Living with A Nightmare: Why Israel Must Learn to Live with a Nuclear Iran
(Source:; posted Sept. 07, 2022)

By Timothy Arsh
The nuclear agreement that could be signed soon between the United States, Europe and Iran will not change a fundamental fact: Iran will become a de facto nuclear state. It's just a matter of time and for Israel, it means living with a nightmare that cannot vanish.

Iran, a de facto nuclear state

The 5+1 deal will certainly revolve around the level of uranium that Iran has the right to enrich, its quality and its international supervision. In the first agreement (JCPOA), signed in 2015 under Barack Obama and canceled by Donald Trump in 2018, the quantity of enriched uranium was limited to a rate of up to 3.8%.

Since the deal was canceled and the international surveillance removed, the Iranians have increased the enrichment rate to 60%, and obviously the level has increased dramatically.

For Israel, agree or not, times have changed since 2018 in favor of the ayatollahs. Iran has demonstrated that it can withstand tough, long and highly-targeted sanctions, and has dramatically improved the quality of its centrifuges.

Despite all the public or clandestine maneuvers from Israeli intelligence services, ranging from the Stuxnet virus taking control of the centrifuges of the Natanz plant, to the theft of the nuclear archives in the heart of Tehran, to the targeted assassination of Iranian engineers, the Iranian program is continuing, with this desperate conclusion that the current strategy, although mobilizing all the intelligence and military efforts of Israel, is therefore not working.

Military options: complicated or even useless

Military action on the model of what was done in 1981 in France (against the CNIM installations in Sète), in Iraq (destruction of the Osirak reactor on June 7, 1981) and in Syria (air raid destroying the nuclear reactor under construction near Deir ez-Zor on September 6, 2007) -- is it still possible given the scope of the program, its dynamics and the difficulty of destroying what is deeply buried?

Israel is certainly developing air strike plans, passing more or less through Arabia, just as it is probably developing a second-strike capability thanks to its German-made Dolphin-II submarines, but these first- or second-strike military options will not be enough to destroy or even slow down the Iranian march towards nuclear weapons, which is inherent to the Iranian regime.

Deterrence through a double paralysis?

In recent writings, General Nuriel, a former member of the Israeli National Security Council, imagines a new concept of deterrence by "a double paralysis":

--Paralysis by a regional anti-ballistic defense infrastructure, which the Abraham Accords would make easier to develop;

--Paralysis by transparency: by regularly disseminating Iranian nuclear progress, Israel could create very strong international pressure, likely to make the regime back down.

However brilliant this concept of deterrence by double paralysis may be, it is based on two unlikely hypotheses: the setting up of a fully integrated surface-to-air defense between Arab countries and Israel, and international pressure influencing the Iranian regime.

The first is doubtful and even if it exists one day, it cannot guarantee a perfect sealing of the shield; the second, is immediately unrealistic, Tehran being inflexible on its nuclear and missile program.

Israel is therefore condemned to live with a nuclear Iran.


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