How the U.S.-Iran Standoff Looks From Israel: Efraim Inbar

Tehran is located 970 miles (1561 km) from Jerusalem. In 2010, Israel had a defense budget of $13 billion and 176,500 active armed forces personnel; Iran's defense budget was $7 billion with 523,000 active armed forces personnel. Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal is estimated to include 75-200 warheads; the capacity of Iran's nuclear program is uncertain. Charts by Everything Type Company

The upheaval in the Arab world has damaged Israel’s strategic environment. Its peace treaty with Egypt, a pillar of national security for more than three decades, is in question. More important, the events in the Arab world have deflected attention from Israel’s most feared scenario, a nuclear Iran, playing into the Iranian strategy to buy time in order to present the world with a nuclear fait accompli. Israel’s leaders fear that the international response is now unlikely to impact Iranian policy, at a point when its nuclear program is so advanced.

Only in November 2011 did the International Atomic Energy Agency, an institution that for years refused to call a spade a spade, publish a report voicing its concern over Iranian activities that do not easily fit with those of a civilian program. And only in January, did the European Union and the U.S. declare new sanctions that could have a significant effect on Iran’s economy. For Israel, this may have come too late.

Officials in Tel Aviv have tried to alert the West to the dangers of a nuclear Iran for more than a decade. They argued that Iran would cause the technology to proliferate in the region as states such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia sought such weapons, turning a multipolar nuclear Middle East into a strategic nightmare. A nuclear-armed Iran would strengthen its hegemony in the energy sector by its mere location along the oil-rich Persian Gulf and the Caspian Basin.

It would also result in the West’s loss of the Central Asian states, which would either gravitate toward Iran or try to secure a nuclear umbrella with Russia or China, countries much closer to the region than the U.S. is. A regime in Tehran emboldened by the possession of nuclear weapons would become more active in supporting radical Shiite elements in Iraq and agitating those communities in the Persian Gulf states....

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