Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Israel Looks at Iran

An Israeli View of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge. It's enlightening to see how clear-headed an opinionated view of the situation can be once you lift it out of the dustbunnies of the American political process and the pander-jockeying. It's one of many reasons to get at least some of your world analysis from non-domestic sources.

The most important repercussion of a nuclear Iran is that it would heighten threat perception in the Middle East. In contrast to other parts of the world, in the Middle East, threat perceptions are very high. It’s not only the Israelis who are concerned about security, Jordanians are afraid of the Syrians and Iraqis, the Syrians are afraid of the Turks and Israelis, and the Saudis are afraid of everybody. A nuclear Iran will only heighten those threat perceptions and bring about nuclear proliferation in this region. We see already the first steps of many countries trying to gain some nuclear technology. Turkey has renewed its civilian nuclear program, which uses the same technology as nuclear weapons. Egypt is doing the same. We cannot be sure that the Pakistanis will not supply weapons to the Saudis, who have subsidized part of their nuclear program.

... Of course, there is no extended deterrence. I don’t think the Arabs believe that an American nuclear umbrella is effective, for the same reason the French didn’t believe that a U.S. umbrella would be effective—namely that Americans would not risk Washington to save Paris. The same type of rationale would be adopted by the Middle East elite, who have seen Ottomans coming and going, French, British, and I think they also see Americans coming and going and don’t know exactly how the Americans would play out the Iraqi scenario. But many people in the Middle East believe the Americans have already decided on an exit strategy and are just groping for how to do it. So I don’t think that an American promise to the Arab countries to defend them in the case of a nuclear attack will be trusted. And also there is no defense against nuclear weapons at this stage. Israel’s Arrow system, which is attuned to intercept such ballistic missiles, can intercept only 80-90 percent, but if it comes to missiles armed with nuclear warheads, 90 percent is not good enough.