Friday, July 16, 2004

Israel's plans for Iran strikes

Israel's plans for Iran strikes

Amid growing concern over Iran's alleged duplicity in declaring all its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Israel - the country that regards itself as most at risk from a nuclear-capable Iran - may be poised to revive contingency plans to destroy Iran's nuclear installations. It is hardly surprising that Israel's national security establishment has concluded that Israel would be at risk from a nuclear-capable Iran. However, if a pre-emptive attack is to be launched Israel may have to go it alone. Any joint US-Israeli precision-guided missile strike against Iran's nuclear facilities - Bushehr, Natanz or Arak - is unlikely to prove an attractive option for the US administration while it remains mired in Iraq - which shares a 1,458km-long border with Iran. If the USA was to participate in such an operation, Washington's allies would undoubtedly denounce what would be seen as yet another example of dangerous US unilateralism. However, the real concern is that a chain reaction of unintended consequences would further destabilise the world's most volatile region. The USA's involvement in a pre-emptive strike against Iran would also undermine the Bush administration's last vestiges of credibility as an 'honest broker' in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. An Israeli strike could effectively end hopes of reaching any kind of peace deal. The US administration also faces the dilemma of insisting that Iran has no right to develop nuclear weapons while Israel is believed to have several hundred in its arsenal. The controversial role of intelligence is likely to prove significant. The US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) would have to produce incontrovertible evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons which, given the recent damning report by the US Senate on the CIA's collection and analysis of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), is unlikely. This crisis of credibility would make a US decision to launch a pre-emptive strike difficult, if not impossible, to sell to US legislators or to the wider world.


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