Last week, Iran rejected a call from the International Atomic Energy Agency to cease its uranium enrichment activities, and this week it test-fired a newly-upgraded missile that can reach Israel and US troops in the Mideast. Western powers are now attempting, with increasing alarm, to halt Iran's march toward nuclear armament before it's too late.
Aerial view of Iran's
Bushehr nuclear facility
While these disturbing developments took place, Jonathan Power in the International Herald Tribune (9/22) compared the Iranian nuclear program to Israel's and concluded that 'It is the Arabs who should be worried by Israel's might, rather than the other way around.' Power, a foreign affairs columnist syndicated in dozens of papers worldwide, makes three main points:
1) The West applies a 'hypocritical' double standard by insisting that Iran stop its nuclear program while allowing Israel to have the bomb.
2) Power blames Israel for Iran's emerging nuclear program, asking: '[W]here is the source of the threat that makes Iran... feel so nervous that it must now take the nuclear road? If Saddam Hussein's Iraq, with its nuclear ambitions, used to be one reason, the other is certainly Israel.'
3) Power claims that Israeli nukes never had deterrence value, and certainly don't today, as Israel faces no 'catastrophic' threat.
Power errs on each of his points:
1) RESPONSIBLE VS. IRRESPONSIBLE NUCLEAR PROGRAMS
Indeed, there is a double standard applied to Israeli vs. Iranian nuclear programs -- an entirely justified double standard.
Israel is a thriving democracy, where all citizens participate in government and have a voice, where even the most disenfranchised can climb the social ladder, and where injustice can be righted. Democratic nations are characterized by accountability, checks and balances, and recognition of fundamental human rights -- essential elements for responsible nuclear programs.
Iran, on the other hand, is a pure theocracy that institutionalizes dhimmitude (subjugation of non-Muslim peoples), engages in modern anti-Jewish witch hunts under the pretext of stopping 'Zionist conspiracies,' and hangs 'promiscuous' teenage girls in public squares with impunity.
Iran does not just happen to live in 'one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods,' as Power claims. Iran, along with Syria (see HR Special Report), has created this danger. The U.S. State Department recognizes that Iran has provided financial aid, arms, training camps, and safe haven to the deadliest terror groups -- Hezbollah (Iran's proxy in Lebanon), Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
And while the free world increasingly fears WMDs and 'dirty bombs' falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists (half of those surveyed in a recent AP-Ipsos poll say they 'have concerns that terrorists may be winning'), Iran maintains strong, supportive ties with those terrorists.
As a theocracy with a fundamental lack of accountability, Iran's nuclear program brings the free world's great nightmare -- WMDs falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists closer to reality.
2) ISRAEL - TO BLAME FOR IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?
While Power cites an Israeli 'threat' as the motivation for Iran's nuclear program, in fact Israeli leaders had never challenged Tehran before that program advanced, nor did Israel ever contribute to an armed attack on Iran.
By contrast, the Iranian Mullahs have been clamoring for Israel's demise since the day they seized power in 1979. Witness the Iranians' more recent calls for the extermination of 'the Zionist Entity':
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenai explained in Jan. 2001 that 'the foundation of the Islamic regime is opposition to Israel, and the perpetual subject of Iran is the elimination of Israel from the region.'
Khamenai said in a recent sermon that 'the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region.'
In Dec. 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani called the establishment of the Jewish state 'the worst event in history,' and declared his intention to decimate Israel, clarifying that 'one [nuclear] bomb is enough to destroy all Israel,' and that 'in due time, the Islamic world will have a military nuclear device.'
Iranian nuclear plant under construction
Unfortunately, it's not just talk. Iran actively supports anti-Israel terror through Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. And recall that in January 2002, Iran attempted to smuggle 50 tons of ammunition to Palestinians aboard the ship Karin A. Iran's nuclear program is clearly an extension of that aggression.
To claim, as Power does, that Iran is developing its nuclear program in response to an Israeli 'threat' is simply a fabrication of the historical record.
3) DETERRENCE AND ONGOING MORTAL THREAT
Power claims 'there is no evidence that Israel's nuclear weapons have deterred the Arabs from more limited wars or prevented Palestinian intifadas and suicide bombers. Nor have Israel's nuclear weapons influenced Arab attitudes toward making peace.' Power cites the 1973 Arab war against Israel and the 1991 Gulf War as cases in point.
But Gerald M. Steinberg, director of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar-Ilan University, indicates that over three decades
Israel's nuclear deterrent is widely credited with offsetting the asymmetries that encouraged major attacks, creating a degree of stability, and convincing some Arab leaders, including Sadat, of the need for peace.
Steinberg also credits the policy with forcing Egypt and Syria to limit their attacks in the 1973 war, and with deterring Saddam Hussein from using chemical warheads in the 1991 missile attacks against Israel (when 39 of Iraq's conventional Scud missiles actually landed in Israel).
Regarding today's threats, Power brushes them off, stating 'there is no evidence that Arab states have invested the financial and human resources necessary to fight the kind of war that would be catastrophic for Israel.'
But as any student of the Mideast knows, the one issue that unites the Arab states -- the illegitimacy of 'the Zionist Entity' -- could at any time erupt. That eventuality must remain a cornerstone of responsible Israeli defense policy.
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1) Contact the International Herald Tribune to correct Jonathan Power's distortions, using the points expressed above: firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Be on the lookout for headlines or articles that falsely equate Israeli actions with the growing Iranian nuclear threat. For example:
"Iran, Israel square off over nuclear facilities" (The Globe and Mail, Sept. 23)
"Iran, Israel Nuclear Tensions Rise" (AP, Aug. 21)
"Tensions Escalating Between Arch Enemies Israel and Iran" (AP, Aug. 20)
"Analysis: Iran, Israel exchange threats" (UPI, Aug. 19)
When responding to the media, cite Iran's repeated calls to annihilate Israel, Iran's well-documented support of worldwide Islamic terror, and Israel's effective policy of nuclear deterrence, which has actually enhanced regional stability.