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Facing the Iranian Nuclear Threat: Time for Action

A missile seen backdropped by a poster of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (File photo:AP)
A missile seen backdropped by a poster of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (File photo:AP)

The West is facing a critical juncture, one where complacency and appeasement are not options. While Washington is abuzz with the relatively recent news of Putin’s new space weapons and Europe is fixated on the victory of the Russians in Avdiivka and other parts of the Ukrainian front, the Western world seems to have forgotten about another threat. A threat in the Middle East that is actively developing Weapons of Mass Destruction; however, this time for real. This threat is Iran, and if the West wants a safer world, it must make Iran understand right now that a single additional step towards nuclear weapons will be met not with worthless words but with actual force.

The West has no time to waste. As a young Israeli, I can’t shake the gravity of the issue. It’s about more than just my country’s safety and security. All extremist Islamists combined are a minor danger to Israel and the West compared to a nuclear Iran. Allowing despots and extremists to acquire destructive weapons has a track record of disastrous consequences. Just consider the example of A. Q. Khan, a “moderate” Islamist and the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, who sold nuclear designs to regimes in Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Cases like this must not even remotely be possible.

But apparently, they are possible nonetheless. David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security and a nuclear weapons expert with over 30 years of experience, says that Iran might have a crude version of a bomb by the middle of 2024. This isn’t some distant possibility; it’s a looming reality. Iranians have already attacked and attempted to attack American and Global Coalition forces in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan over 200 times in the last 200 days, with an average of ~1.5 attempts per day. Not to mention the actions of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthi pirates, all funded by Iran, attacking Western allies, disrupting maritime trade, and making the Middle East the hottest it has been since the 1970s. This is a non-nuclear Iran. Now imagine what Iran can do if it has the confidence of a nuclear power.

If I am to spare you some imagination, the Middle East is responsible for a third of global oil production. Dominant nuclear Iran may be able to leverage its proximity to fossil fuel giants against the West, causing fluctuating oil prices and economic damage, while attacking other Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia. Iran with nukes is Iran holding the Western oil-dependent industries hostage while providing for their Beijing friends (90 % of Iranian crude oil goes to the PRC)  with a gas pump in hand.

How to deal with this? The only thing Iran understands is strength. Many Western leaders, including Barack Obama, Federica Mogherini, and Emmanuel Macron, have proven in 2015 that Iran will sit at the negotiating table in order to halt the development of nuclear weapons, hence the signing of the JCPOA agreement. However, prior to the 2015 agreement, the Iranian state lost over $100 billion in revenues in 2012–2014 alone due to harsh sanctions. It was not out of humanitarian or pacifistic tendencies that Teheran decided to sit down and negotiate with the U.S., a country they nicknamed “Great Satan.” It was out of pure despair of the Iranian regime, whose economy a year prior to agreements, according to the IMF, was in a downfall, with high unemployment and inflation rates, and weakened banking and corporate sectors.

The use of force may appear drastic, but the alternative is much worse. Iran does not care about international agreements and laws as they are what is called in international relations’ theory – realists; a new JCPOA will just lead to the postponement of the inevitable; it will be like putting a band-aid on a tumor. The JCPOA agreement was certainly effective at slowing the Iranian nuclear program, but even prior to Trump’s administration’s withdrawal in 2018, Iran was not truthful. History shows us that there are generally two ways nuclear weapons’ programs cease to operate: either through voluntary “cost-benefit” decisions by states, as in South Africa and Ukraine, understanding that nukes are too costly politically and financially, or by being bombed, as show by Israel in Syria and Iraq. Both pathways are equally effective. However, let’s be honest: Iran will not fully cease the proliferation of nuclear weapons by themselves or under economic pressure, and no Western guarantee will persuade them. The times have changed, and trust has been broken; Iran is too close to the finish line, and in the current geopolitical mess involving Ukraine, Taiwan, and the Middle East, alternative guarantees from the East are unlikely.

Well, if Iran refuses to stop (and I can’t blame them), with their program nearly complete and alternatives only temporary, force is the only option.

This may be a tough road to take, but it is the only way to address such a grave threat to the stability and security of not only the Middle East, but the entire West.

Unfortunately, in this case, if one wants lasting peace, one must prepare for war.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

About the Author
Mark Avrakh is a third-year Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy Honors student at Reichman University, honored to be part of the prestigious Argov Fellows program and two times member of annual Dean's List of Outstanding students.
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