Calming Fears Of A Nuclear Iran

Matt Duss is reporting from the Middle East. This is his second post. You can also follow him on twitter.

Debating the question “Can the World Live With a Nuclear Iran” at the annual Herzliya Conference, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Brian Katulis said that, while neither the U.S. nor Israel wants it to get to that point, the Obama administration “has been aggressively confronting these challenges.”

Responding to the sense of panic in the room, and in the country, over the prospect of a nuclear Iran, Katulis said, “Let’s remember, in this region of the world, the U.S. and Israel are the strong horses. We can shape events, and we’ve seen a very aggressive approach from this administration working on all fronts.” “After years of passive appeasement of Iran by the Bush administration, we finally have a strategy in place,” Katulis said, “and it’s working to put pressure on Iran.”

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevi responded to the debate question by asking, “What does it mean to say that world cannot live with nuclear Iran? That the world will de-nuclearize Iran? That it will forestall a nuclear Iran? What might be the price for such a policy? Is there no price one will not pay to prevent a nuclear Iran?”

“We will do everything we can to prevent a nuclear Iran, within confines of sane policy,” Halevi continued, indicating that he did not consider military strikes within that category. Halevi also declared it important to understand that “The U.S. and Israel are winning this war… Israel is in a situation in which it is one of the most powerful forces in the Middle East, [yet] we have this inferiority complex.”

Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh scoffed at the current sanctions on Iran — “We don’t need tickling sanctions, we need crippling sanctions!” — and said that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be far more aggressive. “As for whether Israel can live with nuclear Iran,” Sneh said, “the answer is clear: No.”

Confessing that she “didn’t think there be much debate up here,” Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, said, “I understand the propaganda effect of saying we’re winning. But if Iran is losing, I’d like to be that kind of loser.” Pletka said that she didn’t think a nuclear Iran would be containable, referring to former Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s claim that “Israel as a one bomb country.”

“What I’m saying is not propaganda,” Halevi responded, “but the danger is falling into believing the propaganda of others.” Halevi said that “Israel today is not the Jews in the 1930’s… To compare us to the Holocaust, the idea that we’re in similar danger,” is wrong. The destruction of Israel “will not happen,” Halevi insisted, “not because we simply say it, but because we have means to prevent it.”