NEW YORK, February 27, 2013 - A fascinating pair of announcements came back to back last week involving one of the world’s most tense arenas of political and military relations.
On February 23, BBC reported: Iran announces uranium finds and power plant expansion. Two days later the same paper carried the headline: Israel successfully tests Arrow 3 missile interceptor.
Each announcement is of interest in its own right, but are especially newsworthy in relation to each other.
President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, the childish leader of Iran, is renowned for provocations and insults to Israel. Last September at the UN General Assembly, Ahmedinijad said “Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be eliminated,” ignoring a U.N. warning to avoid incendiary rhetoric on the occasion of his talk.
At the time, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor reaffirmed U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, saying “President Ahmadinejad’s comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive, and outrageous,”
Iran has been under international sanctions for its uranium enrichment program since February 2006, when the IAEA Board of Governors after a five month delay finally reported Iran’s non-compliance to the UN Security Council.
Last August, US Israeli relations became strained due to open discussion in Israel of air strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. If Israel considered this as possibly necessary already as early as last August, then surely this week’s news of Iran’s uranium expansion is worrisome. Iran claims discoveries over the past 18 months have trebled it’s reserves of raw uranium, which now stand at 4,400 tonnes. It says further that “this makes it possible for the Islamic Republic of Iran to move to a more advanced level in the field of nuclear industry among those countries that possess nuclear technology.”
Israel too is widely presumed to have nuclear weapons, thought to have been successfully developed as early as 1960. Its current arsenal is thought to be in the range of 200 warheads, and Israel is presumed to have an intercontinental delivery system. Arab nations accuse the United States of practicing a double standard in criticizing Iran’s nuclear program while ignoring Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons.
Just as Iran reported discovering substantial uranium deposits, Israel’s defense ministry reportedsuccessful tests of its new missile interceptor system, Arrow 3.
Arrow 3 detects incoming missiles, intercepts them and destroys them with a second missile above the earth’s atmosphere.
Tests for the Arrow 3 were conducted alongside US forces, and achieved “the first time the interceptor with all of its equipment took off and flew, achieved the velocities, and did the maneuvers in space”. The system is designed to shoot down missiles in space, and cause nuclear and chemical warheads to disintegrate safely.
Arrow 3 completes Israel’s missile defense as it is the 4th and highest layer of her multi-layer missile defense system. Arrow 3 addresses the longest range missile attacks. Iran’s El Sajjilil-2 and Shahab-3 delivery systems have a 2,000 kilometer range.
Short to mid-range missiles fired at Israel, such as the Katyusha (25 km) and the Zalzal-2 (200 km) from Southern Lebanon, and the short range missiles such as the Qassam (4 km) and the Fadj-5 (75 km) from Gaza are already addressed by other of Israel’s multi-layered missile defense system comprising the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow-2.
These all are purely for self-defense, attacking no one.
The Arrow 3 provides defense for Israel. Every nation has the right to defend itself. Arrow 3 should provide comfort for Israeli citizens who live a stone’s throw from a nation openly defying international sanctions, and the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, “led” by a brat-type figure who openly speaks to the United Nations about “eliminating” one of its member states.
Leaving aside Israel’s contested domestic policy related to settlements, her foreign policy — unlike that of the United States — is based on defense and intelligence. Israel’s young people are not exposed in hostile lands like the US, which has 1.5 million U.S soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and over 40,000 Department of State private contractors deployed in war zones or combat missions worldwide.
Defense and intelligence are legitimate and respectable. Aggression is not, even when veiled in duplicitous doctrines like “preemption,” and undeclared war campaigns like Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.
It is natural for human beings to respect and understand the need for defense, both self defense, and protection of the weak and powerless. But similarly people intuit the illegitimacy of aggression.
It is widely argued that President Reagan’s dogged pursuit and development of the 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) influenced the end of the cold war. Though heavily criticized, Reagan was adamant that the goal of U.S. defense research should be to eliminate the need for nuclear weapons, which he thought were fundamentally immoral.
He argued that a successful defense system would destroy the Soviet ability to make a first strike, which in turn would undermine the USSR’s ability to pose a threat to the United States at all. Success in this area, supporters of SDI argued, could potentially also bring an end to the Cold War. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD).
This history of the effectiveness of defense rather than offense as the means of breaking the back of aggressors is what makes Israel’s announcements about Arrow 3 so exciting.
Impenetrable defenses make the debilitating costs of weapons development by aggressors self-defeating. Defense is honorable, just, and right. Aggression always violates our inner truth, and our clear knowledge and sense that aggression is unacceptable and dishonorable.
Israel should continue to invest in effective, complex layers of anti-ballistic defense systems, and further refine the doctrines and means of defense as a guiding light for sound foreign and military policy.