The Ticking Bomb
The Iranian nuclear program is a contentious and closely monitored issue in international and Israeli politics that has been front page news on and off. The reason for that is simple – the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, governed by Shi’ite Muslim clerics, has rapidly advanced its nuclear program over the past decade. Though it claims the program is for peaceful civilian purposes, the international community, led by Western nations, believes it’s designed to build a nuclear weapons capability.
The buzz around this issue recurred last week, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the UN released its most detailed and harshest report about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, asserting that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and that secret research may continue. In addition, the report details Iran’s work towards developing and affixing a nuclear payload to its Shahab 3 missile, which has the capacity to reach intermediate distances including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, southern Europe and Israel.
The IAEA report reinforces what intelligence agencies have known for awhile – the Iran nuclear program is a concern that can no longer be avoided. In an effort to use diplomatic means to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue in the past, the U.S. and its allies have offered incentive-based packages to persuade the regime to abandon its nuclear program, but those were declined. In reaction to Iran’s uncooperative stance, several countries and the UN Security Council sanctioned Iran with tight financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo in order to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, Iran continues to defy international demands.
The more the diplomatic efforts seem to be unsuccessful, the more experts and laypeople alike have speculated that Israel might perform preemptive airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Likewise, Israeli leaders have stated lately that they are not taking any option off the table. The thought of military action is understandable considering the strategic threat Israel may be facing and the scale of damage and casualties that a weapon of mass distraction would cause. While observing public statements regarding the handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, I am reminded of the directives I was given in my army service. Israeli soldiers are taught to hold fire until they recognize two elements in an enemy – a clear intention to attack and a means to do so. In the case of Iran, their President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already spoken very openly of his belief that Israel should be wiped off the map. Having an atomic bomb in his possession means he would also be capable of doing it. That’s without mentioning the implications of what a nuclear Iran could do to back the terror organizations fighting Israel or the triggering of a worrisome arms race in the region, as more countries would seek to possess nuclear military capability of their own.
Nevertheless, a preemptive Israeli attack on Iran could have devastating consequences. It would put Israel in a direct conflict with Iran, which is a strong military power with tentacles like Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel’s back yard. The immediate retaliation would be thousands of rockets fired toward Israel from these organizations and from Iran itself. In that scenario, a national state of anxiety would become the norm, let alone the toll of human life. In addition, an Israeli offensive would increase Israel’s diplomatic isolation in the world, as moderate countries like Egypt and Jordan would likely cease diplomatic relations with Israel, and as relationship with the U.S. and Europe would be strained (especially if the attack happens without their coordination). Furthermore, it would give Iran the justification for its nuclear program by allowing Iran to claim the need to protect itself in the face of Israeli aggression.
Some people claim that all the calls for military action are just meant to encourage the world powers to tighten the international pressure on Iran. For now it seems the U.S. and Western countries, based on the serious findings of the report, will require the UN Security Council to impose additional sanctions – more effective and more painful – on Iran. However, Russia and China have already raised their objections to this move, leaving Israel with a tough dilemma: Can Israel withstand living with a nuclear threat? Can this threat be removed at all? And what is the price that Israeli society is willing to pay for it?
Rega Shel Ivrit
Ptzatza Metakteket – פצצה מתקתקת (ticking bomb)
Like in English this Hebrew phrase is also a metaphor describing a problematic situation that will eventually become dangerous if not addressed in time. Here, the metaphor is hardly stretched at all, as the Ptzatza Metakteket of the Iranian nuclear program is literally the production of a bomb.
About the Author
Roey Schiff is the NFTY Shaliach. Roey grew up in Ein Vered, Israel and has experience working with teens and leadership development. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Management from Ben Gurion University. In September 2010, Roey moved to NYC to act as the NFTY and Israel Programs Shaliach as part of the URJ Youth Division.