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Commentary Last Updated: Jun 26th, 2008 - 01:50:20

Weighing the �hit� against Iran
By Dr. Marwan Asmar
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 26, 2008, 00:10

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Will Israel hit Iran�s nuclear facilities, or won�t they? You would think everyone would be talking about it on the international level, and it might be the case judging from the newspaper articles that are being churned out about a possible nuke followed by regional conflagration.

In Jordan, news is in full throttle: Yes Israel is contemplating a hit on Iran and it is in line with its power-hungry policies to dominate the region even if it eventually destroys itself.

Newspapers here see Israel as careless and would not only be prepared for that slippery slope of a nuclear exchange, but would use her nukes as a deterrent force to stop Iran from gaining her own nuclear capability.

Iran is not afraid, saying time and again, her nuclear development is for peaceful purposes and it will have a nuclear capability come what may, regardless of what Israel is trying to do and that international nuclear inspectors are monitoring Iran's activities, which is more than can be said of Israel whose nuclear reactors and capabilities remain a state secret.

On a more personal level, I briefly talked to my wife about a possible hit on Iran, which I thought was quite probable after reading the recent articles, and she just looked and said the issue is being blown out of proportion by media talk -- there �won�t be war� and it is �media hype.�

Someone else just made fun of the issue. All this was going on when International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammad Al Baradei was warning that if a strike does happen, then it will surely turn the region into a ball of fire.

Ball of fire or not, the journalists and media were having a field day. Now, they're saying, is the best time to strike because US President George W. Bush is nearing the end of his tenure in office and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in trouble over allegations of corruption and accepting bribes, and, so the theory goes, if he is going to go, then he wants to go in style.

But such reports and opinions are being made when the actual devastation and the far-reaching consequences of a potential strike and the subsequent military and nuclear exchange is underplayed, and even treated as a daily occurrence where people will just pick up the pieces and continue with their lives.

People, including the media are not fully aware of what a nuclear exchange would mean in terms of the scale of human losses, of radiation, devastation, the so-called nuclear winter, the nuclear holocaust that would actually make the the region completely uninhabitable for many years to come.

While this may be the case in the West with the media there long tackling these issues, especially at the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, here the media has taken more of a sedate view about tackling these subjects, especially since more important issues were on the scene.

That is until now. Seeing the issue as an extension of the Arab-Israeli conflict, today the media are using the possible strike as a means of causing us fear, regardless of the cynicism of many people like my wife who keep saying its media scare-mongering. But, and regardless again, what is required is a real cold analysis of the situation as it exists.

Would Israel be willing to take a chance and strike, whether militarily or nuclear, knowing full well that the Iran has the long-range missile capability, and knowing also the United States is not too sure and can�t make up its mind about the strike, while playing lip service to negotiation and diplomatic talk.

Iran is not Iraq; this is not 1982 when Israeli F16s flew over the region and bombed the Ozreiq reactor being built by Saddam Hussein. Despite the fact the Americans are in Iraq, and the Israelis are flexing their muscles against the Palestinians and frequently threatening the Lebanese and Syrians, the security and military environment in the region is changing,

New powers like Iran, Syria, Turkey and non-state actors like Hizbollah and maybe Hamas are increasingly making headway in the region and internationally, and, therefore, a direct hit on Iran by Israel would not be received at all well by the Europeans, who already recognize Israel�s intransigence on the Middle East peace process.

Today, Israel�s image is increasingly at stake, an image that has come to be increasingly tarnished since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, and Israel would definitely not want to rock the boat by seeking to practice with its own nuclear weapons -- estimated to be some 200 -- on states like Iran.

The other important thing to remember is that Israel values its own existence and survival; that�s why it's unlikely to tale measures that could lead to its destruction if it made nuclear strikes -- even surgical or limited strikes -- on other nations.

Hence survival is not only a security argument but an ideological one that involves an entity, identity and statehood. An Israeli state even if it does survive a nuclear exchange would probably be sitting in an ocean of radiation, too far from the parameters of Europe, and certainly too far to remain as the United States' valuable ally, because if all things are destroyed, there would be no need to have a �trusted friend� in the Middle East.

These continue to be in the realm of possibilities and conjecture. However, and against the argument of nuclear hit on Iran, the fact is that American troops are in Iraq, in the middle of what would become a �nuclear fireball.� Unless, of course, Israel refuses to give warning and goes for the element of surprise and unleashes its weapons against Iran in a preemptive strike, a doctrine the US used for launching its 2003 war to remove Saddam Hussein and destroy his so-called weapons of mass destruction which were subsequently proved nonexistent.

Dr. Marwan Asmar is the chief editor of Jo Magazine, an English monthly based in Amman, Jordan. From 1993 to 2003, he served as the managing editor of The English language weekly, The Star. He writes about politics, economics, culture and society He received his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1990, with his dissertation on �The State and Politics of Labor Migration on Kuwait.� Today he works as a media consultant in Jordan.

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