U.S. President-elect Barack Obama plans to offer Israel a strategic pact designed to fend off any nuclear attack on the Jewish state by Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.
Which all sounds very nice, but implicit in such a ”pledge” is that the United States now accepts that Iran’s going nuclear and there’s nothing anyone can (or will) do about it. That’s a significant shift.
As to whether such a pledge will deter Tehran, I mentioned in this NR column that Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of those famously “moderate” types compared to President Ahmadinejad, described Israel as “the most hideous occurrence in history” which the Muslim world “will vomit out from its midst” with “a single atomic bomb.” That last bit is worth quoting more fully. Rafsanjani said:
A single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.
If they were thus calibrating the risks a few years ago, I wonder what they make of this new “pledge”. Richard Fernandez writes:
A combination of tacitly accepting an nuclear-armed Iran and reposing deterrence in Washington could make the Ayatollahs more willing to run the risk. What are the odds that the West can bring itself to enter into a nuclear exchange with Iran if it could not muster the will to prevent Teheran’s acquisition of those weapons in the first place? The Ayatollahs may interpret this proposal as meaning that the West will be a party to any Israeli decision to retaliate for an nuclear attack on its soil, undertaking to attack in lieu or veto the retaliation. It adds one more step in the process of pulling the retaliatory trigger. That can only reduce the certainty of retribution in Teheran’s eyes.
Quoting an unnamed American source close to Obama’s administration, the Haaretz daily said Washington would pledge under the proposed “nuclear umbrella” to respond to any Iranian nuclear strike against Israel with a U.S. retaliation in kind.