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Reader Riposte: Israel may be right about Iran

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8 October 2012 14:48

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz, a Policy Analyst and Social Media Coordinator for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, writes:

Rodger Shanahan appears to suggest that Benjamin Netanyahu's call for a red line to be drawn in terms of Iran's nuclear development is unfounded as there is no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. Not being privy to the high-level intelligence that the Israeli Prime Minister would have access to makes it difficult to say exactly what evidence Netanyahu is basing his actions on, however, even the material that has been made public provides close to irrefutable proof that Iran's nuclear program is far from civilian in nature.

This evidence was comprehensively analysed in a report released in May this year by Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the US. As Cordesman noted: 'It is essential to understand that Iran has moved far beyond the point where it lacked the technology base to produce nuclear weapons, or where searching through the statements of senior Iranian officials provides any meaningful picture of its progress and intentions.

'Iran has pursued every major area of nuclear weapons development, has carried out programs that have already given it every component of a weapon except fissile material and there is strong evidence that it has carried out programs to integrate a nuclear warhead on to its missiles. ... Iran's efforts are part of a far broader range of efforts that have already brought it to the point where it can pursue nuclear weapons development through a range of compartmented and easily concealable programs without a formal weapons program, and even if it suspends enrichment activity. These are also programs that have been examined in depth in recent reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency.'

I struggle to believe that anyone could read Cordesman's full report without concluding that Iran has been working to develop a nuclear weapons capability and is dangerously close to achieving that end. Netanyahu is far from the only world leader who believes that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon; as the current regime of sanctions demonstrates, that fact is not disputed by any of the key players in international relations.

While it is true that, as Shanahan observes, Netanyahu has been warning of an impending nuclear Iran for decades and that this has yet to happen, this does not mean that Netanyahu was not correct. The warnings from Netanyahu and others compelled the international community to take action against Iran's nuclear program. A variety of means have consequently been employed to make life more difficult for the Iranians, including sanctions, cyber warfare, sabotage and various others. It is predominantly due to those efforts that Iran has yet to reach the red line of which Netanyahu speaks.

Finally, Shanahan's post seems to imply that Netanyahu's testimony before Congress in 2002 about Saddam Hussein was the reason that the US, Australian, the UK and their allies decided to invade Iraq. It seems absurd to suggest that the then foreign minister of Israel speaking before a branch of the American government that was not even responsible for the decision to invade would have had such a substantial role, especially as Netanyahu was doing little more than toeing a line set by the US administration.

Where the existence of a nuclear program in Iraq was highly disputed, there is a near consensus in the international community that Iran is developing nuclear weapons; Netanyahu's opinion is shared by the political leadership of Australia, the US, the UK, Europe, the Gulf Arab Emirates, India, and even Russia and China.

In short, the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program long ago ceased to be a matter of serious debate. The current controversy is over the way to approach that program and questioning the wisdom of an Israeli or American strike on Iran is perfectly legitimate; this would have some very grave consequences and is not a decision that should ever be made lightly.

 Photo by Flickr user Downing Street.

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