Israel Attacking Iran Is Like Kettle Bombing the Pot Black

Israel denouncing Iran for enriching uranium and working on nuclear-weapons technology is like a kettle calling the pot black. First, in the interests of clarity, this author is not an Iran apologist. But, however destabilizing, not to mention duplicitous, Iran’s nuclear-weapons R&D may be, it’s not necessarily illegal. At Race for Iran, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett explain.

Iranian efforts to develop a “nuclear weapons capability”, as described by [Mohamed ElBaradei, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency] may make American and Israeli elites uncomfortable. But it is not a violation of the NPT or any other legal obligation that the Islamic Republic has undertaken. While the NPT prohibits non-nuclear-weapon states from building atomic bombs, developing a nuclear weapons capability is, in Baradei’s words, “kosher” under the NPT, see here. It is certainly not a justification—strategically, legally, or morally—for armed aggression against Iran.

Israel, of course, hasn’t signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its refusal to come clean about its nuclear-weapons program is exponentially more duplicitous than whatever Iran has hidden about its nuclear-weapons work. To those states that have signed the NPT, Israel’s program is undeniably illegal. As reported by the Washington Post in 2005, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani presented the view of Iran as an NPT signatory (fancy word for signer).

Allegations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons were being made … “when Israel has stockpiled banned nuclear weapons without any protest or opposition from the IAEA.”

Israel scores as low on the legality of its nuclear-weapons program as the other non-NPT signers that possess nuclear weapons — North Korea, Pakistan, and India. But it scores high on the unwritten rationality index of illegal nuclear weapons states maintained by the West. North Korea — considered most likely to launch a first strike with its nuclear weapons as first strike — is at the bottom. In the middle, though sliding inexorably downwards, is Pakistan. Along with India, Israel occupies the top spot, despite its war-mongering, which begs the question of not only a pre-emptive strike against Iran but even, if desperate, a nuclear attack.

Yes, Israel’s “rational” leaders rattle their sabers at least as much as Kim Jong-il. As Simon Tisdall wrote at the Guardian:

Those glum doomsayers, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defence chief Ehud Barak, and president Shimon Peres, are frantically ringing alarm bells like a trio of demented churchwardens.

Let’s review. Iran has signed NPT, possesses no nuclear weapons, and threatens to bomb nobody. Legality: However legalistically, its nuclear program passes. Rationality: Despite what many in Israel and in the United States believe, it seeks neither the decimation of the Jewish state nor a conflagration to pave the way for the return of the Mahdi. Thus, it passes. Cooperation: With the IAEA — juvenile … fails.

Israel, meanwhile, has never signed the NPT, may possess hundreds of nuclear weapons (possibly including the thermonuclear “H bomb”), and threatens Iran on a regular basis. Legality: Fails: Rationality: Fails. Cooperation: Questionable at best. Especially, if this “disclosure, made by insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America’s most senior defence chief and Benjamin Netanyahu,” as reported by the Telegraph on November 12, is true:

[The Obama administration] was rebuffed last month when [it] demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to “seek Washington’s permission”, sources said.

A state that’s in possession of an illegal nuclear weapons program and that’s beating the drums for war with the manic intensity of a Japanese taiko drum group can stake no claim to the moral high ground. Nor does a state, such as the United States, that supports such a state. Ultimately the kettle needs to break out the lye and scrub off its own black before it can expect another state to come up shiny.