Israel’s intelligence minister reiterated on Thursday that Israel will consider military action against Iran should it feel that the country’s nuclear program threatens the Jewish state.
Speaking to a radio station as the United States, Iran, and its international partners appear to have agreed to a broad framework of understanding for how to contain Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, Yuval Steinitz stressed that “if we have no choice we have no choice… the military option is on the table.” The Israeli government has sought to actively undermine the 18-month-long diplomatic talks, now in their final stage, arguing that Tehran cannot be trusted to abide by any international accord that does not force Iran to give up all nuclear capabilities, and has maintained that the ongoing negotiations will pave the way for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Steinitz also justified Israel’s intentions to act alone, if necessary, to neutralize what the government sees as a threat from Tehran. The intelligence chief pointed out that Israel has unilaterally bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. “This operation was not carried out in agreement with the United States,” he said.
But American and Israeli military leaders warn that any strike against Iran would only set Iran back two or three years and could gravely destabilize the region. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, predicted, such action would “bring together a divided nation, it will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.” The Bush administration also considered military intervention in Iran but decided against it after concluding that bombing “would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret” and would likely require military occupation.
Experts point also point out that a strike against Iran “could not be accomplished in a single sortie and would require employing much greater force than Israel used against Iraq.” While Iraq relied on outside suppliers for their nuclear capabilities and were thus unable to rebuild their programs, “Iran would not need outside help” and will reconstitute a more covert operation, a 2008 report published by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) claims.
During an address before Congress last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly hinted that his country could take military action “alone” against Iran in protest of any negotiated agreement.
“As a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand,” he declared.