Bipolar Disorder: Israeli and Iranian Power Politics

The Middle East is rapidly becoming a bipolar system between Iran and Israel. While Israel and the United States continue to mull over their relatively few options on stopping or slowing Iran's nuclear program - with the latest attempt coming in the form of the "Stuxnet" computer virus allegedly planted by Israel - Iran continues to go unchecked in its enrichment of uranium.

One of the big questions you are likely to hear the many pundits try to answer is what the U.S. and Israel can do to stop a defiant Iran from enrichment. This question is archaic and irrelevant at this juncture. Anything short of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is not likely to stop Iran from maintaining its nuclear program, but at best could set them back a few years while increasing their nuclear tenacity.

Since an attack is highly unlikely due to its low possibility of success and high probability of exacerbation, Israel has little choice but to watch while Iran strengthens its nuclear capability. While there is no piece of declassified "slam dunk" intelligence proving that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, its creation is likely.

With its weak conventional force capabilities (relative to Israel), yet high level of influence and interest in Middle Eastern affairs, Iran naturally wants to join the nuclear club and reap the perceived rapid power benefits of its membership. Once Iran attains a nuclear weapon (and as long as it can keep its amount of warheads classified), it will become the second most powerful country in the region. This is the worst case scenario for Israel, since it will have a formidable adversary for the first time in many years.

With the recent sale of arms by the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, the United States is overtly using its Arab allies in the region as a deterrent to Iranian power. While Israel dislikes this idea, it ultimately understands its necessity. Although sales like these are likely to continue, a nuclear Iran would still be terrifying to its Arab neighbors, none of which have nuclear capability.

Unless other nations in the region either go nuclear, or establish militaries with incredible conventional capabilities to match Iranian power, the poles of the Middle East will inevitably become Iran and Israel.

So what do you think the balance of power will look like once Iran goes nuclear? Does Turkey have any stake or role in the situation? What challenges would a nuclear Iran pose for the United States?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Joseph Sarkisian

Joseph graduated with a Master of Science in international relations from the University of Massachusetts Boston and was an intern at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC. He completed his BA at Arizona State University in political science as well as studied Arabic language, terrorism/counterterrorism, and religion. Joseph also lived in Egypt where he studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo in 2007. Joseph was the Secretary of the Executive Committee for the University of Massachusetts Graduate Student Government, a teaching assistant in his department, and teaches a class on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. His main areas of interest are the Af/Pak region, Iran, Syria, and other current foreign policy issues.

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