Should US help Israel cripple Iran’s nuclear capability? No: Such an idea is nonsensical

2012-02-20T00:00:00Z Should US help Israel cripple Iran’s nuclear capability? No: Such an idea is nonsensical Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2012 12:00 am

Editor’s note: Every Monday we offer pro/con pieces from the McClatchy-Tribune news service to give readers a broad view of issues.

Not if we have an ounce of sense. And so far we do. Current U.S. policy is to keep Israel from launching against Iran. The Obama administration understands that the repercussions would be felt less by Israel than by the United States.

We would be seen as having "allowed" Israel to do it. Oil supplies, shipping channels could be jeopardized.

It is the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington that is beating the drums for the United States to supply the bombs.

According to a recent center report, for which former U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb, D-Va., and retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald are mainly responsible, Israel already has enough bunker-busting bombs to "severely damage, though likely not completely destroy, Iran's known underground nuclear sites in a single well-executed operation." Iran has major facilities underground, making bunker-busting bombs the only way to get at them.

But the center, and this is where the proposal gets a bit complicated, opposes an actual Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Bunker-busting capacity in Israel's hands would serve, it says, as a threat against Iran.

The center's theory is that if Iran knows Israel is capable of destroying Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran will not build. Of course, if Israel gains the capacity and wants to strike, it is not likely to listen to the center.

Whether Iran is even trying to build nuclear weaponry remains an open question. The International Atomic Energy Agency thinks it might, but the IAEA remains cautious on the point. Last March, James R. Clapper, director of U.S. national intelligence, told a Senate committee: "We continue to assess (that) Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

If Iran does go for nuclear weaponry, it would not be with the aim of using it against Israel or anyone else. Countries don't develop nuclear weaponry to use it, but to hold it over the head of their adversaries.

Iran may be seeking "nuclear parity" with Israel, the only country in the region with nuclear weapons. Or Iran might hope that if it has nuclear weapons, Israel will think twice about assaulting Gaza as it did in 2008. But this is all speculation.

It is not surprising that this proposal comes from the Bipartisan Policy Center, which takes a hard line on Iran, in particular by touting possible military action by the United States against Iran's nuclear program.

Israel would be on a stronger moral footing if it were to say that no one in the region should have nuclear weapons. To this day, Israel will not own up to having nuclear weapons.

John B. Quigley is a professor of law at The Ohio State University. Readers may write to him at Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th St., Columbus, Ohio 43210.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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