Iran is on course to develop an atomic bomb, which isn’t all bad for Israel
By MOSHE GIT
The latest round of the United Nations Security Council imposition of sanctions on Iran was appalling. It was nothing more than paying lip service. Meaningful sanctions would have involved an embargo on fuel exports to Iran.
Not many are aware of the fact that, despite being one of the world’s major oil producers, Iran lacks refining facilities and has to import refined oil to run its economy. Its industry, transportation and even its military could be paralyzed for lack of fuel. The sanctions passed were the most severe that can be hoped for from the U.N. The United States was barely able to pass those due to the reluctance of China and Russia to agree on more meaningful measures.
But even if the imposed sanctions were the most severe possible, given the determined resolve of Iran’s leadership, Iran would have endured the economic consequences for the relatively brief period of time it needs to produce the bomb. History teaches us that, to be effective, sanctions have to be imposed over many years. A case in point is Libya. It abandoned its WMD program after being subject to sanctions for more than a decade. We can’t afford to wait that long for the sanctions on Iran to take effect. Just a few months ago, Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, opined that the sanctions on Iran are futile.
The only viable option to stop the Iranian bomb is the military one. Alas, as time progresses the military option becomes increasingly less likely to be exercised. Unilateral action by Israel is very risky, and when you add to that the rumors that emanate from Washington that the U.S. forbids Israel to intervene militarily, and the recent worldwide ganging up on Israel, it becomes apparent that those circles in Israel that advocate Israeli military intervention are severely weakened. Thus, we have to accustom ourselves to the notion that Iran will have the bomb.
Is this outcome all bad? Not necessarily.
The Iranians aren’t Arabs and their brand of Islam is different from the Islam of their neighbors and of the majority of the Arab world. There is a historic rivalry between Iran and the Arab countries. Recall the bloody multiyear Iran-Iraq war that erupted about 40 years ago. The Arab world detests the fact that the waterway separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula is called the Persian Gulf (Persia being Iran’s historic name), not the Arabian Gulf.
The Gulf States fear being overtaken by Iran. The government of Yemen is losing control of certain areas of its countryside due to insurgency loyal to Iran’s brand of Islam. Much shielded from the public eye is the fact that until recently the relations between Egypt and Israel have been the closest ever. WikiLeaks has recently exposed the latent, simmering animosity of Egypt and Saudi Arabia towards Iran. All of that is because of the Arab world’s fear of Iranian might.
A strong Iran is a strategic asset for Israel. It will keep Israel’s Arab enemies in check. The period in which the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power in Iran, and since, is an anomaly. It is the exception. Sooner or later Iran’s strategic interests will take over and mold its policies.
Strategically, Iran will benefit from a strong Israel. Both countries are threatened by the Arab world. During the Shah’s reign Iran had intensive military and economic ties with Israel. The affinity between these two nations is as ancient as the Bible. The vicious anti-Israel rhetoric that Iran currently spews does not constitute as great a threat for Israel as one might be inclined to believe; this is due to the doctrine of mutual destruction, which worked so well during the height of the tension between the West and the Soviet Union.
And then there is Iran’s eastern front. The United States is sinking in the quagmire of Afghanistan/Pakistan/al-Qaida, which abut Iran on the east. Iran wouldn’t want foreign power bases on its border. A strong Iran will smother the threatening bases on its eastern fringes and free the West from wasting its resources on messy and endless conflicts halfway around the globe.
Since Iran’s acquisition of the bomb seems to be a foregone conclusion, what is the point of imposing sanctions on Iran and thereby further antagonizing its regime? My mother-in-law used to say (I am sure she wasn’t the first) that it is easier to catch a fly with honey than with vinegar. Let’s dissolve the sanctions and instead let’s cooperate with Iran in strengthening its economy or even help it produce its bomb if it so desires; this way we may be able to channel Iran in directions we consider positive, rather than extend the animosity between us for many more decades to come with no benefit to anybody.
Moshe Git lives in Minnetonka.