ISRAELI REALISM ON IRAN BELIES THREAT RHETORIC
WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (IPS) - When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared last week at the Herzliya conference that Israel could not risk another "existential threat" such as the Nazi holocaust, he was repeating what has become the dominant theme in Israel's campaign against Iran -- that it cannot tolerate an Iran with the technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons, because Iran is fanatically committed to the physical destruction of Israel.
The internal assessment by the Israeli national security apparatus of the Iranian threat, however, is more realistic than the government's public rhetoric would indicate.
Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, Israel has effectively exploited his image as someone who is particularly fanatical about destroying Israel to develop the theme of Iran's threat of a "second holocaust" by using nuclear weapons.
But such alarmist statements do not accurately reflect the strategic thinking of the Israeli national security officials. In fact, Israelis began in the early 1990s to use the argument that Iran is irrational about Israel and could not be deterred from a nuclear attack if it ever acquired nuclear weapons, according to an account by independent analyst Trita Parsi on Iranian-Israeli strategic relations to be published in March. Meanwhile, the internal Israeli view of Iran, Parsi told IPS in an interview, "is completely different."
Parsi, who interviewed many Israeli national security officials for his book, says, "The Israelis know that Iran is a rational regime, and they have acted on that presumption." His primary evidence of such an Israeli assessment is that the Israelis purchased Dolphin submarines from Germany in 1999 and 2004 which have been reported to be capable of carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles.
It is generally recognised that the only purpose of such cruise-missile equipped submarines would be to deter an enemy from a surprise attack by having a reliable second strike capability.