Recently, after a member of the Iranian parliament claimed that Iran has already built a nuclear weapon, and days after Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stated that Iran may be mere weeks away from developing nuclear weapons, Israel finds itself at a critical crossroads.

Should Israel preemptively strike Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons, to obliterate Iran’s nuclear program, or should Israel adopt a wait-and-see approach?

The first option offers the potential to topple the tyrannical ayatollahs and earn the gratitude of the Iranian masses, but it also risks isolating Israel internationally. The second option poses the threat of the destruction of the Jewish state and the loss of millions of Jewish lives.

Tough decisions

Two decisive factors in evaluating which of these undesirable options is most fearsome are Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and the presumed rationality of Iranian leaders.

MAD deterred both the Soviet Union and the United States from nuclear aggression during the Cold War due to the near certainty that nuclear retaliation would destroy the aggressor. This deterrent was effective because the US and the heavily-populated regions of the Soviet Union were of similar size, making tit-for-tat destruction symmetric and credible.

In the context of Iran and Israel, however, no such geographical symmetry exists. Israel, with its 8,630 square miles, is just over 1% the size of Iran, which covers 636,372 square miles. In other words, while Iran could erase Israel with just a couple of nuclear weapons, the Jewish state would need to retaliate with dozens of nuclear missiles to inflict comparable damage on the Islamic Republic.

Given this imbalance, MAD should not deter Iran’s ayatollahs from opting for nuclear aggression. Therefore, the sole factor that could restrain aggressive decision-making is their rationality.

RATIONALITY IS not uniform, however. In a mainstream Jewish-Christian framework, rationality involves advancing global peace and prosperity. In other ideological frameworks, such as those held by the Nazis or radical Islamists, rationality involves different goals.

For example, the Nazi zeal against Jews was not irrational if one viewed Jewish genes as a deadly threat to human civilization. Similarly, destroying Zionism is rational if one believes that the Jewish state undermines Islam’s monopoly on religious truth and supremacy. The eventual death of millions of Iranians due to Israeli retaliation may not deter the ayatollahs if they believe that God will reward their martyrdom with paradise.

The true probability of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel cannot be calculated before such an attack occurs. However, an assessment of past and present Iranian policy choices sheds light on the real priorities and objectives of Iran’s leadership.

According to a report by Radio Liberty citing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, Iran has spent almost $20 billion arming proxy armies and militias in the Middle East. Given the significant economic and social problems that ordinary Iranians face, this spending suggests that advancing global peace and prosperity is a low priority for the Iranian leadership.

This lack of Judeo-Christian rationality is corroborated by the immense economic and diplomatic costs Tehran is willing to incur to defy international demands regarding its nuclear program. Estimates of the economic cost of international sanctions imposed on Iran run up to $4 trillion.

GIVEN IRAN’S vast oil and natural gas resources and the absence of a threat to its territorial integrity, the only rational justification for the tremendous costs of its nuclear program is the protection it provides for more aggressive military adventurism.

From a mainstream Judeo-Christian perspective, this military adventurism is irrational. However, from a framework informed by Shi’ite Islamic theological goals, the development and use of nuclear weapons against Israel is entirely rational for several reasons:

The destruction of Israel and Zionism is seen as a noble act of religious devotion.
Both the victors and Iranian casualties would be rewarded with paradise.
Destroying Israel would boost the prestige and power of Shi’ite Islam, potentially drawing millions of Sunnis to Twelver Shi’ism.
The destruction of Israel would hasten the return of the Mahdi, who will usher in the global supremacy of Islam.
Israel’s reluctance to deploy nuclear weapons during the Yom Kippur War, along with Jewish humanitarian values, may lead to non-retaliation against an Iranian nuclear strike.
Israel’s decision not to retaliate against Iran’s drone and missile barrage after April 13 likely strengthened the ayatollahs’ perception that a MAD scenario is unlikely and that Israel will not respond to an Iranian nuclear strike.

BASED ON these assessments and the aggressive-nihilistic war conduct of Iran’s ideological allies and military proxies in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen, there is little reason to believe that Iran will not use its nuclear weapons against Israel. Destroying the Jewish state has been the most consistent foreign policy goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979, and rulers willing to make their own citizens suffer to destroy Zionism will not be moved by the suffering of a smaller number of Israeli Jews.

The military strength of Iran and its significant influence in international energy markets, along with the Sisyphean nature of past and present wars against jihadist armies in Gaza and Lebanon, may create the misguided impression that a wait-and-see policy is the safest course of action for Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Nevertheless, based on past and present statements by Iranian ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard commanders, their ideological convictions, and over four decades of consistent policy choices, Israeli leaders would do well to take Iranian threats as seriously as European Jews should have taken the threats of Nazi Germany on the eve of the Holocaust.

Source » jpost