On Friday, September 28, 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the U.N. Security Council in New York about the threat that Iran’s nuclear program poses for Israel and the world. He called on the Western Allies to draw a “red-line” on Iran’s progress toward having enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon and dare them to cross it. Netanyahu believes Iran will back down in the face of this ultimatum. However, it is important to note that there is no evidence at this time that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons with their nuclear program. Iran claims it’s nuclear program is for energy and medical treatments. Iran is also a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which the U.S. and Israel are not). The last I.A.E.A report made some unsupported claims but gave no credible evidence that Iran is pursing a nuclear weapon. In this speech, Netanyahu presents evidence that Iran is a terrorist nation and that a nuclear Iran is analogous to a nuclear al Qaeda. Is this a fair comparison? Before we commit our soldiers to war with Iran, let us be sure. To this end, I will examine what I feel are the most relevant points that Netanyahu gives to support his argument. I have italicized these excerpts from Netanyahu’s speech.
First, it is important to have an accurate assessment about the state of affairs within the state of Israel itself with regard to Jewish and Arab Israelis. Netanyahu paints a slightly ingenuous picture in his speech:
“Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – all are equal before the law.”
A 2003 study by the Israel’s own government, the Or Commission, found a “stain of discrimination” against Arab citizens of Israel in virtually all areas of society including land usage, government services, education, and employment.
Netanyahu explains that nuclear deterrence may not work with Iran:
“Militant Jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them.”
After scouring the Internet and the authoritative book on Suicide Terrorism by Robert Pape, I have yet to find one Iranian suicide bomber. According to Robert Pape, there have been 315 suicide attacks committed by 462 suicide bombers from 1980 to 2003. Of the 315 attacks, the most attacks (76) were not even committed by Islamic fundamentalists but by a Leninist/Marxist group in Sri Lanka called the Tamil Tigers. Moreover, according to Pape, “No follower of Iranian or Iraqi Shi’ism has ever become an al Qaeda suicide terrorist (Pape, Robert. The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Kindle Edition. Location 1679).”
Netanyahu then accuses a prominent Iranian leader as advocating a nuclear first-strike on Israel.
“Just listen to Ayatollah Rafsanjani who said, I quote: ‘The use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything, however it would only harm the Islamic world.’ Rafsanjani said: ‘It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.’”
Netanyahu is referring to a sermon given by Rafsanjani, the 4th president of Iran, on December 14, 2001. Let’s look at the full context of this quote:
“If one day … Of course, that is very important. If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Of course, you can see that the Americans have kept their eyes peeled and they are carefully looking for even the slightest hint that technological advances are being made by an independent Islamic country. If an independent Islamic country is thinking about acquiring other kinds of weaponry, then they will do their utmost to prevent it from acquiring them. Well, that is something that almost the entire world is discussing right now.”
When examined in full context, it becomes clear the Rafsanjani is talking about the nuclear deterrence strategy of Israel and it’s allies, not advocating a nuclear first-strike on Israel. Now, I believe this was a completely imprudent and inappropriate point to make publicly because it does beg the question of whether Iran would take advantage of this “standstill.” Nevertheless it was misinterpreted. Rafsanjani confirmed this when he discovered the misinterpretation and he even stated that no country in the region should have nuclear weapons including Iran.
“We really do not seek to build nuclear weapons and a nuclear military system. In a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, I even once said that an atomic bomb would not benefit the occupation regime of Israel. Eventually, if one day a nuclear conflict takes place, Israel as a small country, will not be able to bear an atomic bomb. It is a small country and all its facilities would be destroyed. However, they interpreted this advice as a threat. We really believe that there should not be any nuclear weapon in the region and this is a part of the principles of our politics.”
Netanyahu also appealed to a Middle Eastern scholar to back his position that Iran could not be trusted with nuclear technology:
“There’s a great scholar of the Middle East, Prof. Bernard Lewis, who put it best. He said that for the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it’s an inducement. Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth.”
Dr. Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, commenting on this remark in his blog, “Informed Comment, ” calls this a “shockingly ignorant and Orientalist thing to say.” Dr Cole points out that the sayings of Shiism:
“typically predict that the Twelfth Imam will arise ‘when the world is full of injustice.’ It isn’t an atomic explosion that would usher him in, but oppression and brutality.”
To be continued…