There is a very clear and worrying thread linking the infiltration of a drone into Israeli airspace from Lebanon and the unyielding positions vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear program as expressed by Vice President Joe Biden in the televised debate against his Republican rival. This thread expresses something we actually should have internalized a long while ago: The American government has never understood the Middle East and fundamental Islam, and it probably never will.
The mental and cultural gaps are so vast, that even simple terms such as "nuclear weapons" have a different meaning on both sides of the ocean. Therefore, with all due respect, the American administration is not a good advisor to Israel when it comes to the Iranian issue. It is full of good intentions, but on issues related to the Islamic world it is far from being an expert.
In Israel, some members of the security establishment have been infected with this same blindness. When the Iranian drone was shot down some 30 kilometers from Dimona, Israel cheered: The plot has been thwarted. In Western language, which Israel uses as well, the presence of a hostile drone is supposed to have some sort of operational purpose. Someone had sent it to take pictures, check the alertness of Israel's defense systems and send back data. In short: It was supposed to carry out a practical mission with tangible results. Since these results were not achieved, the mission failed.
But in the language of the Iranians and Nasrallah, the fact that the unmanned aircraft penetrated Israeli airspace is a huge achievement on a psychological level. As far as they are concerned, this was the purpose of the mission. The aircraft was launched out of desperation. Assad is in trouble, Hezbollah terrorists are getting killed in Syria, Nasrallah's influence in Lebanon is waning, and he is sending the region a message: I promised a surprise weapon, and I kept my promise. We possess capabilities you are not aware of, so don't mess with us.
Biden, as a representative of the US administration's way of thinking, reads the intelligence data on the Iranian nuclear program and does not understand what he is reading. When he explains to the world in English that Iran is still far from being able to produce a nuclear weapon – it sounds different in Persian. It is not enough to enrich uranium, Biden says, and he's right. The Iranians have yet to develop the systems that can carry this uranium. And here is where the deception that stems from the cultural differences comes into play. When the American speaks of nuclear weapons he is referring to a mature weapons system that had been tested repeatedly. He is speaking of modern missiles that are equipped with navigation systems and fuses that will cause the maximum amount of damage.
Here lies the real dispute between Israel and the US. According to the American viewpoint, three to five years will pass before the Iranians can produce a nuclear weapon. Israel, on the other hand, is talking about nuclear capabilities, not nuclear weapons, and points to a process that may be completed within a few months.
According to Israel's outlook, the Iranians will have military nuclear capabilities without producing a missile that is on par with American standards. It is enough that they place a few nuclear warheads on inaccurate missiles, with an unsophisticated fuse, whose only advantage is that they can reach Israel and maybe even explode - just as Saddam Hussein did not wait until he had sophisticated Scud missiles to attack Israel and made due with makeshift missiles, some of which fell apart in mid-air. His goal was to drag Israel into the war – not to defeat it.
The outdated technology of Iran's nuclear missiles, just like the obsolete technology of the "simple" drone that was sent from Lebanon, is enough for the Iranians to create a new Middle East, with new rules, and hurt Israel's resilience.