Even as the US and European nations press Iran harder to comply
with international law on its nuclear program, Israel is moving
ahead with its own program to check its powerful Middle Eastern
Israel is working on a wide range of measures to undermine Iran's
nuclear program, with senior leaders hinting that Israel may take
preemptive action if that is deemed necessary. Analysts here suggest
that action may include a strike similar to Israel's 1981 attack on
Iraq's Osirak reactor.
The Israeli initiative includes political, military, and
intelligence wings of government and dovetails with US efforts to
contain Iran within the framework of the International Atomic Energy
The effort reflects the widespread assessment here that Iran
poses a greater threat than Iraq has for the past decade and is
gaining nuclear expertise more quickly than the US estimates.
"Iran has a clandestine [nuclear] program that is very
ambitious," says Uzi Arad, director of the Institute of Policy and
Strategy in Herzilya. "That country thinks big and fast and ...
poses a threat that is very real. Should it acquire nuclear weapons
or even come close, it would completely alter the Middle East. It's
a very ominous threat."
Analysts here argue that the prospect of a nuclear Iran would:
* Threaten Israeli, US, and European security.
** Harden Arab positions in any future peace negotiations.
* Increase militancy and embolden hard-liners.
* Destabilize the Gulf area.
* And encourage other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Libya,
to follow suit.
History of Iranian concealment
The US, Britain, France, and Germany say that Iran has been
concealing nuclear research for the past 18 years in pursuit of
nuclear weapons, despite signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
(NPT) in 1970.
On Monday, the four nations agreed on a strongly worded IAEA
resolution promoted by the US that threatens the possibility of UN
sanctions should Iran continue to violate its agreements.
The US charges that Iran is also developing chemical and
biological weapons, though the country is party to conventions
curbing them. Furthermore, both the US and Israel say that Iran is
trying to extend the range of its missiles, which could be used to
develop such weapons.
Already, the 810-mile reach of Iran's Shahab-3 missile puts
Israel and US forces in the region in striking range. The US charges
that Iran will probably try to develop missiles capable of hitting
Western Europe or the US itself.
Iran has admitted to concealing aspects of its atomic energy
program, but says it is pursuing alternate energy sources, a claim
the State Department dismissed as "simply not credible."
In testimony to the US-Israeli Joint Parliamentary Committee in
September, State Department official Paula DeSutter said, "The
impact of a nuclear-armed Iran in an already volatile region cannot
be underestimated. As President Bush had made clear, that cannot be
allowed to happen."
Israeli officials have echoed that declaration. In November,
Israeli media reported that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, on a trip
to Washington, told US officials that "under no circumstances would
Israel be able to abide by nuclear weapons in Iranian possession."
'Existential threat' to Israel? …