The dreadful dilemma over Iran

August 16, 2012 by Julie Bishop
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The government of Israel faces a difficult decision in coming months, possibly weeks, as the Iranian nuclear program reaches a dangerous threshold…writes Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop

There are various schools of thought about the likely course of events but it comes down to three possible scenarios.

In the first scenario Iran will respond to the pressure of sanctions and abandon its nuclear ambitions while allowing international inspectors full and unfettered access to its facilities.

While the sanctions are biting and the Iranian people are starting to experience hardship, there is little likelihood of the regime halting its uranium enrichment program.

The second scenario is that Iran will announce that it has developed nuclear weapons technology and that it intends to construct a nuclear device.

This is also unlikely as it would provoke an immediate military response from Israel and most probably from the United States.

In the third scenario, feared by Israel to be the most likely, Iran will seek to develop nuclear weapons capability but not construct a bomb.

There is concern in Israel that the United States may be prepared to accept the third scenario, provided the Iranian regime does not commence construction of a nuclear device.

However, the Israeli government has made clear that it is not a scenario that Israel can tolerate.

A series of recent reports from Iran and Israel have heightened concerns that Israel is preparing to take action and that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is imminent.

One report claims a meeting took place in late July between Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his military heads.

Ayatollah Khamenei warned his military leaders that he expected Iran to be at war “within weeks” and most likely during September or October this year.

According to the report each person at the meeting reported on detailed defensive preparations should Iran come under attack.

Some of the military officers detailed the potential retaliation to such attacks, including plans for terrorist attacks around the world, ballistic missile launches at targets in Israel, attacks against Israel from Lebanon-based group Hezbollah, shipping mines in the Strait of Hormuz and missile attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.

Reports from Israel confirm that the government is actively considering its options and this is the subject of public debate.

This is in contrast to past Israeli strikes against nuclear targets (Iraq 1981 and Syria 2007) which were surprise attacks without widespread public debate leading up to them.

Political leaders and former members of the Israeli security apparatus are leading the current debate within Israel about whether or not to launch strikes against Iran.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that Israeli intelligence, combined with intelligence gathered by the United States, make a powerful argument for strikes to be “extremely urgent”.

Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy said last week that, “If I were an Iranian, I would be very worried in the next twelve weeks.”

There is serious doubt as to whether Israel has the capability to inflict a blow sufficiently grievous that it would cause a lengthy delay to the Iranian nuclear program.

A failed attempt would provide Iran with the excuse that it needs to more openly pursue nuclear weapons.

Many analysts believe that while Israel can certainly cause significant damage, it will need the involvement of the United States to more seriously damage the heavily fortified nuclear facilities in Iran.

Another complicating factor is the timing of the United States presidential election between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

President Obama has declared that the US will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, while Governor Romney has declared that his administration would prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

Israel detects more than a nuance in their respective positions which could be a highly relevant factor in their deliberations.

However, given the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran poses to Israel, it is more likely that the timing of any military strike will be driven by intelligence reports rather than the electoral timetable of its most important ally.

The likely fallout from an attack is considerable.

There would a major hit to the already fragile global economy that would be exponentially worse if Iran successfully mined the Strait of Hormuz and managed to damage Saudi oil export facilities.

Israel would face attack from Iran and from Hezbollah which is rumoured to have stockpiles of tens of thousands of shorter-range rockets.

It would face global condemnation and suffer economic hardship, least of all from the economic blow that it would inflict on Europe and the United States from skyrocketing prices for crude oil.

There is no doubt that Israeli leaders are aware of the risks.

They face a terrible dilemma of choosing what could be devastation in the wake of a strike or annihilation if Iran was to launch a nuclear attack.

All this could be avoided under the first scenario.

Julie Bishop is the Shadow Foreign Minister and Shadow Minister for Trade

Firspublished on opiniononline.


One Response to “The dreadful dilemma over Iran”
  1. Phillip says:

    So where does Ms Bishop, and for that matter, the Liberal Party stand on this issue?

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