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    Middle East
     May 8, 2012

Israel stokes the 'Iran threat'
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Germany's highly public delivery last week to Israel of its fourth nuclear-armed capable submarine has been accompanied by Israeli spin regarding its significance as a warning signal to Iran, thus raising the question of timing: why is Israel tacitly presenting the specter of a nuclear attack on Iran when Tehran is showing signs of compromise in the ongoing talks on Tehran's nuclear program?

The "P5+1", also known as the "Iran Six" - the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United

States, Britain, France, China and Russia) plus Germany - are due for another round of talks this month with Iran in Baghdad, Iraq.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the submarine would increase Israelís capabilities and strength "in the face of the growing regional challenges".

The Dolphin-type military submarine is one of six Israel has ordered from Germany, which subsidizes the submarines. Each submarine costs half a billion dollars. The sub was presented to Israeli officials in Hamburg, Germany, on Thursday and is expected to arrive in Israel in 2013, following final tests, the Washington Post reported.

Israel has used the occasion to remind Tehran of Israel's clear and present menace, given the submarine's 1,500 kilometer range, making it capable of hitting targets in and around the capital city of Tehran. There is, though, no official confirmation that Israel has armed the subs it already has with nuclear weapons. Similarly, Israel has never acknowledged that it has a nuclear arsenal.

Inevitably, the news from Germany has unsettled Tehran, which has questioned Berlin's counter-proliferation claims, clearly contradicted by the submarines' sale that simply bolsters Israel's "second strike" nuclear capability. Berlin cannot have it both ways, profess nuclear pacifism and simultaneously fuel regional proliferation in the Middle East.

Germany's own nuclear export guidelines are shredded into pieces every time it dishes up new nuclear hardware to Tel Aviv. This point has bypassed some German pundits who advise Berlin on Iran policy. [1]

Sections of the media have blamed the Iran media, eg the state-owned Press TV in particular, for drawing attention to the Israeli nuclear threat. [2]

The thought that the Iranians and or other Muslim or Arab nations in Israel's vicinity may have legitimate concerns about Israel's unobstructed nuclear build-up simply is not part of the pro-Israel discourse.

The real question, however, is, again, about the timing. Israel is desperately trying to dissuade Iran from making any compromises that would end the Iran crisis, given the wealth of hopeful signs for a productive summit in Baghdad.

Thus the reason for making new subtle nuclear threats against Iran is the hope that Tehran will eschew any compromise and seek instead a nuclear shield or deterrent capability.

This way, Tel Aviv does not have to worry that the morning after an Iran deal at Baghdad or any subsequent forum, the world community prioritizes Israel's unchecked nuclearization.

Interestingly, although it is the sole country in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal, Israel is unconcerned about the risk of appearing incoherent by simultaneously paying lip-service to the idea of a "nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East", which was endorsed by even Western capitals at a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference over a decade ago.

A new United Nations conference on this subject is scheduled for late 2012 and Israel has agreed to participate, while its media have criticized Iran for refusing to take part due to Israel's presence.

In fact, Iran has not yet adopted an official position on the conference and there is a spirited debate inside the country as to whether or not to participate. By all indications, if by then the "Iran Six" talks have progressed to the point of a timely breakthrough, Iran's clout and authority to influence world public opinion on the subject of a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone would have been increased.

Israel on the other hand would be hard pressed to justify its nuclear obstructionism and refusal to make any tangible moves toward fulfilling this lofty objective. Israel's intended circuit-breaker, aimed at maintaining its nuclear hegemony in the Middle East while enjoying the multiple benefits of a continuing Iran nuclear crisis, is linked to its correct forecast of what new pressures will be exerted on Israel in the event of a breakthrough in the Iran nuclear talks.

That is, success in those talks means net failure for Israel, despite its official pretensions of being genuinely rattled by an "existential Iran nuclear threat", a wild claim questioned even by some Israeli pundits who have pointed out that Israel may also lose billions of dollars of foreign aid currently streaming into its coffers partly as a result of the Iran threat.

That is, the real threat to Israel's vested interests seemingly comes from the absence of such an Iran threat.

1. Iran Campaign Targeting Israel as Global Nuclear Threat, the Jewish Press, May 5.
2. See the article by the head of the Berlin think-tank, SWP, that ignores any and all connections between Israel's nuclear menace to Iran and Iran's nuclear issue.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).

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