Israel, Iran could be pushed to the brink of crisis by report on Tehran’s nuclear program
Eight planes dropped 1,000-kilogram bombs every five seconds as F-15A fighter escorts circled high above. In just two minutes, on June 7, 1981, they destroyed a nuclear program Iraq had been developing secretly over seven years.
Operation Opera transformed the Middle East for the next quarter-century.
Now, Israel is rumoured to be contemplating a similar pre-emptive strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The drumbeat of war is growing louder amid signs a decade-long diplomatic confrontation with Iran may turn to conflict.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report, due out Tuesday, is expected to push the Middle East to the brink of crisis, if it raises additional doubts over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
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How Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear program
Faced with a rapidly advancing Iranian nuclear program and Tehran’s total disregard of UN Security Council ultimatums to freeze nuclear enrichment programs and grant unfettered access to international inspectors, calls are growing for pre-emptive military strikes.
The possibility of an Israeli attack was thrust into the spotlight this week by an unusual public debate in Israel’s news media over the strategic calculations involved in confronting a near-nuclear Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, and his Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, are reportedly pushing cabinet colleagues to approve the strike in the hopes of setting back Tehran’s nuclear program for a few years.
Right now, a nuclear-armed Iran is Israel’s worst nightmare.
The country’s religious hardliners, whose apocalyptic rhetoric threatens to annihilate the Jewish state, could become more assertive and aggressive with a nuclear arsenal.
Given their long history of support for radical groups, they could threaten to pass their nuclear capability on to terrorists.
They could also transform the military balance in the Middle East, threatening the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. They might also try to isolate Israel by pressing Arab states and Turkey to withdraw basing rights granted the U.S. military.
Iran could also seek to control the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway at the foot of the Persian Gulf, through which 40% of the world’s oil travels each day.
If Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, it will embolden other would-be nuclear powers, like North Korea, and could set off a regional nuclear arms race, as Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia seek to counter the new threat.
The calculations involved in nuclear war are horrific for Israel.
A single nuclear blast would wipe the country off the map, accomplishing in seconds what Hitler and the Holocaust attempted through the murder of six million Jews.
“The strategic decision regarding Iran is the decision of our generation,” columnist Ari Shavit wrote Friday in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“If Israel acts against Iran prematurely, the implications could be dramatic. An eternal war with Tehran, an immediate war with Hamas and Hezbollah, tens of thousands of missiles on dozens of cities in Israel.
“If Israel is late to act in Iran, the implications could be critical to our survival.”
Any attempt to pre-empt Iran’s nuclear program militarily will inevitably be patterned on the 1981 strike.
Only Iran isn’t Iraq. Its nuclear facilities are scattered around the country. Some are embedded in heavily populated areas, others are buried deep underground or are heavily fortified.