Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 10:45 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 10:45 | SYDNEY

First Israel, then Iran, then...


Rodger Shanahan


11 December 2012 09:10

While I agree that a nuclear-capable Iran may not be the world-ending scenario that some postulate (it depends on which side of the sword vs shield argument you take), I would add to the doubts expressed by Stephen Walt about Sam Roggeveen's case for Middle Eastern nuclear disarmament.

Sam sees the argument being about Israel vs Iran but he ignores the Arab Gulf states, which have a more visceral fear of Iranian influence than of Tel Aviv. Sam should contemplate a scenario where Iran and Israel have the bomb and one or more Gulf states seek to achieve their own capability.  See how much more complex the equation becomes then.

A more convincing argument to stop Iran getting a nuclear capability is the possible response of regional states. Israel (and the US for that matter) want to stop Tehran from getting the bomb in part to avoid a proliferation domino effect that would be more destabilising than any of the scenarios Sam puts forward.

And just a few comments on Tzvi Fleischer's piece to add some balance that is sadly lacking:

  1. It is somewhat hypocritical to accuse other states of 'cheating' by seeking to develop a nuclear capability in secret, given that this is what Israel itself did. And as for non-state actors having access to chemical warfare agents, Tzvi has glossed over the difficulties of their transport, storage and weaponising, let alone their delivery. Difficult enough for a state actor, so you can imagine the difficulties for non-state actors.
  2. Larger land masses and big populations do not make military powers, as Israel has demonstrated already. Military capability is much more complex than these crude measures, and after learning lessons from its poor performance in 2006, the Israeli military is undoubtedly more capable as a result. None of its Arab neighbours' militaries have shown any elan for manoeuvre that would threaten the IDF's conventional military capability in the reasonably foreseeable future.
  3. As for Tzvi's comments regarding Turkey, the AKP's more distant relations with Israel are the result of the normal ebb and flow of bilateral relations, particularly when the basis for such relations is purely pragmatic. The stance is cool rather than hostile, and as Tzvi neglected to point out, Turkey is a functioning democracy and the AKP could be out of power and replaced by a government more open to close relations with Tel Aviv any time in the future, just as the current Israeli Government could be voted out and replaced by another that would alter its foreign policy direction. Nothing is ever writ in stone.