Richmond World Affairs Council

Israel & Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons


In a press conference earlier this week the Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon stated his opinion regarding Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. He stated that “the plan is to stop it, be it through regime change in Iran or through, with no other choice, the use of force in order to remove Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons” (Jerusalem Post). The bottom line is that allowing Iran to become a nuclear power is not an option for Israel.

However, this quote illustrates questions that Israel is now facing concerning the topic of a nuclear Iran. First, considering the continuing protests of Iranian opposition leaders and their supporters, it is unclear what Iran’s future political situation will look like. Although the disputed elections took place last June, demonstrations are still occurring, especially as the anniversary of the Revolution draws closer. It’s uncertain whether or not the Iranian public will demand change on its own or if the momentum of last summer has been lost. The second point is whether or not the time is right for the use of force as a last resort. Will Israel wait to see if harsher UN sanctions will make a difference to the Iranian regime or if Russia and China will take a firmer stance? And the third matter is only insinuated. Will Israel act alone if it decides that the time is right for a pre-emptive attack?

Although it is not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel is believed to be the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons. Thus, it is obvious that if Iran becomes a nuclear power it will drastically change the balance of regional politics. Perhaps more importantly for Israel, it will give Iran the ability to directly strike Israel and wipe it off the face of the map, just as Ahmadinejad has promised. Israel has bombed nuclear facilities before; most recently in Syria in September 2006. It has the capacity to do this. It’s left to be seen whether Israel will carry out a pre-emptive strike unilaterally or with the United States’ support. The Netanyahu government seems to be running out of patience and is ready for the international community to take a stronger stand.

The possibility of a nuclear Iran concerns the whole world, including Iran‘s more moderate neighbors. Allowing Iran to become a nuclear power will have a rippling effect across the Middle East. It could destabilize the entire region and create an arms race. It is the responsibility of the international community to prevent fulfillment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Obama administration’s plan to allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium but then send it abroad for fuel development is a good start. But it must be followed up with actions and consequences if Iran refuses to cooperate. If Iran rejects the proposed deal, Israel may not have other options.

~ Alissa Aronovici