Iran does not Fear the US and Israel

An axiom effectively regulates Iranian regime attitudes towards the US. Iran fears Republican administrations but not Democratic administrations. This is true today as well. On the contrary, Iran deters the US which dares not attack the Iranian nuclear weapons program due to a well-founded fear that it will suffer Iranian retribution on the US mainland that will be worse than the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. Iran knows perfectly well that it can attack urban America with chemical WMD under a Democratic administration as the lofty humanitarian ideals of the Democratic party will effectively prevent the US from responding with nuclear weapons against Iran. Republican presidents are a different matter who certainly would not hesitate to nuke a major Persian city.

It is unclear however why Iran does not fear Israel. Iran has equipped Hezbollah with chemical weapons which are intended to be used against Israeli cities after Israel destroys the Iranian nuclear weapons program, something which is to be expected in the earliest in the summer of 2023 after elections have been held in Turkey. The most plausible explanation however is Muslim Anti-Semitism according to which Jews generally are inherent cowards.There is a difference however between the US and Israel as Iran deters the US but not Israel which remains entirely undeterred by Iran.

US talk about “other options” remains entirely unpersuasive to the Khomeinist leadership in Tehran. The truth is that America fears Iran and is probably ready to live with a nuclear Iran as it thinks that the price of a second 9/11 (this time potentially with tens of thousands of dead American civilians) is too heavy a price to pay for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Israel however does not think any price is too high for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons as Israel knows perfectly well that Iran intends to use nuclear weapons to in Ali Khamenei’s frequently repeated words “annihilate Israel”. America of course knows that Israel is hell-bent on preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability and thus outsources a strategic attack against the Iranian nuclear weapons program to Israel. Israel will have to absorb mass projectile attacks, including chemical weapons attacks against Israeli cities. America does not want to pay the price, or rather Democratic presidents are generally not ready to pay the price. 

The pivotal question is how Israel can establish nuclear deterrence against Iran without using nuclear weapons. An Israeli nuclear attack against Iran’s clerical capital of Qom in response to Hezbollah causing many Halabjas in urban Israel would probably establish Israeli deterrence against Iran. However, there is a fundamental asymmetry between Iran and Israel. Iran wants to annihilate urban Israel while Israel does not want to annihilate urban Iran whose peoples nowadays generally are very favorably disposed towards Israel and the Jewish people. Furthermore there are 2-3 million Median Jews (Yarsanis, Alevis, Bektashis, Yezidis and Zoroastrians as well as Mandaeans) in Iran and hundreds or more could die in an Israeli nuclear weapons attack against a major city in Iran. Tehran is completely immune to an Israeli nuclear attack due to its 8 000 strong rabbinically Jewish minority population.

One option for establishing Israeli nuclear deterrence against Iran would be for Israel to go public about its nuclear weapons program and publish its nuclear doctrine vis-a-vis Iran which would clearly explain the nuclear price tag for attacking urban Israel with chemical WMD. Israel is known for its sensitivities about genocide and that may be a factor which destroys Israel’s nuclear weapons deterrence posture against Iran. There is apparently a sense in Tehran that Israel’s nuclear weapons, although very real, are an empty threat which Israel does not intend to use other than in the highly hypothetical event of facing strategic defeat on the conventional battlefield.

Establishing nuclear deterrence vis-a-vis Iran is a major challenge for Israel and is an issue that requires urgent reevaluation of Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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