Sunday, October 7, 2012

And Now, My Wife Has Some Thoughts Re: Should Israel Strike Iran?

ENGWR 302: Should Israel launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities?

by MY WIFE on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 5:21pm ·
Should Israel launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities? This was the question posed by my English professor on the first day of class. My answer, in a word, is NO. But the paper had to be at least 3 pages. Here's the long version of "No."

In recent years, the specter of a nuclear Iran has induced global tension and roused speculations regarding the nation’s true intent for increased uranium enrichment.  The New York Times keeps a running tally on what is known about the history of and developments in Iran’s nuclear program. According to their in-depth and evolving article, Iran’s Nuclear Program, political leaders in Iran emphatically deny that their Uranium Enrichment Program has any military aspects. It has been stressed, rather, that the goal is alternate energy and advancement in the field of medical research and technology.  For many years, Iran voluntarily complied with limitations imposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ affiliate which seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  In 2006, however, Iran abandoned voluntary implementation of Additional Protocol agreements with the IAEA, and has become increasingly secretive of the activities taking place at its nuclear facilities. Despite Iran’s denial, in recent months there has been a rising concern about underground centrifuges hidden in the mountains near Qum. The IAEA has been denied access to these facilities, and it is suspected that Iran is secretly ramping up production of enriched uranium, boosting its capability to develop nuclear warheads beyond the eyes of the UN, the United States, and the rest of the global community.
Combined with Iran’s abstrusely violent rhetoric regarding the legitimacy of the Israeli state and Iranian funding of Islamic extremist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, an increase in Iran’s militaristic nuclear capabilities would certainly cause particular alarm, not just for Israel, but for its allies.  As multiple sources including the New York Times and Al Jazeera have reported, Iranian leadership maintains the position that Israel is a spurious state, often referring to it as a ‘cancerous tumor’ and an illegitimate ‘Zionist regime’ that does not deserve to exist.  Although some debate has arisen regarding the exact translation of his statement, in 2005 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implied that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”  Whether or not it is the policy of Iran to do away with Israel as a nation-state, it is to be expected that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is nervous and pondering the actions that should be taken by Israel to squelch the seemingly ubiquitous threat of Iran.  Perhaps it is even understandable that Netanyahu would explore possibilities of a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, the potential exists to severely undermine ongoing diplomatic efforts should Israel deal the first blow. Due to Iran’s current deficiency in nuclear capabilities, there is at least a few-years’ time before any threat reaches critical mass. It is important to recognize that an Israeli assault holds the capacity for sparking a worldwide nuclear crisis even while the United States’ military is overworked and underfunded.  An Israeli strike on Iran, now especially, would be ill-timed and imprudent, with potentially devastating consequences.
As Israel’s most important ally, the United States has warned Netanyahu against a unilateral strike on Iran. While this highlights a possible impasse between Israel’s Prime Minister and top American military advisors regarding the appropriate strategy to deal with Iran, the United States hasn’t given up hope that sanctions will work.  According to David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, President Obama’s administration has emphasized  “the steps it is taking to pressure the Iranian leadership - which range from diplomatic isolation to sanctions to sabotage,” and insists there is still time for diplomacy.  General Martin Dempsey, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agrees with President Obama’s strategy. During the last week in August, General Dempsey spoke to reporters in London.  According to Richard Norton-Taylor, security editor for London’s The Guardian, Dempsey made it clear that he is distancing himself from any plans Israel has to bomb Iran, implying that an attack would have little long-term impact on Iran’s nuclear aspirations and underscored the fact that “sanctions imposed on Iran are working and should be given the reasonable opportunity to succeed.”  In fact, the sanctions are working.  In an October 5th commentary on Reuters, Iranian author Hooman Majd discusses Iran’s dire financial straits as the result, in part, of sanctions imposed by the United States and other nations. Majd also attributes Iran’s financial problems in part to mismanagement of funds by Ahmadinejad’s administration.  Either way, the vitriolic leader’s days are numbered, and once he is out of office, there could be new opportunities for diplomacy.
Additionally, according to The Nuclear Threat Initiative, nuclear weapons experts David Holloway of Stanford University and Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology assert that even if Iran is able to develop a weapons-grade nuclear reactor, they still face technological obstacles to developing the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) technology necessary to deliver the warhead.  Postol estimates it will be 6-8 years before Iran achieves the capability to deliver a warhead even at a distance of 2,000 kilometers. "There is no realistic threat to troops, cities, oil refineries, and the like from Iranian ballistic missiles. They can simply not carry large enough conventional munitions to do extensive damage on impact, and they lack the accuracy to hit prescribed targets with reliability," Postol said in May of this year.
Clearly, there is still time to forge ahead with peaceable resolution, and deviation from that strategy now could have serious implications toward a global nuclear crisis.  Joel Rubin, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at Ploughshares Fund, contends “A strike right now would undermine the painstaking work that has taken place these past several years to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.”  He goes on to explain, “Israelis do not want to be opposite the United States on questions of war and peace. And many national security experts believe that military action may even hasten Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon.”
According to an August 21, 2012 BBC news story, Iran has unveiled an upgraded ballistic missile with short-range capabilities.  President Ahmadinejad, an untrustworthy adversary, continues to justify Iran’s weapons development as a non-aggressive pursuit intended solely as a means of defense.  While Israel and the United States cannot afford to take lightly the potential threat, caution must be exercised to avoid another prolonged conflict in the Middle East.  Certainly, Israel and the United States must consider Ahmadinejad’s warning; he has made it clear that if Iran is attacked either by Israel or the US, it will respond in kind, either directly or through proxies.
Even while U.S. allies in the European Union and United Nations are pressing for tighter sanctions against Iran, there is evidence that other nuclear-capable nations such as China and India have been assisting Iran in skirting economic sanctions.  Bloomberg reports that India has used sketchy banking techniques and China has resorted to a barter system in efforts to mask oil purchases from Iran. If a conflict were to arise, these nations, along with Russia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, and others would be forced to pick a side. This could prove to work harshly against Israeli interests, drawing its allies – including an unstable European Union and an exhausted United States – into the next World War.
The global community, and Israel in particular, undoubtedly has reason to feel concern about the nuclear future of Iran.  Certainly, Iranian leadership has done nothing to quell any fears.  Quite the contrary, in fact, Iran’s secrecy leaves the rest of the world with the assumption that it is proceeding with activities that will lead to eventual nuclear warfare capabilities. The threat from Iran appears inevitable, yet it is not imminent.  Attempts at a non-violent resolution with Iran must be allowed to continue until it is certain that no further peaceable options are available. It is imperative to global security that Israel step back from its offensive position. Netanyahu must act in accord with allies by giving the sanctions further opportunity to work, and permit the United States to lead the way diplomatically and, if the time comes, militarily.

Works Cited

Fathi, Nazila. “Wipe Israel 'Off The Map' Iranian Says.” The New York Times, 27 Oct. 2005. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.

 “Iran and Hezbollah issue warnings to Israel.” Al Jazeera Middle East. Al Jazeera, 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 Sep. 2012.
“Iran’s Nuclear Program (Nuclear Talks, 2012).” The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.
“Iran Unveils Upgraded Ballistic Missiles.” News: Middle East. BBC Online, 21 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Aug. 2012. <>

Lakshmanan, Indira A.R. and Pratish Narayanan. “India and China Skirt Iran Sanctions With ‘Junk for Oil’.” Bloomberg L.P., 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.

Majd, Hooman. “Is it Ahmadinejad’s Last Hurrah?” The Great Debate., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. <>
“Missile.” Country Profile: Iran. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, Nov. 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2012. <>
Norton-Taylor, Richard. “Israeli Attack On Iran ‘Would Not Stop Nuclear Programme’.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 30 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.
Rubin, Joel. “Will Israel Bomb Iran?” HuffPost World. The Huffington Inc., 27 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012. <>
Sanger, David E. “Diplomacy With Iran Still Is Viable, U.S. Says.” The New York Times, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 Aug. 2012.

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