19 July 2020   Leave a comment

Alex Ward has written an article for Vox that makes a compelling case that Israel is behind the recent explosions at weapons facilities in Iran. There is no way to know for sure because whoever is behind the explosions has carefully disguised its tracks. But the Israelis seem to be comfortable with the widespread belief that they have been conducting this low-level series of attacks to delay the possibility that Iran will develop nuclear weapons, and it seems to be certain that the US is well aware of the Israeli role. Ward places the attacks in this context:

“Israel has long targeted nuclear programs in the Middle East in secret, open, and openly secret ways.

“In 1981, Israeli jets bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. And in 2007, it struck a reactor in Syria that could have produced nuclear fuel. But Israel has saved its most audacious counter-nuclear efforts for Iran.

“In the early 2000s, Israeli spy chiefs hatched a plan to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, a campaign Jerusalem has never formally acknowledged. In 2012, a top official at Natanz — Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan — was killed in a mysterious explosion. His death followed two other suspected killings over the previous two years.

“But that wasn’t all: In 2009, Israel joined the US in using a cyber weapon, known as Stuxnet, to destroy about 1,000 of Iran’s 6,000 centrifuges.

“Why would Israel resort to such bold methods? Simply put, officials in Jerusalem worry Iran could more credibly threaten Israel’s existence if it had a nuclear weapon. There’s real justification for that concern: Just last year, for example, a top Iranian general told local reporters, ‘Our strategy is to erase Israel from the global political map.’”

Iran has slowly been shedding the constraints of the nuclear agreement that US President Trump abrogated two years ago, and these attacks will certainly slow down the nuclear program. But the attacks also confirm that developing a nuclear weapon may be the only way for Iran to deter a more open attack on Iran by either Israel or the US–lessons learned from Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddaffi of Libya. However, Iran is greatly suffering from the economic turmoil unleashed by the US sanctions as well as by the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken hold in Iran. I sincerely doubt that Iran wishes to be involved in any armed confrontation with either the US or Israel.

There are, however, limits to the insults to sovereignty the attacks pose. Prime Minister Netanyahu wishes Iran to react so that Israel and the US would have a legitimate casus belli. US President Trump was a willing ally to forcing a confrontation, and his recent slide in the polls is a genuine cause for concern. It is unlikely that a President Biden would be so willing to provoke Iran. We can expect these attacks on Iran to escalate as the US election comes nearer.

Posted July 19, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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