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Middle East

Israeli military threat against Iran is 'empty rhetoric'

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2011-11-07

Israeli President Shimon Peres warned on Sunday that a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was becoming more likely. FRANCE 24 talked to a military intelligence expert who explained that he remains skeptical about Israel’s threats.

Israel has dramatically raised the stakes against Iran, stating that a military strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities was increasingly likely in a dramatic build-up in rhetoric ahead of the publication of a key report by the UN atomic watchdog agency.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to release an intelligence report regarding Iran’s alleged efforts to make nuclear weapons on Tuesday or Wednesday with speculation mounting in the media as to its content. Israeli President Shimon Peres warned on November 6 that “the possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option”.

As the world braces for the next IAEA report, spoke to Alain Rodier, an expert on military intelligence at the Paris-based think tank CF2R, to ask him whether the latest Israeli threats were genuine.

FRANCE24: Do you think the Israeli threat to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities is credible?

Alain Rodier: Israel’s military threat against Iran is empty rhetoric; we’ve heard it several times before. Israeli leaders had planned to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities in November 2010 but they were deterred by the US.

That doesn’t mean that we should not take seriously all these Israeli warnings. But we need to remain cautious with that kind of talk as both countries are engaged in a psychological war.

F24: So Israel is not likely to carry out its threat to bomb Iran?

AR: If the Israelis decided to go ahead, it would face several logistical problems. First, the Israeli military would need to locate Iran’s nuclear facilities, which have been spread out all over the country. Several nuclear sites are believed to be buried deep underground, making them hard to spot. Israeli strikes are unlikely to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity and resolve the issue…They would only succeed in setting back Iran’s nuclear programme a few years.

There is also a real diplomatic risk for Israel. Western countries have always favoured international sanctions and diplomatic pressure to press Iran to ditch its uranium-enrichment programme. Israeli leaders are aware that they won’t get any support from the Americans, who are don’t agree with this strategy and don’t want to jeopardise their relations with their Arab allies.

F24: Do you think that an Israeli strike would have irreversible consequences for the region?

AR: Yes, of course. Tehran has the capability to set the Middle East ablaze by mobilising its regional allies. Hezbollah could strike back in northern Israel, and Hamas - armed by Iran - could stir up troubles in southern Israel. This threat of retaliation is compounded by the risk of terrorist attacks or suicide bombings from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

Iran’s threats against Israel are also empty rhetoric. An Iranian attack would be seen as a declaration of war and Israel would not hesitate to retaliate with overwhelming force. This is a typical “balance of terror” situation where neither of the two countries would dare to strike first.


Date created : 2011-11-07

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