[Freemanlist2] Facing Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Israel's Time For Decision - Prof. Louis Ren? Beres, Major General (IDF/Res.) & Isaac Ben-Israel

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  Facing Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Israel's Time For Decision 
  Prof. Louis René Beres, Major General (IDF/Res.) & Isaac Ben-Israel - May 14, 2008 
The Jewish Press 
  

My (Professor Beres) regular readers in The Jewish Press are familiar with Project Daniel. You already know that Israel’s Strategic Future, the Project’s very carefully fashioned final report, was presented to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on January 16, 2003. Among other things, the report asserted that under no circumstances should Iran be allowed to “go nuclear.” This firm position stemmed from our understanding that stable deterrence could never exist with a nuclear Iran led by the current extreme regime, and that Iran’s belligerent stance toward Israel had remained openly genocidal. 

The situation facing Israel has grown still more ominous. Iran has advanced steadily with its plans to build and deploy nuclear weapons. On April 8, 2008, Iran’s “National Day of Nuclear Technology,” President Ahmadinejad announced his intent to install 6,000 additional centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Now NO serious observer could any longer accept the disingenuous argument that Iran seeks nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.

International law is largely about protecting the innocent. International law is assuredly not a suicide pact. Every state has not only the right, but also the obligation, to protect its citizens from aggression. This peremptory expectation is beyond any moral or legal question when a determined and possibly irrational enemy seeks nuclear weapons.

In the best of all possible worlds, Israel could deter any Iranian WMD attack by maintaining a credible posture of nuclear deterrence. But this is not the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War, and Israel’s notably small size would leave Jerusalem with very little room for strategic error. Hence, Israel continues to maintain a prudent plan for active defense against future Iranian missiles. The plan’s indispensable core is the Arrow anti-ballistic missile. 

Still, no system of active defense can ever be “leak proof.” And terrorist proxies, rather than missiles, could also be used to deliver Iranian nuclear weapons. It follows, as Project Daniel had originally advised PM Sharon, that Israel must consider and codify appropriate preemption options. Under international law, these essential options are known as “anticipatory self-defense.”

For Israel, time is quickly running out. The Jewish state cannot fully depend upon its anti-ballistic missiles to defend against any future WMD attack from Iran any more than it can rely entirely upon nuclear deterrence. Even a near-perfect Arrow complemented by credible nuclear threats would not obviate Israel’s preemption option. 

Israel has the right of all states to act in anticipatory self-defense when facing an existential assault. The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice even extends this right to the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain residual circumstances. These are “live or die” situations where the only expected alternatives to preemption would be unendurable assaults by enemy states or their surrogates.

Israel certainly has no wish to act upon the 1996 ICJ Opinion. But it must continue to prepare for certain critical non-nuclear preemptions, and also to implement a maximally efficient missile interception capability. Should Iran somehow become nuclear, Israel would then have to significantly enhance the credibility of its nuclear deterrent (including a prompt end to the doctrine of nuclear ambiguity or “bomb in the basement”), and to deploy a suitable second-strike force. This recognizably invulnerable (hardened and dispersed) “counter-value” force would be fashioned to inflict a decisive retaliatory blow against selected Iranian cities. 

>From its beginnings as a sovereign state 60 years ago, Israel has always sought to avoid war and to create peace. To be sure, Israel will continue to seek its security by peaceful means whenever possible. But Israel will not, under any circumstances, allow Iran to endanger its citizens with nuclear harms.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton) is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. He was Chair of Project Daniel, and is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

ISAAC BEN-ISRAEL, MK (Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University), has held several senior posts in operations, intelligence and weapons development within the Israel Air Force. In January 1998 he was promoted to Major General, and appointed as Director of Defense R & D Directorate in the Israel Ministry of Defense. Later, he was Chair of the Israel Space Agency. Now retired from the IAF, and a Professor at Tel Aviv University, General Ben-Israel sits on the Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Security Committee. He was a member of Project Daniel. Professor Beres is honored to have Major General Ben-Israel join him once again as a distinguished co-author in his weekly Jewish Press column.


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