Iran, Israel and the United States the Nuclear Paradox

By Bahgat, Gawdat | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Iran, Israel and the United States the Nuclear Paradox


Bahgat, Gawdat, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


The debate over Iran's nuclear program has become a major source of international tension. The United States, Israel and other Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Tehran denies these accusations. Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has threatened to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. This essay examines the history of the Iranian and Israeli nuclear programs, and provides an assessment of the military and diplomatic options in respect of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Key Words: Iran; Israel; U.S.A.; Nuclear proliferation; Osiraq; Bushehr; Dimona; Non-proliferation Treaty.

In February 2007 John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, said that the administration considers 2007 "the year of Iran."1 This statement reflects the rising level of hostility between the USA and Iran. For almost three decades mutual suspicion and occasional outright confrontations have characterized the relations between the two nations. The leadership in Tehran clarges that the United States has never accepted the 1979 Islamic Revolution and seeks to dominate Iran as it did under the Pahlavi regime. The current Iranian leaders vow never to surrender to what they perceive as an American desire to dominate not only Iran but the entire Middle East.

The United States rejects these allegations and instead accuses the Iranian government of sponsoring terrorism, opposing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, supporting terrorism and insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East,, and finally of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Since the early 200Os this last accusation - nuclear proliferation - has brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation. Since the late 2006, the Bush administration has authorized American troops to arrest or kill any Iranian operatives found aiding the insurgentcy in Iraq, and, indeed, several Iranians have been detained in Iraq. In February 2007 the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, an American aircraft carrier, was dispatched to the Persian Gulf to join the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower, already in position there. This move is widely interpreted as a warning to Tehran, an action that coincides with Israeli threats of an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities in a fashion similar to the 1981 Israeli raid on the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osiraq.

Since the late 1960s, Israel has been considered the sixth nation in the world and the first in the Middle East to have acquired a nuclearweapons capability. An accurate assessment of Israel's nuclear program is almost impossible, given that the Israeli government has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons and has never published any account of its nuclear activities. Thus, most scholarly work relies on nonIsraeli sources. These sources give various estimates of the actual size and composition of Israel's nuclear stockpile, but the overall consensus is that Israel possesses an extensive arsenal of nuclear devices and an array of medium-range missiles that could deliver them.

This essay will examine the motives and history of Iran's and Israel's nuclear programs. It provides an assessment of several options that have been considered or pursued by Washington and Tel Aviv to deal with Iran. Rhetoric aside, the study argues that there is enough time and solid ground for a diplomatic solution. A military confrontation would further de-stabilize the Middle East.

Iran's Nuclear Ambition

Since the mid-1980s, Israel, the United States, and other Western powers have accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons capability. Iranian officials have categorically denied these accusations and claimed that their nuclear program is designed for civilian purposes, not military ones. These accusations and denials have further intensified since the early 200Os with the revelation of previously unknown nuclear activities by the Iranian authority. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Union, led by Britain, France, and Germany, have engaged in prolonged negotiations with Iran to verify adherence to its Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments. …

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