Back when Saddam Hussein was actually developing nuclear weapons material and was having the perfect nuclear reactor being built by profiteering interests from France and had bunkers constructed by an equally monetarily enterprising German company and believing they had the world fooled as the Europeans were more concerned by their bottom line and the United States was apparently blithely ignorant of the Iraqi game; so the weight of dispatching the central items of what was potentially the Iraqi nuclear weapons development central point, the reactor was relegated to the Israelis acting alone. The Iraqis were not using the technically challenging uranium differentiation system, which in the early 1980s was a rather daunting challenge, and instead was opting for a plutonium producing reactor. This left the Iraqis with what was apparently an unfettered romp to develop nuclear weapons while appearing to remain compliant to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of which Iraq was a signatory. And so it remained until the morning of June 7, 1981 when the Israelis launched “Operation Opera” to destroy the French built and almost ready to have its nuclear fuel rods installed Osirak Reactor which was capable of producing weapons grade plutonium. The entirety of the Western world opposed any attack on the reactor or accompanying buildings as the Europeans relied on Iraqi oil or had too numerous business dealings and other profitable relations which may have faced difficulties or potential cancellation should Iraq suspect the Western powers in any way supported any such attack. Even within Israel there were the expected and usual detractors against Israeli actions including the then leader of the opposition Labor Party Shimon Peres, Yitzchak Shamir predicting extreme and non-survivable reactions and backlash as well as those in the cabinet who also opposed any attack for various reasons chief of which was the effect it would have on the peace treaty with Egypt. Prime Minister Menachem Begin still pushed the idea for an intervention to destroy the reactor forward in hopes the Cabinet would eventually see there was no other viable choice. There were logistics problems which had to be overcome such as but not limited to removing external fuel tanks on the F-16s in order to equip them with the heavy munitions necessary for the attack, assign F-15s to guard the bombers to, from and during the attack in case of Iraqi countermeasures, as well as training the pilots to fly on the floor to avoid being detected by any Arab radar and choosing a route which would also minimize detection. The final trigger which finally won approval for the attack was the knowledge that the fuel rods had been prepared for shipment from France to Iraq which if installed would have resulted in a radioactive cloud from any assault making the vote a now or never choice. This changed the critical opposition to now support the attack. The original attack date was set but it became necessary to call off the attack and reschedule it for the next month. Fortunately this setback still permitted the attack to be set before the fuel rods were to be installed in the reactor or even be stored in close proximity to the reactor buildings themselves. The Osirak Reactor was destroyed and Israel faced censure at the United Nations with President Ronald Reagan refusing to use the American veto to protect the Israelis as he too felt betrayed by their attack without first having received his approval, something he had all but assured was not forthcoming even had it been sought. The remainder including the Western world’s great reliefs and their acclamations and thanks, even if belated, that they were not facing a nuclear armed Saddam Hussein in either the first or second Gulf Wars.
Looking at Iran one might be tempted to claim that it seems like, if we may be permitted to steal a quotation from Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” This time it’s not Iraq but their neighbor, Iran. It is not Saddam Hussein but rather the Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. This time it is a Shiite ruler not a Sunni ruler though it is once again an adversary of Saudi Arabia. And just like the last time, the Saudis Royals are not about to launch any attack, especially not on their own and highly unlikely they would ally with and accompany the Israelis. The United States is once again against any such attack and threatens to withhold any usual protection at the United Nations Security Council should Israel choose to ignore their opposition and attack anyways. The Europeans are once again all after the rewards of trade agreements they are already salivating over as the United States takes the brunt of any criticisms for the near obvious bad deal of a lifetime as President Obama is willing to take the scorns and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune if it permits him to construct a new kingdom in the Middle East to replace the old alliances with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel with one where the United States and Iran share the hegemony with Iran the hegemony taking care of the Middle East and the United States free to attend to other concerns. This alliance comes complete with other supporting characters including but not limited to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and potentially Yemen and whichever other nations the ever slowly devouring appetite of the Ayatollahs set their attentions towards. Additionally, the Russians are playing the role of the Soviet Union in the Middle East and beyond with an unsurprising echo of the Soviet past with the Russian President being Colonel Putin formerly of KGB fame and China will be China taking advantage of any situation the world inadvertently creates, like the need by Iran for an outlet to sell their crude oil. Thus the world is hurling full steam ahead towards a nuclear armed nation which remains the inheritors of the Persian Empire’s proud historic past with all of its attitude of empire which they traded in order to name themselves after the Nazi master race Aryan, or Iran in Farsi, and add to such the trait and heritage of the potentially suicidal belief patterns of Shia Islam and these nations central to permitting this nuclear arming of such a nation all claim Israel has lost it and gone over the deep end when they claim that perhaps a second look might be a good idea.
There have been more than just a few articles which point to the fact that the world is relying on good old Israel to ride over the hill and rescue the world from itself once more. They even point to the fact that there exist a number of Sunni nations including but not limited to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States which would potentially offer their assistance or at least give spiritual support. There is some bad news for the world; it is going to take a whole different level of support if they really expect Israel to suffer the ramifications of and the promised denunciations, trade embargoes, United Nations sanctions, and other barbs and mistreatments in size and scope potentially previously unimagined. Israel has stated that they are quite capable and up to the task of striking and setting the Iranian nuclear program back potentially months or even for over a year or even two years. That is not the question; the question is whether it is worth the severe and unprecedented ramifications that is the main concern for Israel. Israel has to weigh whether it will be beyond her ability to guarantee that Iran has too much to lose by using their nuclear weapons once they develop and build them, whether that be in ten months or the ten years that President Obama promises, making it thus worth the price which would be guaranteed in the retaliatory strikes by Hamas, Hezballah, Syria, IRGC and a guarantee that Iran will use their first nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv no matter what the cost even should it require using it from aboard a ship making a suicide run for the shoreline beaches of Tel Aviv. The consequences of assaulting the Iranian nuclear sites are well known to Israel as well as her neighbors in the Middle East. These are the very same consequences which have intimidated the other nations who, like Israel, will be threatened by a nuclear weapon armed Iran. It is this threat which may well lead to a nuclear weapons arms race throughout the Middle East and North Africa with Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the Gulf States leading the way. This too must also be included in the Israeli calculus. The one thing heard repeatedly is that there is no threats which Israel could use to deter the Iranians from carrying out their threat to launch a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv once they have sufficient a store of nuclear weapons to follow up with further strike should Israel retaliate.
That leads us to the question of exactly what threats could Israel utilize to prevent a nuclear attack by the Iranians once they are sufficiently armed. The unfortunate, or potentially advantageously, truth about the threats which would be most effective on Iran is that they would also be very disconcerting and threatening to the rest of the Muslim world. It is obvious that should Iran drop any nuclear weapons anywhere, or everywhere, across Israel that Israel would strike every population center across all of Iran, Syria, Shiite Iraq and Hezballah portions of Lebanon and thus these would not be sufficient deterrence to prevent an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel. But then peer pressure may be exactly what might be required to pressure Iran from striking at Israel. The first targets Israel needs to assure Iran will be targeted beyond her borders should be every holy shrine and city in all of Shia Islam. Going beyond this point would be potentially dangerous for Israel as it would also potentially push what might be uncomfortable allies throughout the Muslim world forcing them to become an ally with Iran against Israel. Still, some concern might be given to such targets as to the two cities which Iran has placed as their most prized desire in all the world and the reason that Iran and Saudi Arabia are so set against one another, Mecca and Medina. These are the most prized cities in all of Islam and before World War I were under the care of the Hashemite Royal Family. That changed with the fall of the Ottoman Empire when the Saudi Royal Family forcibly took control of Mecca and Medina. This was the reason behind the British promise to grant the Hashemite family a kingdom in exchange for their assistance during World War I and thus Jordan today ruled by a Hashemite King. Such a threat though of destroying Mecca and Medina would be a counter attack as a last ditch response after a disastrous attack which had likely destroyed the majority of the Israeli population and economic centers simply by striking central Tel Aviv with any nuclear weapon. With such damage already inflicted on Israel there would be so little left to risk as Israel as a functioning nation would be in serious jeopardy. In a perfect world Israel would not be facing such a predicament but then again in a perfect world President Jimmy Carter would not have given the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the support in dethroning the Shah and thus the Ayatollahs would not be in power in Iran. But in a really perfect world the United States would not have overthrown the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh placing the Shāh Mohammad-Rezā Pahlavi into power reestablishing the Iranian Royal family. Perfect worlds can be so confusing and lead to a tangled web that takes some serious untangling. I guess the world would never be a perfect place and then who knows if we would actually really like what a perfect world might give us as result, who knows.
Beyond the Cusp