Jun. 21, 2015
Simply put: Those in the “rational” camp see a regime that wants to remain in power and achieve regional hegemony and will therefore cooperate, rather than languish under international sanctions that threaten to deny it both. The other side cannot accept that religious fanatics who deny the Holocaust, blame all evil on the Jews and pledge to annihilate the 6 million of them in Israel can be trusted with a nuclear program capable of producing the world’s most destructive weapon in a single year.
The rational/irrational dispute was ever-present in the intimate discussions between the United States and Israel on the Iranian nuclear issue during my term as Israel’s ambassador to Washington, from 2009 to the end of 2013. I took part in those talks and was impressed by their candor. Experts assessed the progress in Iran’s program: the growing number of centrifuges in its expanding underground facilities, the rising stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in not one but several bombs, and the time that would be required for Iran to “break out” or “sneak out” from international inspectors and become a nuclear power.
Both nations’ technical estimates on Iran largely dovetailed. Where the two sides differed was over the nature of the Islamic Republic. The Americans tended to see Iranian leaders as logical actors who understood that the world would never allow them to attain nuclear weapons and would penalize them mercilessly — even militarily — for any attempt to try.
By contrast, most Israelis viewed the ayatollahs as radical jihadists who claimed they took instructions from the Shiite “Hidden Imam,” tortured homosexuals and executed women accused of adultery, and strove to commit genocide against Jews. Israelis could not rule out the possibility that the Iranians would be willing to sacrifice half of their people as martyrs in a war intended to “wipe Israel off the map.”
The Americans tended to see Iranian leaders as logical actors… By contrast, most Israelis viewed the ayatollahs as radical jihadists. –
As famed Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis once observed, “Mutually assured destruction” for the Iranian regime “is not a deterrent — it’s an inducement.”