Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nuclear weapons: Iran vs. Israel

Yesterday's newspapers trumpeted the news that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on his visit to President Bush's Texas ranch, urged Mr. Bush to put pressure on Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons. On the surface, this looks like exceptional chutzpah (gall, for those unfamiliar with this Yiddishism) on Mr. Sharon's part. After all, Israel itself already has its own nuclear weapons. No other Middle East country has such a capability.
But there's a very significant difference between nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel, which threatens no one, and Iran, which belligerently threatens to wipe out the Jewish state.
Israel is a tiny country of a bit more than 5 million people. The bulk of them are refugees and their descendents who fled countries where Jews were killed, persecuted and unwanted. They have rebuilt the homeland in which their very ethnic/religious identify was originally established.
They are surrounded by 22 different Arab nations--most of them hostile--and some dozen other unfriendly Muslim lands, many of whom--like Iran--are dedicated to the destruction of what they call "the Zionist entity."
Against this backdrop, for Israel nuclear weapons are a vital deterrent against its enemies. Yet Israel has never threatened preemptive use of its nuclear arms against any other country.
Iran has made no secret that it wants nuclear weapons to destroy the state of Israel. This objective dominates the sermons of Iran's ruling ayatollahs and is constantly echoed by clerics and some political leaders in other Muslim countries. There is no rational explanation for this genocidal obsession except, perhaps, religious and ethnic fanaticism.
The Iranian threat has recently become more serious. Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, claims that Iran already has medium-range ballistic missiles "capable of reaching Tel Aviv." Moreover, Ukraine's new president has revealed that his country's previous leadership secretly sold to Iran cruise missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead.
No wonder Mr. Sharon had chutzpah.

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