especially if Iran supplied radioactive material to the terrorists.

The other price that Israel might have to pay is the already strained relationship with Russia.

piero scaruffi is an author, cultural historian and blogger who has written extensively about a wealth of topics, ranging from cognitive science to music.


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