President-elect Barack Obama reportedly intends to offer a strategic pact to Israel promising a “devastating US nuclear response” against Iran in the event Iran launches a nuclear attack on Israel. The move would be designed ostensibly to increase the deterrent factor against an attack on Israel.
Yet the pledge seems rather curious, insomuch as Iran not only has no nuclear arsenal, but is known to not be working on any such arsenal at the present time. Why the President-elect, while claiming an openness to direct diplomacy, would choose to make such a bellicose promise as a hedge against an attack the Iranian government couldn’t even hypothetically make is unclear, at best.
Even the Israelis seem puzzled, with one senior Israeli source wondering about the credibility of the threat when the US has been reluctant to support a pre-emptive Israeli attack on the still non-nuclear Iran. A top Bush Administration source added that he thought it would be difficult to convince the average American citizen that the US needs to enter a nuclear war with Iran, also wondering “what is the point of an American response after Israel’s cities are destroyed in an Iranian nuclear strike.”
Moreover, Israel has its own undeclared nuclear arsenal, estimated by former President Jimmy Carter to include at least 150 atomic weapons. The arsenal would be sufficient to destroy virtually the entire nation of Iran in a retaliatory strike, leaving the value of adding America’s arsenal to the equation questionable at best.
As of IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei’s most recent estimate Iran lacks the raw unenriched uranium to even hypothetically make a single nuclear weapon if they chose to do so. Likewise, Iran’s public talk of war with Israel seems exclusively centered around retaliating against an oft-threatened Israeli attack. It seems hard to imagine what positive effects an Obama promise would have in deterring a nuclear first-strike by a nation with neither a nuclear arsenal nor any seeming inclination toward a first strike. It may further throw the hopes of reconciliation between the two nations into doubt, however.