Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.
Today was my second visit to the offices of the Observer Research Foundation. I went down to their offices to attend the talk delivered by Dr. Yair Evron. His talk was about Iran’s rise as a nuclear power and possible Israeli reaction to it.
He began his talk by describing the Israeli Nuclear Programme, which according to Israel does not exist. It is believed to have been developed in the 1950s and was completely developed by the end of the 1960s. It’s primary reason to go nuclear was as deterrent to stop war with the Arab world. He said that Israel was under tremendous pressure from America not to go nuclear. As a result, it has what is called an ambiguous posture under which it does not admit that it possess nuclear weapons. There are international reports to the contrary.
He said Israel was a responsible nuclear power since it had not made use of nuclear weapons during instances such as the 1973 war and also not used as a coercive tool in political negotiations (which he admits has not worked as a negotiation tactic). He states that Israel had good relations with Iran till 1979. This continued until the Revolution there.
After 1979, relations between Israel and Iran have been hostile. This is mainly because of ideological differences and because of change in political leadership that Iran wanted show to stand against Israel like Jordan and neighbouring Arab countries did.
Evron says that the development of Iranian nuclear capability began after the Iran-Iraq war. It provided reasons such as deterrence against Iraq, USA, Israel and the Soviet Union (who had occupied Iran during the World War and these wounds are fresh in Iranian minds). The first exposure of Iranian nuclear programme happened in 1991 Gulf War. Evron made it clear here that he did not believe in the minimum deterrent theory. He also states that the Wikileaks expose of the Arab request to attack Iran also shows that the Arab countries were equally worried of the impact of Iran going nuclear as Israel was.
The facility for nuclear weapons by Iran began development in the 1990s and this was exposed in 2002. In this case, Iran had violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Iran is a signatory. In 2008, a second nuclear enrichment facility had been exposed. Iran is also believed to have been developing missile systems with nuclear capability. This, he admits is tricky and difficult technology to master. Currently, Evron claims Iran has sufficient uranium for 2 bombs although not weapons grade. Iran currently has, Evron says, nuclear material with a purity of 3.5% to 20% whereas a weapons platform would need 93% Uranium. These are the developments under its Uranium enrichment technique. Iran has also begun working on the plutonium enrichment route.
Evron says that since 2005, Iran has been actively working on an advanced enrichment programme, a weapons programme and developing warheads for missiles.
Commenting a bit on Obama’s current policy on negotiation and economic pressure through sanctions, it says it might work and is a better option than that presented during the Bush administration which wasted a great chance when Iran offered unconditional negotiations in 2003. Evron says that Israel and Iran might have a relationship if Iran goes nuclear.
Evron says that for a stable relationship to take place between a nuclear Iran and Israel, both will have to understand and be mature about the use of nuclear weapons and must be in continuous dialogue with each other. If Iran goes nuclear, he foresees that the Middle East would become unstable since the Arab world could also begin to look for nuclear weapons for deterrence. This could be further used by groups such as the Hezbollah and Hamas to cause what is known as “catalytic war” – provoking countries to take nuclear action. Evron says that dialogue would only become more important if Iran goes nuclear.
Ending his talk, Evron says that the Universities in Iran had free intellectuals till last year who were ready to talk with an Israeli such as him. He says though things have changed in the past one year where they have gotten a bit scared about talking openly. He says civil society in Iran wants regime change and that Israel and the Arab world would accept a moderate Iran.
During the Question and Answer session, he went into details on certain aspects. If Iran were about to go nuclear, he said, he would advise that the US consider the military option against it. Israel taking such actions would have other repercussions in the region. He said the US could perform surgical strikes of Iranian nuclear weapons installations and declare that this was done purely to protect the region. Such an action would not cause Iran to retaliate other than to bad mouth US imperialism and such. He said that if Iran tried responding militarily, the US air force could destroy the Iranian military in a couple of weeks.