Abraham ben Zvi Washington and the axis of evil
“One thing is clear, however: Contrary to Trump’s initial message of isolationism and drawing inward into America, the holding defense doctrine he presented to the world last week clearly demonstrated his willingness to decisively and uncompromisingly confront challenges. Together with the international community, he is ready to face the centers of fanaticism and radicalism that are threatening the U.S.’s national interests and the stability of the entire system. This is a major step toward rehabilitating the U.S.’s status and ability to lead, which eroded during former President Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House.”
Iran’s ballistic missile test on Friday, which included a projectile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles), making it capable of reaching much of the Middle East, including Israel, again highlighted the weakness of the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers, namely the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
It is common to think that countries that develop such missiles plan to mount nuclear warheads on them, and there is no reason to believe that Iran is different from any other nation in this regard. The thing is, ballistic missiles were not explicitly mentioned in the nuclear deal. Moreover, the agreement allows Iran to develop the next generation of centrifuges, which are 10 times faster than the ones Iran possessed prior to signing the deal.
This means that Iran, without ever violating the terms of its deal with the West, will – when the restrictions on it expire – be in possession of faster options by which to produce enriched uranium, as well as the missiles needed to carry a bomb.
One has to be hopelessly optimistic or extremely naive to think the Iranians will not take advantage of the legitimacy they will enjoy once the deal elapses to become a nuclear state, or at the very least, a nuclear threshold state that could build and launch a bomb within a few months without anyone being able to stop it.
To understand the Iranian frame of mind, all one needs to do is look at North Korea’s moves. But Iran is far larger and stronger than North Korea.
Like Iran, North Korea signed several agreements, albeit less detailed, but based on the same principles, to limit its progress toward military nuclear capabilities; like Iran, North Korea also exploited the West’s hesitation to take action against it when it emerged that it was in violation of the agreements; and like Iran, North Korea knew how to exploit the tensions between world powers to advance its nuclear program without the world reaching an agreement on what is the best course of action to stop it.
As it turns out, if the United States does not take action to stop the likes of North Korea or Iran, no other world power will. But the U.S. is on the fence. It is interesting to see what course of action Washington will pursue now, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s strongly worded speech at the United Nations last week, before the Iranians held their defiant ballistic missile test.
This is a critical question for Israel, because an American decision to do nothing will oblige Israel to think of what it may be required to do by itself in the future.