One might be led to believe that Iran with its program for developing nuclear capacity is the most dangerous nation in the Middle East. However, history leads in another direction.

NPR periodically reports that 9 nations now possess nuclear weapons; 183 do not.  Of the nine 3 are recent arrivals — India, Pakistan, and North Korea.  Five are the long-termers that engaged in the Cold War — France, Britain, United States, Russia (then Soviet Union) and China.  Not publicly acknowledged but disclosed by an Israeli citizen who spent 18 years in jail for revealing states secrets, Israel developed nuclear weapons several decades ago:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/israel/index04.html

Informal guesses place the total number of bombs in the Israeli stockpile at somewhere between 100 to 300 which could be launched around the Middle East to strike most of the nations in the vicinity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction

Israel has been quite protective about maintaining its standing as the sole possessor of the bomb in the region. When Saddam Hussein seemed on the verge of developing his own, Israel blew away his nuclear plant in 1981 before it could be started up with a neat surgical hit on a holiday that did not even kill anyone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osirak

Personally I was one of the few working in human rights areas then who approved the Israeli hit.  Checking Hussein’s nuclear weapon capacities seemed the only way to go.

When threatened by other nations Israel has shown no compunctions against doing what it has to and perhaps a bit more to deter attacks.  Lebanon has suffered greatly from Israel’s wrath, most recently being peppered with cluster bombs, its infrastructure and much of the residential Muslim south Beirut bombed into oblivion.  Gaza and the West Bank are currently being subjected to comparable punitive measures in response to the rockets fired north into Israel.  In a recent column in the Jerusalem Post tough talking Caroline Glick suggested:

“Aside from all that, Israel controls Gaza’s economy. Israel sells Gaza its water and electricity. Were Israel to decide to stop selling water or electricity to Gaza, its enemies would be hard-pressed to function.”

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708654592&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

I personally find Israel’s willingness to punish all for the wrong-doing of a few, unless the threat is massive, offensive and a violation of the most basic standards of human rights and the rule of law.  But despite the efforts of a small coterie of peace activists, Israel seems willing to portray itself as the most dangerous nation in the Middle East.

The next critical question is whether Israel will be able to induce the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear capacity or will otherwise do so itself.  An attack on Iran would be no piece of cake such as that on Iraq.  The nuclear operations are running and so both many deaths and nuclear fallout would presumably be the consequence of such an attack.  There is no guarantee that all of Iran’s nuclear capacity, much of its operations buried underground, could be hit.  And an enraged Iran would be no pussy cat — with alternative means for attacking Israeli and accomplice Western interests.

I am not sure that I want to be around to see the long term consequences of such a venture.  We are all too far along the way into a culture war with the Bush/Cheney abominations as it is.

IMHO peace-making — not terror enhancement — is the only way to go.  Our weapons are getting to be too deadly to continue playing tit-for-tat games.  Israel has a choice to make.  Will it become the primary peace-maker in the Middle East — or will it march blindly towards yet another suicidal Masada?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/primary/josephusmasada.html

Pray that this historical horror is not to be repeated with modern WMD!

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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