Should Israel offer nuke inspections?

The 70 million people of Iran are now under the whip of a raving suicide cult intent on getting nuclear weapons. Whether the regime is really intending martyrdom or not it may not even know itself. It certainly talks and acts as if it is.

Tehran just made 500 Hezbo fighters sacrifice their lives in Lebanon. Paradise must be seeing a lot of traffic. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a disciple of Ayatollah Yazdi, who is so extreme that his cult was outlawed by Khomeini himself. Ahmadinejad claims to have personal chats with the "occluded" 12th Imam, the apocalyptic messiah. He is either a nut—job or a good faker. If the Reverend Jim Jones could fake sanity, living in San Francisco with his cult, so can Mullah Kool—Aid in Tehran.

We are therefore facing a perfect do—or—die dilemma, and our adversary is clever enough to play a shell game on every possible level. This is not new. We have seen it before with Hitler, Tojo, Stalin and Mao. But it is very dangerous.

When Stalin exploded his Bombs in 1950s, the threat of massive retaliation was the only available response. Today we have better defenses, and in ten years we will have much better ones. We therefore need to consider all available tools: a multistage defense,  preemptive strikes, selective sanctions again Tehran, retaliation if needed, and negotiation.

Negotating with the fanatics has not been much discussed, because it is correctly said that they never negotiate in good faith. Is there an approach that does not require good faith from the regime?

The Soviets were not exactly famous for their trustworthiness, but Ronald Reagan found a way to "trust but verify" with Gorbachev.  Because he was tough—minded and willing to walk away, President Reagan was highly effective with the Soviets.  The final result was a marked reduction in US—Soviet tensions, a crisis hotline to avoid misperception, and a lowering of unneeded nuclear stockpiles. Reagan brought peace through strength and a willingness to talk.

Ahmadinejad is more like Stalin than Gorbachev. Gorbachev came after the open corruption of the Brezhnev years, when Soviet boasts became a joke even inside the regime. Suicidal exchanges were no longer conceivable. But Ahmadinejad is a pure fanatic, like Pol Pot or Mao.

So — what if Israel were to propose mutual nuclear inspections? Israel could publicly invite a team of scientists to visit its nuclear plant at Dimona providing the Mullahs allow full inspections of their facilities.

Such a public invitation would have several useful effects.

1. It would appeal to the media in Europe and the US. That means the message would not be blocked, as so many of Israel's (and America's) messages are routinely blocked and ignored.

2. It would put the onus on the Mullahs, who now choose to pretend that Israel does not exist. If they respond by saying "I can't hear you" or "what's Israel?"  they will place themselves in the wrong in the eyes of the media mob. Because the Europeans are deathly afraid of the Mullahs, they would tend to play up any Israeli peace offer. The Arabs also fear Tehran's fanatics and behind the scenes they would welcome an opening. With luck, even the Arab media in Egypt and Jordan would ridicule the Mullahs for pretending Israel doesn't exist. They have their own wounded veterans to prove otherwise.

3. A peace invitation would re—set the narrative ——— the question of "who did what to whom?" If it becomes necessary to have sanctions or a preemptive attack later, Israel and the West would have given the Mullahs their chance. In the eyes of the media, the perceived narrative is all.

4. Once you invite an inspection of (some) of your weapons, you also clarify the threat to the enemy himself. It is as good as a shot across the bows. The Mullahs have gotten away with the fantasy that nukes are the answer to the tormenting Islamic inferiority complex. In fact, nuclearizing the Middle East will only change a vicious propaganda war to a real possibility of massive death and destruction. As the Lebanese are now noticing, loudmouthing is one thing, but real war is much less glorious.

Thus an Israeli initiative would tend to strengthen the more pragmatic Rafsanjani faction in Tehran. Rafsanjani became a billionaire during the Khomeini years. He enjoys his food far too much to be eager for martyrdom. Shakespeare was right on target in Julius Caesar when he wrote,

Let me have men about me that are fat;

Sleek—headed men and such as sleep o' nights;

Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look;

He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

(Julius Ceasar, 1.2)

It's still a good rule of thumb, although Rafsanjani also promoted nuclear weapons during his years in power. All the same, he might be more of a Brezhnev than a Stalin.

Every move has its pros and cons. Here are some disadvantages of an offer of mutual nuclear inspections.

1. Israel would sacrifice the pretense that it has no nuclear weapons. The standard diplomatic formula since Golda Meir has been that "Israel will not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East." That is a polite fiction. It may mean that the detonators have been left out until needed.

In one sense this is not much of a loss. Nobody believes that Israel has no WMDs, just as no rational person believes that Israel represents an aggressive threat. The Israelis love life too much to invite a suicidal war. So do most Arabs and Iranians, with the major exception of the Khomeini cult in Tehran and perhaps Al Qaida.

2. Israel's public acknowledgement may be seen as even more of a reason for the Mullahs to pursue nukes. However, this is a lost cause. No rational observer today doubts the Mullahs are going nuclear as fast as they can.

3. Israel may not want to expose the full extent of its nuclear capabilities. But this is not necessary. A complete inspection regime would have to cover all possible locations for all Isreali nuclear weapons and facilities. An offer of limited inspections  is not equivalent to abject surrender.

4. An Israeli move would take the focus off the Mullahs, who are really dangerous because they might well use their nukes ——— either directly or to immunize themselves while they spread terror movements throughout the Middle East. 

In truth, the chances are not good that Ahmadinejad will travel to Jerusalem to kiss Ehud Olmert, as Anwar Sadat did with Golda Meir. The lion will not lie down with the lamb any time soon. An inspection offer by Israel might just buy time for the Tehran regime to outlive its madmen. It might re—set the media narrative in the Middle East. And it might make clear to all those in denial what is really at stake.

An inspection offer might accompany trade sanctions against Tehran, and perhaps air strikes on crucial components of its mushrooming nuclear industry. These various strategic moves all have their windows of opportunity. Nevertheless, an inspection offer should be kept in mind as a useful option in a very dangerous new game of nuclear poker.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.

The 70 million people of Iran are now under the whip of a raving suicide cult intent on getting nuclear weapons. Whether the regime is really intending martyrdom or not it may not even know itself. It certainly talks and acts as if it is.

Tehran just made 500 Hezbo fighters sacrifice their lives in Lebanon. Paradise must be seeing a lot of traffic. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a disciple of Ayatollah Yazdi, who is so extreme that his cult was outlawed by Khomeini himself. Ahmadinejad claims to have personal chats with the "occluded" 12th Imam, the apocalyptic messiah. He is either a nut—job or a good faker. If the Reverend Jim Jones could fake sanity, living in San Francisco with his cult, so can Mullah Kool—Aid in Tehran.

We are therefore facing a perfect do—or—die dilemma, and our adversary is clever enough to play a shell game on every possible level. This is not new. We have seen it before with Hitler, Tojo, Stalin and Mao. But it is very dangerous.

When Stalin exploded his Bombs in 1950s, the threat of massive retaliation was the only available response. Today we have better defenses, and in ten years we will have much better ones. We therefore need to consider all available tools: a multistage defense,  preemptive strikes, selective sanctions again Tehran, retaliation if needed, and negotiation.

Negotating with the fanatics has not been much discussed, because it is correctly said that they never negotiate in good faith. Is there an approach that does not require good faith from the regime?

The Soviets were not exactly famous for their trustworthiness, but Ronald Reagan found a way to "trust but verify" with Gorbachev.  Because he was tough—minded and willing to walk away, President Reagan was highly effective with the Soviets.  The final result was a marked reduction in US—Soviet tensions, a crisis hotline to avoid misperception, and a lowering of unneeded nuclear stockpiles. Reagan brought peace through strength and a willingness to talk.

Ahmadinejad is more like Stalin than Gorbachev. Gorbachev came after the open corruption of the Brezhnev years, when Soviet boasts became a joke even inside the regime. Suicidal exchanges were no longer conceivable. But Ahmadinejad is a pure fanatic, like Pol Pot or Mao.

So — what if Israel were to propose mutual nuclear inspections? Israel could publicly invite a team of scientists to visit its nuclear plant at Dimona providing the Mullahs allow full inspections of their facilities.

Such a public invitation would have several useful effects.

1. It would appeal to the media in Europe and the US. That means the message would not be blocked, as so many of Israel's (and America's) messages are routinely blocked and ignored.

2. It would put the onus on the Mullahs, who now choose to pretend that Israel does not exist. If they respond by saying "I can't hear you" or "what's Israel?"  they will place themselves in the wrong in the eyes of the media mob. Because the Europeans are deathly afraid of the Mullahs, they would tend to play up any Israeli peace offer. The Arabs also fear Tehran's fanatics and behind the scenes they would welcome an opening. With luck, even the Arab media in Egypt and Jordan would ridicule the Mullahs for pretending Israel doesn't exist. They have their own wounded veterans to prove otherwise.

3. A peace invitation would re—set the narrative ——— the question of "who did what to whom?" If it becomes necessary to have sanctions or a preemptive attack later, Israel and the West would have given the Mullahs their chance. In the eyes of the media, the perceived narrative is all.

4. Once you invite an inspection of (some) of your weapons, you also clarify the threat to the enemy himself. It is as good as a shot across the bows. The Mullahs have gotten away with the fantasy that nukes are the answer to the tormenting Islamic inferiority complex. In fact, nuclearizing the Middle East will only change a vicious propaganda war to a real possibility of massive death and destruction. As the Lebanese are now noticing, loudmouthing is one thing, but real war is much less glorious.

Thus an Israeli initiative would tend to strengthen the more pragmatic Rafsanjani faction in Tehran. Rafsanjani became a billionaire during the Khomeini years. He enjoys his food far too much to be eager for martyrdom. Shakespeare was right on target in Julius Caesar when he wrote,

Let me have men about me that are fat;

Sleek—headed men and such as sleep o' nights;

Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look;

He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

(Julius Ceasar, 1.2)

It's still a good rule of thumb, although Rafsanjani also promoted nuclear weapons during his years in power. All the same, he might be more of a Brezhnev than a Stalin.

Every move has its pros and cons. Here are some disadvantages of an offer of mutual nuclear inspections.

1. Israel would sacrifice the pretense that it has no nuclear weapons. The standard diplomatic formula since Golda Meir has been that "Israel will not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East." That is a polite fiction. It may mean that the detonators have been left out until needed.

In one sense this is not much of a loss. Nobody believes that Israel has no WMDs, just as no rational person believes that Israel represents an aggressive threat. The Israelis love life too much to invite a suicidal war. So do most Arabs and Iranians, with the major exception of the Khomeini cult in Tehran and perhaps Al Qaida.

2. Israel's public acknowledgement may be seen as even more of a reason for the Mullahs to pursue nukes. However, this is a lost cause. No rational observer today doubts the Mullahs are going nuclear as fast as they can.

3. Israel may not want to expose the full extent of its nuclear capabilities. But this is not necessary. A complete inspection regime would have to cover all possible locations for all Isreali nuclear weapons and facilities. An offer of limited inspections  is not equivalent to abject surrender.

4. An Israeli move would take the focus off the Mullahs, who are really dangerous because they might well use their nukes ——— either directly or to immunize themselves while they spread terror movements throughout the Middle East. 

In truth, the chances are not good that Ahmadinejad will travel to Jerusalem to kiss Ehud Olmert, as Anwar Sadat did with Golda Meir. The lion will not lie down with the lamb any time soon. An inspection offer by Israel might just buy time for the Tehran regime to outlive its madmen. It might re—set the media narrative in the Middle East. And it might make clear to all those in denial what is really at stake.

An inspection offer might accompany trade sanctions against Tehran, and perhaps air strikes on crucial components of its mushrooming nuclear industry. These various strategic moves all have their windows of opportunity. Nevertheless, an inspection offer should be kept in mind as a useful option in a very dangerous new game of nuclear poker.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.