Why Iran Won’t Nuke Israel

Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, sooner or later. Some commentators think that it will take them until 2013 — only a year or two from now. Others say that Iran could build a nuclear bomb by sometime in 2012, if they ramp up their uranium purification efforts. But they have already announced such a ramp up. They have completed development on a new generation of more efficient centrifuges, and they have begun production in the underground nuclear facility at Fordow. But in any case, no expert is saying that Iran will never obtain nuclear weapons. It is only a matter of time. Even in a best case scenario, Iran will obtains nuclear weapons within a couple of years.

Iran also has a program to design a nuclear missile. That program is a year or two behind the nuclear bomb program, according to the recent (Nov 2011) IAEA report.

The general assumption of most commentators, whether it is stated or implied, is that when Iran eventually obtains nuclear weapons, they will nuke Israel. I disagree. I believe that there are sound reasons to conclude that Iran will not attack Israel with nuclear weapons, but the United States instead.

1. Israel has had nuclear weapons for many years. They have had sufficient time to develop sophisticated bombs, more than a few of them, and to design missiles that can carry those weapons. In all likelihood, Israel has nuclear missiles.

2. Israel is a small nation, surrounded by its enemies. If even one nuclear bomb were used to attack Israel, the nation would be devastated. Its ability to defend itself from a subsequent conventional attack would be severely impaired. The nation would be on the brink of destruction.

3. So if Iran were to attack Israel with a nuclear bomb, Israel would have nothing to lose by responding with nuclear missiles. And Israel likely has enough nuclear missiles to completely destroy Iran.

4. If Iran were to nuke Israel, the nuclear fallout would spread to a number of the surrounding Arab/Muslim nations. The populace would blame Iran, reducing Iran’s influence in that region. This result would be contrary to Iran’s aspiration to become the dominant power of the region.

5. Therefore, Iran cannot attack Israel with nuclear weapons.

Even so, the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran is crucial to its goal to destroy Israel. At the present time, Iran cannot attack Israel with conventional weapons because Israel could reply with a large number of nuclear missiles. Israel would only do so if it were on the brink of destruction, because the nuclear fallout would devastate the region, but it could do so.

Once Iran possesses nuclear weapons, the situation changes. Israel is then much less likely to reply to a conventional attack by using nuclear weapons against Iran. This opens up the possibility that Iran and other enemies of Israel could try to defeat Israel in a conventional war. Possessing nuclear weapons allows Iran to make (or instigate) a conventional war against Israel, with little fear of a nuclear reprisal.

The remaining obstacle to such a conventional attack against Israel is that the United States will defend Israel with its military resources. Iran has long understood this relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Iranian leaders have repeatedly called the U.S., ‘the great satan’, and Israel, ‘the little satan’. They shout ‘death to America’ as well as ‘death to Israel’. So in order to defeat Israel in a conventional war, Iran would have to break the alliance between those two nations.

Once Iran has nuclear weapons, it will likely attack the United States. The situation is not the same as it is with Israel. A nuclear bomb explosion in the U.S., as devastating as that would be, would not destroy the entire nation. The U.S. would be unlikely to respond with nuclear weapons because the radioactive fallout would affect our troops in Afghanistan, our allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, NATO member Turkey, and even Russia, which is a nuclear power. Any destabilization of Pakistan would increase the likelihood that India would use its nuclear weapons. The radioactive fallout from a U.S. attack on Iran might also reach Israel or Europe.

Iran could also lessen the possibility of a U.S. nuclear response by threatening to use a second nuclear weapon, kept ready in a location outside of Iran. Therefore, we could not risk a nuclear response. And we do have a massive capability to launch a conventional war. So the U.S. response would be conventional, not nuclear, even if Iran were to attack us with a nuclear bomb.

Iran wants a war with the U.S. and Israel and eventually with Europe. They believe that they must make war against Christians and Jews in order to hasten the arrival of the End Times.

Which location in the U.S. will Iran attack with a nuclear bomb?
New York City

More on this topic in my book:
Notes on the Apocalypse: 2012

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator

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