Nuclear Weapons Will Not
By: Avner Golov Translated from Maariv (Israel).
One of the first lessons I learned as part of my defense education was to beware the inappropriate use of analogies. It seems to me that this basic rule has been forgotten by those who argue that the possession of nuclear weapons can actually promote stability and responsible decision making on the part of nuclear superpowers. They base this on the fact that the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States continued for a span of more than forty years without involving the use of nuclear weapons.
About This Article
The claim that nuclear weapons induced stability during the Cold War and could do the same with Israel and Iran ignores the current multiplicity of global and regional factors, writes Avner Golov. The world is no longer a bi-polar system of superpowers, no hotline connects Jerusalem and Tehran and there will be no "stable" nuclear standoff.Publisher: Maariv (Israel)
The difference between Iran and the Soviet Union
Author: Avner Golov
First Published: August 23, 2012
Posted on: August 27 2012
Translated by: Sandy Bloom
Today we know that humanity was not that far from nuclear war between the superpowers in several instances, such as the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, and at the beginning of the 1980s when the Soviet Union initiated Operation RYAN. But the factors that helped both nuclear superpowers avoid escalation then do not exist in the Iranian case today. The Soviet Union and the United States acknowledged one another’s legitimacy and neither ever called for the elimination of the other, while today’s Iranian leaders express themselves openly against the State of Israel. By contrast, Moscow and Washington communicated with one another via their embassies and diplomatic representatives. This allowed President Kennedy’s brother, the attorney general, to come to understandings with the Soviet ambassador in Washington and avert the escalation of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Afterward, as part of the conclusions that were drawn from the crisis, it was decided to establish the red-telephone hotline between the Kremlin and the White House. These kinds of “brakes” do not exist between Jerusalem and Tehran.
There is no place for the claim that Iran has no intentions of using nuclear weapons against Israel once these weapons are in its possession. Two rival states may be drawn into unintended nuclear war when regional or mutual tensions cause an escalation in relations between the countries. Such tensions may result from hostile actions that the countries attribute to one other — such as the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists and the promoting of terrorist attacks against civilians in Bulgaria.
In addition, current international circumstances differ from those that characterized the Cold War: the current world order is not divided between two superpowers that seek to maintain their power, but is composed of global and regional powers that maintain dynamic, as opposed to stable, relations. To this unstable reality, we must add the rise of the power of not-state actors, including terrorist organizations, some of which are supported by Tehran.
Terrorist organizations embody two threats in the context of an Iranian nuclear bomb: Firstly, nuclear capability undermines regional stability and multiplies the chances of unintended escalation due to regional tensions between Israel and Iran. Secondly, current Iranian assistance to terrorist organizations leads to the danger of leakage of nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations, should Iran have possession of such weapons. Therefore it is clear that a nuclear bomb in Teheran’s hands would change the balance of power between Israel and the terrorist organizations that threaten Israel’s very existence, and undermine the region’s stability even more.
Another important factor is the threat of a nuclear armaments race in the region, a threat that is more relevant today than ever. Saudi Arabian leaders announced publicly that they will not remain indifferent to the existence of an Iranian nuclear bomb, and will develop similar capabilities of their own. Saudi Arabia has the ability to acquire nuclear weapons, and its economic robustness can help it challenge the international community's efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the American policy against a nuclear arms race in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb will place Turkey (a rising regional power) in a dilemma which will be influenced greatly by American readiness and ability to provide it with a “nuclear umbrella.” Egypt is another country that, under certain circumstances, is likely to renew its nuclear efforts. In the face of the decline of American influence in the region, and the dynamic realities of the Middle East, a nuclear Iran raises the dangers of a regional nuclear-arms race and the formation of multi-regional opposing powers, not the two-power configuration that characterized the Cold War.
A comparison between the Soviet and Iranian bombs only reveals the extent to which nuclear power under Tehran will endanger Israel, the region and the entire world.
The author is a research assistant in The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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