What Israel Really Fears about Iran

Israel does not really see Iran as an “existential threat,” at least not in the sense that Iran would fire a hypothetical nuclear bomb at Israel. Rather, Israel fears that an Iranian bomb would tilt the strategic balance, since Israel now holds a nuclear monopoly in the region, as William Blum explains.

By William Blum

As we all know only too well, the United States and Israel would hate to see Iran possessing nuclear weapons. Being “the only nuclear power in the Middle East” is a great card for Israel to have in its hand. But, in the real, non-propaganda world, is US/Israel actually fearful of an attack from a nuclear-armed Iran? In case you’ve forgotten …

In 2007, in a closed discussion, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that in her opinion “Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel.” She “also criticized the exaggerated use that [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears.” [Haaretz.com (Israel), Oct. 25, 2007; print edition Oct. 26]

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Photo credit, Tzipi Livni)

2009: “A senior Israeli official in Washington” asserted that “Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation.” [Washington Post, March 5, 2009]

In 2010, the Sunday Times of London (Jan. 10) reported that Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, war hero, pillar of the Israeli defense establishment, and former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, “believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons.”

Early last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a television audience: “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No, but we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.” [“Face the Nation”, CBS, Jan. 8, 2012; see video]

A week later we could read in the New York Times (Jan. 15) that “three leading Israeli security experts, the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz, all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.”

Then, a few days afterward, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio (Jan. 18), had this exchange:

Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: People ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case.

Lastly, we have the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in a report to Congress: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. … There are “certain things [the Iranians] have not done” that would be necessary to build a warhead. [The Guardian (London), Jan. 31, 2012]

Admissions like the above, and there are others, are never put into headlines by the American mass media; indeed, only very lightly reported at all; and sometimes distorted, On the Public Broadcasting System (PBS News Hour, Jan. 9), the non-commercial network much beloved by American liberals, the Panetta quote above was reported as: “But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us.”

Flagrantly omitted were the preceding words: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No …” [“PBS’s Dishonest Iran Edit”, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Jan. 10, 2012]

One of Israel’s leading military historians, Martin van Creveld, was interviewed by Playboy magazine in June 2007:

Playboy: Can the World live with a nuclear Iran?

Van Creveld: The U.S. has lived with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China, so why not a nuclear Iran? I’ve researched how the U.S. opposed nuclear proliferation in the past, and each time a country was about to proliferate, the U.S. expressed its opposition in terms of why this other country was very dangerous and didn’t deserve to have nuclear weapons.

“Americans believe they’re the only people who deserve to have nuclear weapons, because they are good and democratic and they like Mother and apple pie and the flag. But Americans are the only ones who have used them. …

“We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. We cannot say so too openly, however, because we have a history of using any threat in order to get weapons … thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.”

And throughout these years, regularly, Israeli and American officials have been assuring us that Iran is World Nuclear Threat Number One, that we can’t relax our guard against them, that there should be no limit to the ultra-tough sanctions we impose upon the Iranian people and their government.

Repeated murder and attempted murder of Iranian nuclear scientists, sabotage of Iranian nuclear equipment with computer viruses, the sale of faulty parts and raw materials, unexplained plane crashes, explosions at Iranian facilities … Who can be behind this but US/Israel? How do we know? It’s called “plain common sense.” Or do you think it was Costa Rica? Or perhaps South Africa? Or maybe Thailand?

Defense Secretary Panetta recently commented on one of the assassinations of an Iranian scientist. He put it succinctly: “That’s not what the United States does.” [Reuters, Jan. 12, 2012]

Does anyone know Leon Panetta’s e-mail address? I’d like to send him my list of United States assassination plots. More than 50 foreign leaders were targeted over the years, many successfully. [See http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm ]

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by US/Israel as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle-East hegemony. Thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case.

That left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this “threat” was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, US/Israel decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline, oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz.

Ergo, the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade, it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy.

On Jan. 11, the Washington Post reported: “In addition to influencing Iranian leaders directly, [a US intelligence official] says another option here is that [sanctions] will create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”

How utterly charming, these tactics and goals for the 21st Century by the leader of “The Free World”. (Is that expression still used?)

The neo-conservative thinking (and Barack Obama can be regarded as often being a fellow traveler of such) is even more charming than that. Listen to Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at America’s most prominent neo-con think tank, American Enterprise Institute:

“The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.’ … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.” [Video of Pletka making these remarks]

What are we to make of that and all the other quotations above? I think it gets back to my opening statement: Being “the only nuclear power in the Middle East” is a great card for Israel to have in its hand. Is US/Israel willing to go to war to hold on to that card?

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org. This article was originally published in Blum’s Anti-Empire Report.

15 comments for “What Israel Really Fears about Iran

  1. deepak reddy
    February 15, 2012 at 11:26

    By this latest nuclear development Iran is inviting more trouble from west and Israel . Though Iran made missiles cannot reach west and Europe USA will never ever allow to posses nuclear war heads.If Israel drones strike Iran’s nuclear plant it will trigger war not only between Israel and Iran but also from west and Europe will join hands in destroying their nuclear assents.And small Islamic terror groups around the world as well as some rich Muslim countries will join hands with Iran.What really scares Indian government is that oil imports from Iran.Indian is moving its pawns very carefully so the relations between India and Iran as well as with west will not shake.Now every body eye is on Obama’s administration..Iran is just throwing a war against israel and us that can never win..

  2. deepak reddy
    February 15, 2012 at 11:24

    By this latest nuclear development Iran is inviting more trouble from west and Israel . Though Iran made missiles cannot reach west and Europe USA will never ever allow to posses nuclear war heads.If Israel drones strike Iran’s nuclear plant it will trigger war not only between Israel and Iran but also from west and Europe will join hands in destroying their nuclear assents.And small Islamic terror groups around the world as well as some rich Muslim countries will join hands with Iran.What really scares Indian government is that oil imports from Iran.Indian is moving its pawns very carefully so the relations between India and Iran as well as with west will not shake.Now every body eye is on Obama’s administration..Israel is just throwing a war against israel and us that can never win..

  3. flat 5
    February 9, 2012 at 17:38

    Iran: Genocide of Jews is a Moral Obligation
    Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed a new doctrine explaining why it would be ‘legally and morally justified’ to commit genocide and wipe Israel off the map.
    The article was written by Khameini’s close adviser Alireza Forghani and endorsed by the Supreme Leader whose writings played a critical role in its drafting.
    The article has since appeared on numerous Iranian government and military websites.
    “Israel is a cancerous tumor in the Middle East,” the article in the ultraconservative Farsi-language Alef news site said. “Israel is a satanic media outlet with bombers. Every Muslim is required to arm themselves against Israel.”
    “I have already noted the usurper state of Israel poses a grave threat to Islam and Muslim countries. Islam and Muslim states must not lose this opportunity to remove the corruption from out midst. All of our problems are because of Israel – Israel of America.”
    “The first step should be the absolute destruction of Israel. To this end, Iran could make use of long-range missiles. The distance between us is only 2,600 KM. It can be done in minutes.”
    The crux of the piece says Iran would be justified in launching a pre-emptive strike against Israel because of the threat the Jewish state’s leaders are posing against its own nuclear facilities.
    However, during a lengthy discussion of the ‘jurisprudence of Jihad,’ the article makes it clear that an Israeli strike ‘isn’t required’ and would ultimately serve as a pretext for genocide.
    Instead, he says ‘defensive Jihad’ justifies annihilating Israel and targeting its civilian population because Israel has “spilled Muslim blood” and “oppresses” its Muslim neighbors.
    “With regard to the fake state of Israel in Palestine, which is included in the first Qibla of Muslims, we must defend the sacred blood of Muslims in Islamic Palestine using any means necessary,” it goes on to explain.
    “If the enemy should invade Muslim lands and spill Muslim blood, it is obligatory upon the Muslim masses to use every means possible to defend the lives and property of their brothers. It does not require a judge’s permission.
    “But regardless of the Israeli aggression against Palestine and the Muslims, it is clear the heads of this fake regime seek to dominate other Islamic lands on its borders and to develop hegemony over the region,” it reads.

    The article makes it clear Iran sees no place in the Middle East for the Jews.

    “Political subdivisions of states and political boundaries between units are not relevant and what is important is to divide the nations and territories based on beliefs and religions groups, blood and blood. Muslim blood must be separate from Infidel blood,” it says, citing Khameini’s writings.
    The document then cites statistics saying 5.7 million of Israel’s 7.5 million citizens are Jewish – as a justification for attack. It then proceeds to break down Israel by region and demographic concentrations in order that the most Jews possible would be killed.
    It specifically states that Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa ,contain more than 60 per cent of the Jewish population, which could be hit by Shahab 3 ballistic missiles to “easily kill everyone.”
    The publication of the doctrine comes after Khamenei announced that Iran would support any nation or group that attacks the ‘cancerous tumor’ of Israel.
    Since its publications several Iranian officials have called for a strike on Israel “within the year.”
    Source: IsraelNationalNews

  4. pacific_waters
    February 8, 2012 at 10:09

    “Being “the only nuclear power in the Middle East” is a great card for Israel to have in its hand. ” Yes it is. It provides Israel with a last ditch defense against an overwhelming assault by a much larger combined arab military force. Certainly if the bully next door is 6’5″ and 250lbs and I’m 5’8″ and 165lbs I am going to want a much larger stick than the bully has and I better be prepared to use it if needed.I will agree though that Panetta was wrong. Of course we engage or have engaged in assassination. The list of countries that don’t isn’t very long. There seems to be an assumption that Iran is an innocent nation and like the rest of the world waits with bated breath for the US to make amove and then repsonds. We are truly naive if we believe that no other nation has its own agenda. Personally I doubt that Iran with a bomb is any greater threat than Iran without a bomb. But that begs the question. Is Iran a threat at all? Of course they and lack of nuclear device reduces their potential for becoming the dominant player in the ME. They have said they now have the capability to hit Europe with ICBMs. Do you honestly believe for a moment that, if they had nuclear strike capabilities, they would hesitate to hold Europe hostage to achieve their own goals? They’ve threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz and have a record of violating international diplomatic protocols at the drop of a hat. No, Iran is no more innocent than the US. They simply don’t have the same resources yet. If you think otherwise I have a bridge for sale.

    As for Iraq, post war we found out they did have a WMD program, just not the one that Bush used to convey Saddam as a national security threat. They had no nuclear weapons but did have chemical weapons and were working on bil weapons. MIch later it came out hat they were attempting to buy yellow cake, regardless of the self serving excuses os Valery Plame et al. That doesn’t mean though that Saddam posed a threat to anybody but Iran and Kuwait.

  5. February 7, 2012 at 13:02

    What they now realize is with the new found axis between Tehran and Baghdad the fact is they have no long range delivery means but their ability to protect both countries from being freed by US forces will exist if Tehran has a nuclear weapon our role in the future of Iraq Iran is directly related to THE BOMB.

  6. drylongso
    February 5, 2012 at 10:34

    i wish to say to you that you are the MAN!!!!!! thank you.

  7. February 5, 2012 at 09:17

    In 1941 Shoghi Effendi (The Guardian of the Baha’i’ Faith) castigated the prevalent trends of society in no uncertain terms:
    “Although Europe was the cradle of a “godless”, a “highly-vaunted yet lamentably defective civilization”,
    The foremost protagonist of that civilization was now the United States and that, in that country, at the present time, its manifestations had led to a degree of unbridled materialism which now presented a danger to the entire world.”

  8. rosemerry
    February 5, 2012 at 04:29

    Bill Blum is always on the point with plenty of real facts. I am glad hoda has found this site, as the Fawning Corporate media (FCM), as Ray McGovern calls them, have such a bias towards the USA’s exceptionalim and right to attack anyone,any time while shielding its allies from criticism, that sites like this, or countercurrents,tomdispatch,chris floyd’s empire burlesque are desperately needed. STOP NATO is another one.
    To think that Pres.Obama speaks personally and with praise to the Pres.of Georgia, but is forbidden by the “Iran Threat Reduction Act” to speak to any Iranian representative shows the madness of the present situaton.

  9. Rusty Boy
    February 5, 2012 at 02:51

    Soviet union is gone, cold war nomore and now Iran, terorism…, what next Uncle Sam?

    • February 5, 2012 at 10:08

      The Fate of America is identical to Roman Empire, Both in words democratic but in reality Capitalist and Militarized.
      The End is nothing short of unbearable, pains and sufferings, destruction of moral and spiritual values, devastation, for decades and that is the punishment of their corruption, and then people will wake up from their slumber and realized how foolishly their unholy governments were served by their uninformed and ignorant subjects. World War three is inevitable due to corruption worldwide and unheeded to the message of Baha’u’llah, the promised one, the Lord of Lords, the king of Kings,…. For the crimes that were committed by the governments, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC,….and other capital cities, will be hit by Russian Hydrogen and Nuclear bomb and that would be the start of awakening of human race to the ones of human race.
      “The time for the destruction of the world and its people,” Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic pen has proclaimed, “hath arrived.” “The hour is approaching,” He specifically affirms, “when the most great convulsion will have appeared.” “The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: ‘Taste ye what your hands have wrought!’” “Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you.” And again: “And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake.”
      “The day is approaching when its [civilization’s] flame will devour the cities, when the Tongue of Grandeur will proclaim: ‘The Kingdom is God’s, the Almighty, the All-Praised!’” “The day will soon come,” He, referring to the foolish ones of the earth, has written, “whereon they will cry out for help and receive no answer.” “The day is approaching,” He moreover has prophesied, “when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.” (The Promised Day Is Come p.1)

  10. Farmarz
    February 4, 2012 at 17:38

    Thanks to Mr. William Blum for his fact-talking report.

  11. hoda
    February 4, 2012 at 14:42

    Hi, I’m from Iran, this article was one of the rare things I read in the fast few months. Something that is based on some logic. It is honest, I always thought maybe what I don’t understand is because we have different languages, most of the things that is said in the media are trying to say we are beasts, thats natural that Iran can not have a logical answer to so much illogical things, and therefore prepares for a defence. Thank you a world, I hope your message is spread. I wish for peace. good luck,

    • TC
      February 8, 2012 at 14:09

      Hoda, please know there are many, many Americans who fervently oppose America’s demonization of Iran. I hope that many people work hard to ensure that the US will stop its demonization.

Comments are closed.