Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:11 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:11 | SYDNEY

Iran: America may be backing off, but not Israel


Sam Roggeveen


18 July 2008 15:08

The Guardian's report that the US intends to base diplomats in Tehran for the first time since 1979 now looks to have some independent support from the NY Times, which has quotes from unnamed American and European officials. The Bush Administration is neither confirming nor denying the story, which gives it the freedom to back off if reactions from Congress or Tel Aviv are apoplectic.

Coming on top of the Administration's decision to send an envoy to Geneva for direct talks with Iranian represenatives, this move reduces further the chances of an American military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. But it does very little to change Israel's calculus. The threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is less urgent for the US than Israel, both because Iran is years from developing missiles that could reach the US but already hs missiles that can reach Israel, and because Iran would only need a handful of weapons to essentially destroy Israel as a sovereign entity.

And that's really the crux: Israel was founded on the notion that the Jewish people should never again have to face the threat of extermination. Narrow strategic debates about possibility of a deterrence relationship between Tehran and Tel Aviv miss this historical point. Israel does not want its fate in anyone else's hands, and particularly not Tehran's. If Tel Aviv sees that there is no other way to forestall the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, it will strike.