Iran and Israel: Nuclear Energy in the Shadows

Posted on October 7, 2013 by

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Iran is currently crippled by international sanctions as a result of the west’s distrust of its nuclear programme. Many believe it is trying to reach a stage where it could quickly acquire a nuclear weapon. This is something the Iranian government has strongly denied. During the tenure of former-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tensions escalated to the point where Israel threatened unilateral strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The election of President Hassan Rouhani has prompted many to predict a greater transparency on the Iranian side and a relaxation of economic sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not among them, however.

According to Netanyahu, “As dangerous as a nuclear-armed North Korea is, it pales in comparison to the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran”. Indeed he said: “A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn’t be another North Korea — it would be another 50 North Koreas.” (Source: AFP) The Israeli leader is keen to discourage any rapprochement between Iran and the US; but the more transparent Iran becomes about its nuclear development, the more likely this could be. This is, however, not the real reason Israel doesn’t want Iran to become more transparent.

There are two main reasons Netanyahu doesn’t want Rouhani to talk. Firstly, if Iran wants to successfully re-integrate with the international community it may well have to commit willingly to never develop a nuclear weapon, and be open to inspections by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to prove its honesty. This eventuality, then, would see Iran decide not to build an atomic weapon. Israel would rather Iran was rendered incapable of developing one. This would maintain the existing regional power balance whereby Israel, like in the Six-Day War of 1967, could single-handedly defeat all her neighbours in battle at the same time. Global Firepower ranks Israel at #13 in the world for military strength, and the most powerful in the Middle East. This index does not include nuclear weapons. This leads nicely into the other reason Israel doesn’t want Iran spilling the beans on its nuclear programme.

If Iran were to become entirely honest about its nuclear research and promise (with evidence to support) to never develop a nuclear weapon, it would naturally be justifiable for it to ask for the same clarity from other nations. Israel is widely reported to possess approximately 80 nuclear warheads, but has never admitted it. Israel will want to keep the spotlight of the world’s media away from its nuclear arsenal, especially with the flak it received over ‘Prisoner X’ still fresh in its memory. How will it do this? It will continue to label Iran a dangerous state and Rouhani a fake in an attempt to stop Iran from gaining ground on the international stage.

CC image courtesy of Africa Renewal, Flickr

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