MIDDLE EAST UPDATE
Having just returned from Israel, I bring responses from the local scene. Landing in Tel Aviv immediately tells one that Israel is on the move. When I first came to Israel in l968, it was an entirely different country. One had to drive some distance to get to Tel Aviv. Not anymore! The city is a thriving metropolis that now virtually abuts the airport with skyscrapers shooting up into the sky! Israel is going forward.
However, concern remains.
Israel has never made claims against Iran. Nevertheless, the president of Iran continues to threaten the annihilation of Israel. The tension is like having your next door neighbor sitting on his roof with a machine gun aimed at your backyard. Here’s the problem.
United Nations atomic inspectors have indicated Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs. They have discovered that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has a loophole Iran is pushing. The treaty sets no limits on the level of enrichment purity. It only bars nations from converting civilian efforts into military use. Iran claims they are doing nothing barred by treaty obligations. A nuclear physicist with the Federation of American Scientists recently said, “Iran is raising eyebrows. But what it’s doing is a concern –not illegal.”
Try explaining that over coffee to an Israeli! They won’t buy the story!
Israelis know about the reality of life inside Iran.
Because of Western sanctions, factories are beginning to be forced to close or reduce production. Prodigious economic pain is generating discontent. Prices are high and manufacturing difficult. One producer of thread and textiles recently admitted that sanctions have aggravated pre-existing economic difficulties. In the June 17, 2012 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff reported his findings after making a 1,700 mile trip through Iran. He discovered that the backlash of sanctions has produced anger with Iran’s leadership. Local citizens blame their own officials for the local problems. The average Iranian is far more focused on loss of work and income than they are on the fading hopes raised by the nuclear program.
As recent demonstrations revealed, Iran has a serious split in its own society. Many, many of the younger citizens are not buying what the Ayatollahs are selling. Their interest lies in a healthy open society rather than an imposed Moslem state. In this sense, sanctions appear to be working. This success raises questions about a military strike from Israel. Israeli’s understand this issue.
Talking with Israeli leaders revealed the heartfelt hope that sanctions will end the crisis and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) will not have to strike. No one wants military actions if it can be avoided. On the other hand, they live with the motto “Never Again.” I found no hesitancy to strike if it becomes necessary.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Benn Gantz offered strong reasons why Israel must be ready to strike immediately if necessary. He indicated that they are “super-ready” to strike if there is no progress in the current nuclear discussions with Iran. Gantz maintains total confidence in the air force and intelligence.
Of course, Iran has to be aware of Gantz’s remarks and that too poses an additional pressure on their position.
The bottom line? I found an expectation that confrontations are ahead. Let’s hope Iran realizes they are the ones hanging in the balance.
How long can Israel afford to wait?
Should America increase the economic pressure on Iran to provide a faster answer?