Wednesday, 19 Jan 2022 - 17 of Shevat, 5782

Israel versus Iran, one step away from the point of no return

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By Pedro González, Atalayar (Spain)

Israel has been warning for years that under no circumstances will it tolerate Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon and that it will do everything in its power to prevent it. And it seems that the time has come because, according to information provided by its intelligence services, Iran is only a few weeks away from obtaining the material necessary to manufacture its atomic bomb.

The signatories of the multilateral agreement for the denuclearisation of Iran – the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and the European Union – have been trying to revitalise it after Donald Trump’s unilateral break with it in 2018. Negotiations in Vienna have so far failed to serve such a purpose in the face of Iran’s preliminary condition that all sanctions be lifted before entering into negotiations proper. This has been the case for six months, during which time Iran’s centrifuges have been operating at full capacity, so that they have already facilitated the enrichment of uranium to 60 per cent, far beyond their hypothetical peaceful use and fully into their military capability.

At this point, Israel is openly preparing to take some kind of action to destroy Iran’s atomic capability in embryo. This has been bluntly revealed by Defence Minister Benjamin Gantz, who has acknowledged that he has ordered the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, to be ready to unleash a military strike against Iran. He has done so while holding talks in Washington with his counterparts at the Pentagon and the Secretary of State, Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken, respectively. The simultaneity of all this suggests that Israel is issuing an ultimatum to its great ally to either tighten and intensify sanctions against Iran in order to nip the ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions in the bud, or else Israel will end up acting at its own peril to defend its own existence.

And so far, Gantz seems to have achieved something, as White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has acknowledged both that President Joe Biden has asked his Security Council to prepare various options “in case diplomacy fails”, and that the US leader is committed to ensuring that Tehran will never acquire nuclear weapons.

Background and current scenario

There are already precedents for Israel’s powerful fighter aircraft destroying the fledgling military nuclear industry of its adversaries: the destruction of the Al Kibar reactor in Syria in 2007, and Osirak in Iraq in 1981. Iran itself has already suffered sabotage of its nuclear facilities and the assassination of the mastermind of its nuclear programme, Mohsen Fakhrizaddeh.

Much time has passed since such precedents and many changes have taken place in the conditions and situation in the region. The Iranian regime itself has hardened considerably, as evidenced by the replacement of Hassan Rohani, the least extremist in an already radical regime, with Ebrahim Raisi, a super-hardliner to the liking of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The multiplication and capacity of centrifuges is well established, as is the dispersion of underground facilities throughout the country. This makes it much more problematic to execute a surgical strike as in the past, so that if such a strike were to be carried out, the Israeli pilots would not be guaranteed to withdraw with sufficient guarantees of survival after dropping their drill bombs.

Israel, which has never acknowledged that it has its own nuclear weapons, but it is an open secret that it has them, could consider using them if it sees no other way out of the threat to its own existence. This would break the commitment made four decades ago by President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir. It is to be hoped that the very threat to use its atomic power will serve as a deterrent. But such a wish is not guaranteed to be fulfilled.

In any case, Israel will not stand idly by. As Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennet warned Biden in his interview last August, “Israel will never outsource its own security”. Much pressure will therefore have to be brought to bear on Iran to listen to reason and not cross the point of no return in the face of an Israel that is left with no other option.

This opinion was first published in Atalayar.

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