Beyond the details of what goes on at the nuclear site, beyond the Iranian response to its exposure, and beyond the American president’s response, another intriguing aspect preoccupies Europe and the US at this time: Will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu order the Air Force to destroy the Iranian nuclear project, or at least the parts of it that are known to Israel?
The answer to this is not clear-cut. The effect here does not have to do with the mere exposure of the site, but rather, with the influence of this exposure on global public opinion and mostly on the global powers’ conduct vis-à-vis Iran.
The way it appeared in the past two days at least, there is room for hope that the revelations, which made headlines worldwide, will in fact reduce the likelihood of Israel taking the step that it is so uninterested in taking.
Although the new revelations do not fully incriminate Iran in respect to the suspicions of developing nuclear weapons, they prove that it blatantly lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency and that it hid critical information about its nuclear project.
It is clear to everyone that had Iran been interested in an atomic enterprise merely in order to produce electric energy, as it claims, it would have no reason to hide a giant facility of centrifuges that in any case cannot produce sufficient electricity. Moreover, it would not build such site underground and safeguard it with anti-aircraft missile batteries.
The revelations prove that Israel’s warnings in recent years were accurate: The Iranians are indeed aspiring to produce doomsday weapons.
Iranian regime not suicidal
According to Israeli estimates, the revelations will encourage the major powers to respond. The first sign of this was the unusual press conference held by the leaders of the US, France, and Britain.
Should they respond, as expected, by tightening the economic sanctions on Tehran, it may still be possible to curb the Iranian nuclear project and make an Israeli strike unnecessary.
Iran views the prospect of turning into a nuclear power as a sort of insurance policy that would guarantee the regime’s survival. Should the great powers make it clear that it is in fact the project’s continuation that may exact a price tag that would topple the regime (for example, by tightening the economic sanctions,) the Ayatollahs in Tehran could very well reconsider their options.
The Iranian regime may support suicide terrorism, yet it is not suicidal itself. At the end of the day, the leading and possibly only interest its leaders care about is its own survival.
Ronen Bergman, a correspondent for Israel’s largest daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the “The Secret War With Iran”