Now is not the time for Israel's premier to ease up; it is precisely the time to turn up the pressure on Iran, to get it to pivot from words to deeds.
It’s inconvenient, even embarrassing, but we must admit that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right. He was the main, perhaps the only, force behind putting Iran’s nuclear program on the global agenda. Were it not for him, Europe’s leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama would have closed their eyes, tsk-tsked - and awakened one morning to a nuclear Iran.
In our cynical world there is neither justice nor honesty, only power and vested interests. Israel was the only country Iran threatened to destroy. The Europeans and the Americans believed the nuclear threat would only get as far as Israel, at most, and they could live with that - quite well, even.
Someone had to wake up the West, to frighten them into realizing that they could be next after Israel, that the Iranian threat was serious. That’s what Netanyahu did. Without his pressure, there would have never been tough sanctions, sanctions that led to economic collapse, the steep devaluation of the Iranian rial and crippling inflation that reduces the value of workers’ salaries by the day. As a result, there are long lines at the banks, where Iranians wait in a desperate attempt to exchange rials for gold and dollars.
This economic stranglehold has led to chronic domestic unrest that poses a real threat to the Ayatollahs’ regime. That is why President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was replaced by President Hassan Rohani, who indeed has changed tack. The purpose of his “charm offensive” in the West is to achieve the critical goal of ending the sanctions.
The threat of military action against Iran is also important. The Iranians have no way of knowing whether Obama is serious when he says the military option is still on the table. Nor can they know whether “crazy” Israel might attack them on its own. It has attacked foreign nuclear facilities before. What they do know is that Israel has spent billions on preparing for an attack, as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert disclosed recently.
In any event, Rohani wouldn’t have dreamed of saying on every U.S. talk show that his country does not want nuclear weapons and that it’s time for “heroic flexibility,” were it not for the occasional bizarre accident in Iran (such as the apparent assassination on Wednesday of the commander of the Cyber Warfare Headquarters, Mojtaba Ahmadi), the punishing economic sanctions and the threat of military action.
So it is ridiculous for commentators to now say that Netanyahu should stop threatening and start should supporting Obama’s diplomatic efforts. That’s for The New York Times, from its safe home, to say. But the truth is that now is precisely the time to turn up the pressure on Iran, to get it to pivot from words to deeds. For 20 years now Tehran has been playing the West for a fool, promising to permit inspections while enriching uranium, talking about civilian energy needs while developing detonators and missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The sanctions must not be relaxed, even slightly. Instead, Iran must be forced to relinquish all of its nuclear-bomb manufacturing capacity. Only afterward can it receive a full complete “Marshall Plan” from the United States.
The world must not fall into the North Korean trap. In 2005, the entire world applauded the U.S. diplomatic coup of obtaining North Korea’s promise to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for avoiding sanctions. But not a single centrifuge was dismantled, not one nuclear reactor was shuttered. Washington settled for a goodwill agreement and international monitoring that became a joke. Within 18 months after the agreement was signed, North Korea exploded its first nuclear bomb.
Granted, it’s unfair that a few states have the atom bomb and Iran is being prevented from obtaining one. But if we truly love life we should avoid having to live under the nuclear threat of the ayatollahs. We already know that it’s a cruel world in which we live, not a utopia.
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