From its foundation sixty years ago, Israel has faced real, up-close-and-personal threats to its existence. Much of the time the country has faced these threats alone. Isolated. More recently Israel has been treated as a pariah, a moral leper.
Since the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, this country has been seen (at least in the US) as an international outlaw, exporter of terror and revolution--a moral leper. During the Iraq-Iran War, the Islamic Republic faced an existential threat. Alone and isolated.
When the Iraqis used mustard and nerve agents against the Iranians, the response by the US as well as the UN was to chastise both Iraq and Iran. This was done despite the overwhelming evidence that only Iraq had chemical weapons. Only Iraq could use chemical weapons.
From the perspective of Tehran the reaction of the UN, the so-called "international community," showed that the unmitigated hostility emanating from the United States had infected the rest of the world. At the existential crossroads, Tehran determined that it was alone. Isolated.
(Before you start heaving virtual bombs at the Geek, be advised that he is in no way comparing the moral positions of Israel and Iran. Neither is he equating the duration of the Israeli experience with that of Iran. Finally, he is in no way overlooking that the reprehensible conduct of the Ayatollah Khomenei's Revolutionary Government, including but not limited to the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979, was responsible for the country's pariah status.)
Existential threats, particularly when faced alone and unaided have the power, like the prospect of imminent execution, to focus the mind wonderfully. Both the Israeli and Iranian governments made a critical decision. Both sought deterrence and ultimate defense through the development of weapons of mass destruction.
The Israelis kept quiet about it. They developed the required technology largely--but not exclusively--through their own in-house efforts. The Government of Israel has never officially acknowledged that it possesses a single nuclear weapon. It's called ambiguous deterrence.
No threats. No bomb waving. No posturing.
It works. As far back as the Yom Kippur War twenty-five years ago, the existence of a very limited Israeli nuclear capacity helped assure that the US provided necessary weapons resupply and other non-combat assistance. It helped assure that the Soviet Union exercised a restraining influence on its Mideast clients.
While there are some in Muslim countries who assert Israel "keeps bullying hundreds of millions of Muslims by brandishing her nuclear bombs in their faces," this is simply not true. Ambiguous deterrence is the name of the game. (Quote from, http://www.daily.pk/world/middle-east/83-middle-east/4314-israels-nuclear-weapons-and-bombs-are-the-problem-in-the-middle-east.html.)
Even before the end of the Iraq-Iran War, the Iranians started work on their own WMD programs. Chemical weapons are easily mastered--particularly with aid from the collapsing Soviet Union. Bioweapons are a bit harder, but the record of Iranian imports (or attempts to import) relevant equipment and materials shows that the mullahs have succeeded in that field as well.
So far Tehran has been practicing the ambiguous deterrent approach with regard to their chemical and biological capacities (as they have done with their support and sponsorship of trans-national terrorism.) The reasons for this discrete approach are self-evident. The combination of chemical and biological agents with the clandestine techniques of usage which typify terror operations would call down upon Iran a metal storm of unprecedented proportions.
The tip of the WMD pyramid is nuclear weapons. A state with a credible nuclear capacity is a state that must be taken seriously.
Iran has a great need to be taken seriously. The mullahs and many others in the country believe that its size, resources, geographical position, and history entitle it to be taken seriously as a, perhaps the leader of Islam. Similarly, it is believed in the same circles that only if Iran is taken very, very seriously by the West, can it be assured of survival.
Consider the following question, please. Why did the US not only refrain from invading Pakistan following the Pakistani aided withdrawal of al-Qaeda and Taliban elements from Afghanistan in 2002 but reward the less than cooperative "ally" with billions of dollars of foreign and military aid in the following years?
It's a fair question. And there are a number of alternative answers.
From the Tehran perspective the answer may well be, "Because the Paks have a nuclear capacity and everybody knows it."
In part Pakistan developed and publicly tested their highly enriched uranium bomb(s) because it faced what it believed to be an existential threat from India. Like two hard cases in a Wild West saloon in a bad movie, India and Pakistan had to be polite to one another because each was strapped. Strapped with enough bombs to destroy the sub-continent.
The unambiguous possession of the atomic bomb by Pakistan gave it necessary leverage. Leverage to immunise itself against American invasion of the frontier areas. Leverage to have itself declared an ally in the global war on terrorism. Leverage to be taken seriously by the West generally.
Leverage is a prized diplomatic commodity. In the race for influence within Islamic countries, Iran starts with a disadvantage. It's a Shia majority country. In a Sunni dominated Islam.
Iran needs to offset this disability. The bomb is a great offsetter. The bomb is a great lever.
Tehran might well have reasoned that the Israelis have the bomb because the Americans (and other Western nations) allowed them to get it. The mullahs might even have reasoned that the US and its Western allies allowed the Pakistanis to acquire a nuclear capacity because it served their interests.
Now, the mullahs must be wondering why the US and Europe are so opposed to Iran duplicating what both Israel and Pakistan have done.
More than a few anti-Israeli Muslims ask the same question. Usually the answer echoes this one from the previously cited post.
Indeed, one exaggerates very little by saying that the United States of America is subservient to Israel and that American politicians, including members of Congress and the Senate as well as presidential candidates are more answerable to the Jewish lobby, especially AIPAC, than they are to their own American constituentsWhile the Israel lobby is potent and it sometimes seems to the Geek that the Israeli tail is wagging the dog of US foreign policy, this assessment misses the point.
And that point?
Tehran is inherently untrustworthy. It cannot and must not be trusted with atomic weapons. The history of the Islamic Republic of Iran--its takeover of an embassy, holding of hostages, sponsoring of terrorism, supporting of hostile forces in Iraq all show that adult supervision of the mullahs is required.
Compared with Iran, even a shabby regime of Islamists and Islamist appeasers such as that in Pakistan is a monument to trustworthy stability. The world is a more dangerous place because Pakistan not only has fabricated nuclear weapons but also has a stockpile of HEU which is, pace official Pakistani and US governmental assurances, not so well guarded as to be outside the reach of the ambitious jihadist terrorist.
The world would be an even more unsafe and unstable place if the Islamic Republic of Iran with its record, both real and rhetorical, were to gain access to weapons grade material.
And, the mullahs ought to get a grip on this reality: Nowhere on earth would be more unsafe than downtown Tehran if a nuclear detonation were to occur anywhere the day after the Iranians achieve a capacity for nuclear weapons.