“It is not in our hands to prevent the murder of workers…and families…but it is in our hands to fix a high price for our blood, so high that the Arab community and the Arab military forces will not be willing to pay it.”
– Moshe Dayan, quoted in Warrior: the autobiography of Ariel Sharon
As Israel has faced the threat of Arab armies and Islamic terrorism throughout its history, it has struggled to maintain a strong deterrence in the Middle East, one that will prevent other countries in the region from continuing to attack and to kill Israeli citizens. One of today’s most important issues in foreign affairs is Iran’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons and how their journey towards nuclear dominance in the Middle East might bring America and Israel into the conflict.
In Israel this issue is arguably more pertinent than anywhere else. The fear of a second Holocaust at the hands of an unstable regime in Iran is feared by most every citizen in Israel and their government is doing everything in its power to prevent Iran from achieving that goal. From a country who has called Israel “a true cancer tumor on the region that should be cut off”, Israelis have every right to be afraid of Iran achieving their goal of nuclear weapons and Israel has every right to continue to defend against that threat.
Unfortunately, Israel is not facing nearby single nuclear reactors that are in the primitive stages of construction as they did when they destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and Syria’s al-Kibar reactor in 2007. Instead, Israel is facing multiple developed facilities in a country distanced much farther from Israel than either Iraq or Syria. In addition to these chilling factors, Iran also holds much sway in the popular opinion of the Muslim and the Arab world.
The Iranians have assets in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Syria (funding of the Assad regime) and they have the ability to call on terrorists within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip if Israel were to attack Iran. Israel’s biggest fear after an attack on Iran is isolation from the rest of the world but if that isolation is felt before any attack is made, then Israel may be forced to defend its citizens through any means necessary with or without the consent of the international community.
As the United Nations continues to investigate Israel for actions it takes against terrorism in the region, such as the blockade of the terrorist stronghold in the Gaza Strip, atrocities against Israel are investigated on a more infrequent basis. The international community has much to fear from an isolated Israel. An Israel that feels backed into a corner without any friends in the international community is one that may lash out unilaterally in order to defend itself. One only has to look at the regional situation in 1967 to see that Israel will not hesitate to attack first and ask questions later.
As a result of the present situation in the Middle East and a growing feeling within Israel they are becoming more isolated, the gears of war have begun to turn. The Iranian regime has declared they will blockade the Straits of Hormuz in the event of any attack on their nuclear facilities. Similarly, the United States has proclaimed that any act by Iran to block the Straits is an act of war and they will use the American fleet to force its reopening. As the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu recently said at the 2012 American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington D.C., “Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries on the belief that the world’s most dangerous regime won’t use the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
As Americans begin to realize that the sanctions placed on Iran will not stop their nuclear ambitions, the only remaining option will become clear. War or a conflict of some level of intensity with Iran is probable and America should prepare itself accordingly. The only way to end the Iranian nuclear threat permanently is through military action and if Israel is the one that attacks then America will be drawn into the conflict anyway if Iran closes of the Straits of Hormuz and the American fleet is forced to take military action to reopen it.
The rhetoric between Israel, Iran, and America has been escalating over the past year while Iran continues to pursue its quest for nuclear weapons. One of the only remaining options will be military action and it is only a matter of time as to when it will happen.
James B. Lewis is not a spokesperson, nor does he represent the opinions of the United States Army as a whole.