Iran’s Fatal Choice

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The ruling mullahs in Iran committed a fatal policy blunder in combing their desire to acquire nuclear technology with threats to Israel. The two simply do not mix.

The ruling mullahs in Iran committed a fatal policy blunder in combing their desire to acquire nuclear technology with threats to Israel. The two simply do not mix.

As explains Amatzia Baram, who heads the chair in Arab studies at Haifa University, in northern Israel: it could be acceptable for Iran to issue threats to Israel so long as the Islamic republic is not in possession of nuclear weapons. And, adds Baram, it could equally be acceptable for Iran to possess nuclear capability but refrain from menacing the Jewish state.

In combining the two explosive ingredients, the Iranians will find that a nuclear-powered Iran suddenly becomes a clear and present danger to the security of Israel.

The specter of a nuclear Holocaust looming over Israel, much like a colossal sword of Damocles (Iran armed with long-range nuclear-tipped missiles) is a situation no Israeli leader – regardless of their political affiliation – would be willing to accept.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sending mixed signals to the very Western nations that are trying to convince Iran it can only gain by abandoning plans to develop nuclear know-how. The Iranian president on one occasion says he is “serious about nuclear talks,” while another time he says Iran will not retreat “one iota” on the issue.

The deadline given Iran to freeze uranium enrichment in return for withholding further sanctions – has come and gone without reply from Tehran.

On Saturday, as the two-week deadline expired, Ahmadinejad was quoted as telling Syrian President Bashar Assad that Iran “will not give an inch on its nuclear rights.”

The next step will most likely be additional sanctions; a move that rarely has any effect on the governments it is meant to punish. On a daily basis contraband goods – from the latest hi-tech electronics to cars and motorcycles – are shipped to Iran aboard traditional dhows from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), less than 100 miles of easy sailing from the opposite bank of the Persian Gulf. Trade between Persians and Arabs is a centuries-old activity that has continued uninterrupted by war and politics.

In order to introduce viable sanctions against Iran, the international community would have to do the following:

1. Impose a trade ban from the UAE, and establish the capability to monitor some 250 miles of coastal waters. But given the fact that the UAE is a close U.S. ally, imposing a trade ban on Dubai is out of the question.

2. Impose a ban on trade across the 550-mile Iraq-Iran border; and have the necessary manpower to police it. Given the inability of Iraqi and U.S. forces to control the people flow across the border since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there is little guarantee that the situation can be improved.

3. Control all trade crossing the 560 miles of border between Iran and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey and across the 500-mile border between Iran and Turkmenistan.

4. Closely monitor goods entering via the 275 miles of Caspian Sea shoreline.

5. Control whatever crosses the 400-mile border Iran shares with Afghanistan and another 400 miles or so shared with Pakistan.

In total, close to 3,000 miles of land borders and 900 miles of shoreline would have to be monitored efficiently to maintain a ban of certain goods. Clearly, it is an impossible task.

So under these circumstances the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities seems more inevitable. Removing the growing Iranian nuclear threat might well be Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s last hurrah before leaving office.


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