(Majid Asgaripour / Associated…)
Several readers responding to Israeli historian Benny Morris' Feb. 14 Op-Ed article calling for a military attack to stop Iran'snuclear program noted that Morris did not acknowledge the Middle East's lone nuclear power: Israel. Some said the doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked for the United States and the Soviet Union, so the likelihood of two nuclear-armed states in the Mideast wiping each other out is minimal.
But others who discussed Israel's status as a nuclear power said it, and not Iran, presented the greater threat to peace. Reader Jon Williams of Goleta, Calif., wrote:
"Benny Morris' logic goes: Because Tehran is intent on building a nuclear weapon it will undoubtedly use against Israel, the United States, or possibly Russia, must launch a massive preemptive strike against Iran or else Israel will itself attack Iran with a nuclear weapon.
"Talk about holding a gun to the world's head.
"Iran does not have a nuclear device, claims not to be building one and hasn't even talked about striking Israel militarily. Israel, on the other hand, has the bomb now. Who's the greater danger to both Israel and to world peace? Israel is dragging the rest of us along into a world of hurt."
Benny Morris responds:
My logic is simple: Diplomacy and sanctions have not stopped Iran's nuclear program. If it isn't stopped militarily, Iran will have nuclear weapons in the near future.
There is a vital difference between a nuclear-armed Israel and a nuclear-armed Iran: The Iranian regime is bad. It assaulted and murdered its own people following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fraudulent reelection in 2009. It supports terrorists beyond its own borders, including against Israel. The regime is also mad; it has threatened Israel's destruction.
But Israel, even when massively attacked by Syrian and Egyptian forces in 1973, has never used nuclear weapons, which it has had for more than 40 years. Israel has never threatened its neighbors with destruction. Though it may have a hawkish right-wing government in power, Israel has always been (and is now) run by rational, sane leaders who would never use nuclear weapons unless faced with apocalyptic circumstances.
Comparing the two countries — a democracy and a totalitarian theocratic dictatorship — is silly and smacks of moral relativism. Visits to the two countries would make this obvious.
I did not suggest that Israel use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Such an attack can be carried out with conventional weapons — and done better and more thoroughly by America, deploying its missiles, Air Force and Navy, than by Israel.
But once Iran develops its own atomic weapons, a nuclear war will surely follow — and not necessarily between Iran and Israel (though this confrontation is the most likely one). Iranian nuclearization will be followed in short order by nuclear proliferation across the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will all seek to develop their own deterrents. And in this region's unstable reality, anything can — and is almost sure to — happen.