ago this month, the Israeli Air Force launched a surprise attack on Iraq's
Osirak reactor. The mission was complex. Israel had to fly over hostile
territory, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, undetected in order to reach the Iraqi
reactor. Once there, they had to destroy Osirak and get out. There was good
reason to believe that not all of the pilots that left Israel that day would
But they did return home after
destroying Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. The chance of a "second
holocaust" was averted. While the Jewish state was initially universally
condemned for their provocative military assault, the world community was much
more thankful for their action less than a decade later when the world united
to confront Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Gulf. Had Israel not acted that
June day in 1981, history would have been far different. Let's just say that,
at the very minimum, Kuwait would likely now be the 19th province of Iraq and
Saddam Hussein a regional hegemon.
After Operation Desert Storm ended
in 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney sent David Ivry, then Israel's
ambassador to the United States, a present. The present was a satellite picture
of the ruins of Osirak 10 years after Israel's daring operation. The photograph
had a hand-written inscription that read: "For General David Ivry, with
thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi nuclear
program in 1981 – which made our job much easier in Desert Storm." You
see, Ivry was head of the Israeli Air Force in 1981. Over a decade after the
U.S. and the world condemned Israel for their operation against Iraq, the U.S.
Secretary of Defense thanked Israel for its mission.
Today, there are reports that the
Israeli Air Force is again intensely training for another daring military
assault, this time against Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Iranian regime
has said repeatedly that it seeks to destroy Israel. At least one Iranian
leader has openly called for "a world without the United States."
Israel is a small country. A nuclear attack against it would be the end of it
as a nation. How can anyone expect Israel to tolerate a nuclear-armed state
that has openly called for its destruction? And how can the United States and
the West, in a post-9/11 world, tolerate a terrorist-sponsoring Islamist state
with nuclear capabilities?
An operation against Iranian nuclear
facilities would be much more difficult than the Osirak operation was in 1981.
Iranians have reportedly hidden their key nuclear installations deep
underground, making them tough to hit. Furthermore, the consequences of such an
attack, whether by America or Israel, could potentially be severe. American
troops in Iraq could find themselves the targets of Iranian missiles.
Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah could launch devastating terrorist operations
throughout the world. The Straits of Hormuz – where a significant portion of
the world's oil travels through on its way to market – could be mined, causing
oil prices to skyrocket far higher than they already are. A worldwide economic
depression has to be considered a possibility.
But an Iranian regime with nuclear
capability would be terribly frightening. Iran could use its nuclear weapons
capability to "wipe Israel off the map" as its president has
promised, to attack America through its Hezbollah proxies or to dominate the
Middle East through nuclear blackmail. Proliferation of nuclear weapons
programs throughout the Arab world to counter Iran would be another likely
consequence. America, Israel and the world would surely be in peril if a
religiously minded Iranian state, which seemingly seeks to bring about
messianic apocalypse, becomes a nuclear power.
Unfortunately, conventional notions
of deterrence don't work against an enemy that doesn't care about its own
survival. According to former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani –
a man many in the West consider a moderate – the "application of an atomic
bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce
minor damages in the Muslim world." Got that? The Iranian
"moderate" is saying that Iran would be willing to take the consequences
of a nuclear counter attack.
President Bush must use all the
tools in his arsenal short of war now to bring the world together in order to
put maximum pressure on the Iranian state. He must inform the world in an Oval
Office speech that the consequences of failing to stopping Iranian development
of nuclear weapons will ultimately be war – whether that war is the West
launching an attack to destroy the Iranian nuclear program or Iran obtaining a
nuclear weapon and launching a nuclear attack some day against the West.
The time for action is now. If we can stop Iran
through stiffer sanctions, an oil embargo or covert sabotage, then we must
employ these options. All the tricks that we in the West have up our sleeve
(let us hope there are a few) must be employed. Otherwise, the world will be
thrust into a terrible catastrophe.