Analysis: Israel concerned by Iran's nukes
By JOSHUA BRILLIANT
UPI Israel Correspondent
TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- In a weekly sermon during Friday's prayers in Tehran, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani indirectly vindicated one of Israel's concerns over his country's nuclear program.
"Israelis, due to their failure in war on Lebanon and the problems they are facing inside, are still issuing threats," Rafsanjani declared. Then came the warning: Do not ignite fire and escalate tension, he said according to the Iranian news agency, IRNA.
Seen from Israel the danger is Iran's increasing power, its outspoken desire to destroy Israel, and its support of terror. Once it has a nuclear bomb it would become a much more dangerous enemy partly because of a protective umbrella it might give terror organizations. Then threats such as the one Rafsanjani issued Friday would be much more ominous.
A nuclear capability, "Would give Iran tremendous strategic leverage. Who in the area would say "no" to a Tehran so armed?" asked Barry Rubin, Editor of The Middle East Review of International Affairs and Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, in Herzliya.
"Such a development would be an inspiration to radical movements and terrorists to become even more reckless, believing that Tehran would back them up or at least that their enemies would be demoralized and the West too afraid to help their intended victims," he added.
Rubin maintained Iran has become "the sole regional great power" in the Middle East, partly because of "A high level of Arab weakness and disorganization."
"Not a single Arab state has any real influence on the others today. Egypt has turned inward, Syria is isolated, and Iraq no longer even defines itself as Arab. Only Iran has something to offer ideologically and is able and eager to promote its influence across borders," he wrote.
Iran has expanded influence to Iraq, Lebanon, among the Palestinians, and to parts of Afghanistan.
It sponsors not only the Lebanese Hezbollah but also Hamas and Islamic Jihad and "In many ways it is the patron of Syria," he noted.
"At the same time, it has an extremist, adventurous regime that makes it dangerous but also gives it appeal in the Arab world," Rubin continued.
It can portray itself as the real hero in fighting the Israelis in contrast to Arab governments that are largely inactive.
"With Saddam Hussein in jail and bin Laden apparently ineffective, the Arab world is looking for some new hero who postures at standing up to the West. Clearly, (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, and thus Iran, are winning more respect among the Arab masses than the country has hitherto enjoyed," Rubin noted.
Iran's extensive support for Hezbollah, providing it with arms and advisors, increased its own prestige "and potentially its influence in the Arab world." Iran provided most of the weapons and equipment that Hezbollah used in this summer's war with Israel, he noted.
Obtaining a nuclear bomb does not mean it would immediately attack Israel.
Iran might not be a "crazy state" and the ruling establishment "certainly shows signs of caution at times and an ability to read the balance of power."
However, "the mainstream Iranian establishment is the group that has already proven to be the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, a determined wrecker of Arab-Israeli peace, a prime source for anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism, and a determined enemy of the status quo in the Arab and Muslim worlds," wrote Rubin.
He ridiculed Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is not aimed at obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Iran has not spent a fortune developing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons to distant targets "in order to build an overnight international mail delivery service to compete with Federal Express," he wrote.
But while it would not necessarily immediately use its weapons against Israel, "The principal concern ... is that Tehran would be able to do so whenever it wanted; and thinking about the kind of people -- both in terms of their responsibility and ideology -- who would control that decision makes it a frightening prospect indeed," Rubin stressed.
He predicted Middle Eastern states would ask the West for, "Serious guarantees to intervene, even to the point of using nuclear weapons if Iran were to threaten them."
Failure to provide such guarantees "Would mean a collapse of Western credibility in the region," he wrote. On the other hand extending them "Would mean that some day that promise might have to be fulfilled," he added.