In an August 11 “guest essay” for The New York Times, titled “America Needs to Start Telling the Truth About Israel’s Nukes,” Peter Beinart effectively equates the Islamic Republic Iran — which the United States has deemed the “world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism” with the Middle East’s only democracy and staunch American ally: Israel.
In doing so, Beinart, inadvertently or otherwise, downplays the global threat posed by Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons — especially as it pertains to the one and only Jewish state — and essentially questions Israel’s right to defend itself by all means necessary against a fanatical regime that has repeatedly called for its destruction.
Making A Mockery of Nonproliferation
A central argument of the piece is that Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity is preventing the “dream of a nuclear-free Middle East” from becoming a reality and that “feigning ignorance about Israeli nuclear weapons makes a mockery of America’s efforts at nonproliferation.” Indeed, Beinart reminds readers that the Jewish state has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), suggesting that there is a double standard at play: Iran potentially being forced to accept inspections more stringent than those of the NPT that Israel is not obligated to.
Yet, a piece that puts a premium on one treaty, the NPT, makes no mention of a key fact about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Beinart briefly alludes to. Otherwise known as the ‘Iran Deal,’ the JCPOA was struck in 2015 by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, together with the European Union. It was theoretically designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by increasing the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in exchange for sanctions relief.
According to proponents of the JCPOA, full compliance by Iran would keep the country’s “breakout time” at one year.
Since the deal was implemented with great fanfare in 2016, the Islamic Republic has repeatedly violated the JCPOA. In July, Tehran announced that it could enrich uranium up to 90 percent purity – a level suitable for a nuclear bomb.
Connection Between Israel’s ‘Last Resort’ and Normalization With Arab States
Meanwhile, what Beinart refers to as Israel’s “hiding the truth” by not joining the NPT may actually be discouraging Middle East countries from pursuing their own nuclear weapons, according to some military analysts. Many view this policy of nuclear opaqueness as having thus contributed to regional stability because nations hostile to Israel are cognizant of the fact that the Jewish state’s deterrence strategy likely relies on the so-called Samson Option; that is, the possibility of retaliating using nuclear weapons as a last resort to counter any potentially existential threat.
This undoubtedly partially accounts for why no army has launched a conventional military attack against Israel since 1973; this, following Arab-initiated wars in 1948, 1956, and 1967. Today, even as Israel is believed to have nuclear capabilities, calls by regional states to annihilate it are increasingly being replaced by attempts to normalize relations with Jerusalem.
This was recently the case with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, which all forged open diplomatic relations with the Jewish state as part of the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords.
Beinart Ignores Iran’s Race to Build A Nuclear Bomb
While lambasting Israel, Beinart uses conspicuously passive language to describe Iran’s nuclear program:
[The] American government’s deceptive silence [on Israel’s alleged nukes] prevents a more honest debate at home about the dangers an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose.”
If fact, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced the Iranian nuclear issue to the top of the international community’s agenda a decade ago, causing widespread discussion about the matter. Netanyahu raised the red flag about a potential nuclear Iran during his first premiership when in 1996 he addressed a joint session of Congress.
Is Beinart unaware of this? Not possible given that he has written numerous articles excoriating Netanyahu’s nuclear policy (see, for example, here).
So is a quarter of a century not long enough to have an “honest debate at home about the dangers an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose”?
More to the point: On August 4, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz — who is widely considered left-of-center on the political spectrum — warned that Tehran was just 10 weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. Speaking at a United Nations Security Council briefing, Gantz therefore told ambassadors that “now is the time for deeds – words are not enough.”
False Equivalence Between A Regime Committed To Genocide and Israel
It appears that Beinart’s entire thesis rests on the presumption that Israel and many of its supporters abroad have overstated the threat the Islamic Republic poses:
American politicians sometimes say an Iranian bomb would pose an ‘existential’ threat to Israel. That’s a dubious claim, given that Israel possesses a nuclear deterrent it can deploy on air, land and sea.”
The problem with this rationale is that Israel has repeatedly been described as a “one-bomb” country, meaning that its size nearly precludes the possibility that it could survive even a single nuclear attack that struck Tel Aviv, for example. By blithely conflating Israel, approximately the size of New Jersey, with Iran, the second-largest country in the Middle East with a population of over 83 million, Beinart leaves key geopolitical factors out of his piece.
And Iran is not just any country. Its leadership continues to boast about its desire to eradicate Israel’s population of just 9 million:
— Hossein Dalirian (@HosseinDalirian) March 21, 2018
Beinart Mute On Iran’s Support For Genocidal Palestinian Groups
Another relevant geopolitical reality that Beinart misses is Tehran’s connection to Palestinian terrorist groups committed to the Jewish state’s destruction. On August 7, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi used part of his first day in office to meet with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad Nakhaleh. He also sat down with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Talal Naji.
All three Palestinian terror group leaders were in Iran to attend Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony.
Yet, Tehran’s empowerment of organizations dedicated to wiping Israel off the map is simply ignored by Beinart. By omitting such crucial context, readers of his piece may come away with the impression that Israel’s national security policy against these same terror groups, and their primary benefactor, “empowers those Iranians who claim Tehran has the right to match its regional rival.”
By drawing a false equivalence between Tehran’s genocidal ambitions and Israel’s response to that documented threat, Peter Beinart misleads readers about the true nature of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
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Featured Image: Peter Beinart photo via Wikipedia
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