Israel Can Live With a Nuclear Iran

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Over the summer of 2012, despite increased international pressure and economic sanctions, Iran doubled the number of nuclear centrifuges installed in its underground Fordow site, stopping just short of the capacity to produce nuclear fuel.   President Obama has rejected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to draw a “red line” that would trigger U.S. military action.  But what would the costs and benefits of military action be?  Can Israel live with a nuclear Iran, or could the time be near for a pre-emptive strike?

  • Dobbins2-90x90


    James Dobbins

    Director, RAND International Security & Defense Policy Center

  • reuvenpedatzur90x90


    Reuven Pedatzur

    Israeli Military Affairs Analyst, Ha’aretz

  • shmuelbar90x90


    Shmuel Bar

    Director of Studies, Israel’s Institute of Policy and Strategy & Fmr. Intelligence Officer

  • goldberg90x90


    Jeffrey Goldberg

    National Correspondent, The Atlantic

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

James Dobbins

Director, RAND International Security & Defense Policy Center

Ambassador James Dobbins is the director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. Dobbins has held State Department and White House posts including Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Special Assistant to the President, Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for the Balkans, and Ambassador to the European Community. Dobbins has had numerous crisis management and diplomatic troubleshooting assignments as the Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations' special envoy for Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia. In the wake of September 11, 2001, he was named as the Bush administration's representative to the Afghan opposition with the task of putting together and installing a broadly based successor to the Taliban regime. He represented the United States at the Bonn Conference that established the new Afghan government, and, on December 16, 2001, he raised the flag over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy.

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For The Motion

Reuven Pedatzur

Israeli Military Affairs Analyst, Ha’aretz

Reuven Pedatzur is a senior military affairs analyst with Ha’aretz newspaper and Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He currently serves as Director of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue, Netanya Academic College. He was previously an IAF fighter pilot, Academic Director of the Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College, and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies at MIT. He is one of Israel’s leading commentators on missile defense, nuclear and other non-conventional weapons, the Israeli Defense Force’s strategic doctrine and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His most recent book is The Rescue of King Hussein's Regime (2008). Pedatzur is a regular analyst for Israeli TV and hosts a radio show on security and strategic issues.

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Against The Motion

Shmuel Bar

Director of Studies, Israel’s Institute of Policy and Strategy & Fmr.  Intelligence Officer

Shmuel Bar is the Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the International Institute for Non-Proliferation Studies and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institution. In 2007, he was the Koret Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Bar is also the founder and CEO of IntuView Ltd – an Israel-based software company. Bar served for thirty years in the Israeli government, first in the Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence, and later in analytic and operational positions in the Israeli Office of the Prime Minister.

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Against The Motion

Jeffrey Goldberg

National Correspondent, The Atlantic

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He is a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York Magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post. In 2006, Goldberg wrote Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

52% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (16% voted FOR twice, 30% voted AGAINST twice, 6% voted UNDECIDED twice). 48% changed their mind (8% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 1% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 4% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 1% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 17% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 17% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Eugene Levine Sunday, 22 September 2013 12:13 posted by Eugene Levine

      Very good debate on a tough subject.

    • Comment Link Andy Saturday, 13 July 2013 14:00 posted by Andy

      I didn't see much of a debate! There are four "debaters" all having the same position, putting it in different words. A debate would mean bring two Jewish/Israeli debaters vs. two Persian ones with experience and understanding of Iranian political structure.

    • Comment Link Broheim Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:13 posted by Broheim

      3 out of the 4 "debators" are Jewish -- why is their no Persian/Iranian commentators considering this is a question regarding Iran ? Nice debate.

      Iran hasn't attacked or invaded another nation in over 500 years. People complained they are responsible for Hezbollah and Hamas -- but this is wrong; ISRAEL's POLICIES are the reason why Hezbollah and Hamas exist. Hezbollah was created ONLY after Israel illegally invaded and illegally occupied Southern Lebanon. Iran had NOTHING to do with Hezbollah's creation. They give them money and support, but so what ? This isn't a crime. America gives all of Iran's enemies money and support (Israel, Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war and Saudi Arabia). Hamas was created in the same effect, Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories (as defined by International Law and the UN).

      Israel is responsible for their own actions.

      There is also no proof Iran is working to create a nuclear bomb. Absolutely none.

    • Comment Link Orrin Schwab Monday, 11 February 2013 06:08 posted by Orrin Schwab

      I listened the debate tonight on NPR. I was shocked at the
      argument made by Jeffrey Goldberg. Does Mr. Goldberg
      really believe that Israel will survive for only a few years
      after Iran becomes a declared nuclear state? This is an
      utterly hysterical argument. It is premised on the idea
      that the Iranian clerics would find the nuclear martyrdom
      of Iran to be an acceptable outcome of a nuclear confrontation
      with Israel. I know the Iranians are messianic but the potential
      incineration of the homeland strikes me as just a bit bizarre.

    • Comment Link Adam T Burklow Thursday, 31 January 2013 23:24 posted by Adam T Burklow

      Is anyone else noticing how closely the global nuclear capability argument mirrors the domestic gun ownership debate seen in America today? The sociological precept is the same – they have their guns, so I need mine!
      Despite all of our wonderful attributes, human beings have shown - for 10’s of thousands of years - that they have a propensity for violence towards one-another. Three hundred and fifty years ago Thomas Hobbes wrote a seminal critique of political theory in Leviathan – where he argued that human beings are, by nature, ruled by pride and by fear. You see evidence of this every single day in the inter-action amongst people world-wide. This may be a misanthropic view of humanity, but we have no need to fear it, or be shameful of it, because as soon as we admit that this is a part of our nature we can work together as the loving, intelligent beings whom we are and subdue this common enemy! Reason & understanding will take us further then military power or diplomatic efficacy ever will.
      More weapons will lead to more violence and more death – period.

    • Comment Link Elicia Beharry Tuesday, 22 January 2013 17:11 posted by Elicia Beharry

      There should be a balance of power especially when forced to make a stand against aggressors/bullies such as Israel and America; without nuclear power anyone of the two can either start bombing your country and/or invade for their benefit. It's either they agree to play/fight fair allowing Iran nuclear power or, agree to a total disarmament worldwide.

    • Comment Link m martin Friday, 18 January 2013 19:36 posted by m martin

      I have never heard of Israeli suicide bombers willing to sacrifice their lives for the will of their God...
      Put a nuclear weapon in the hands of a state that sanctions this primal sacrifice, and...

    • Comment Link Andy D. Friday, 18 January 2013 11:08 posted by Andy D.

      The side arguing against the motion relied heavily on playing on everybody's fear by feeding everybody rhetoric by Iranian officials as testaments to their resolve. If Iran was truly and utterly bent on destroying Israel, then why don't they mount a full military strike against Israel, instead of relying on loose terrorist organizations flinging home-made bombs across the border? The exaggeration is astounding. The point made by the side for the motion is completely valid. The U.S. faced against powerful superpowers such as Russia with great nuclear capabilities and the threat went beyond mere words on both sides and yet there was no eminent war.

    • Comment Link Oliver Friday, 18 January 2013 04:55 posted by Oliver

      The best we can hope for is a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. Iran is currently surrounded by nuclear powers (Israel, Pakistan, Russia) and US nuclear weapons on submarines. It may be that if Iran does obtain nuclear weapons, that will trigger the nuclear disarmament in the region that is so badly needed. It does not look like it will happen without such a change in the balance of nuclear / military power.

    • Comment Link Neil Schipper Thursday, 17 January 2013 18:23 posted by Neil Schipper

      I'd also like to point out that the win for the side against the motion was possibly contrived; that is, some of the audience (folks from my tribe!) may have voted 'undecided' at the outset with incomplete sincerity. It's my impression that the side for the motion actually carried more audience approval.

      Also, in my second bullet below, I should have said the negative (against the motion) side!

    • Comment Link Richard Huber Thursday, 17 January 2013 15:56 posted by Richard Huber

      It has always seemed very strange that we have no problem if Israel, with a very trigger-happy government, keeps a large, undeclared nuclear arsenal, refuses to sign any non-proliferation pacts & doesn't belong to the IAEA; but go ballistic when any other sovereign nation in the region wants to equalize the balance of power. Could the unusual largess of the IAPAC with our politicians on both sides of the aisle have anything to do with it?

    • Comment Link Neil Schipper Wednesday, 16 January 2013 21:28 posted by Neil Schipper

      I would have liked to hear more about these:

      - what's really known about the internal workings of the Iranian regime? Is it at core a one- or two- or three-man junta? Or is it more like 20 or 100 families? What is the degree of foreign education of people at high level, esp. rising leaders?

      - the affirmative side relied a lot on (ghastly) statements by the regime, and somewhat on ghastly behaviors by the regime: war with Iraq, horrific treatment of dissidents and violators of religious purity, support for Hezbollah and Hamas. Fair enough. But what about borderline irrational behaviours by the regime?

      - are there solid projections about resources in the region -- oil supply, perhaps minerals, water, etc. including in regard to anticipated changes in climate -- which might alter the probability that Iran becomes desperate and more likely to act recklessly?

      - If today's (secular) power elites in Israel had reason to think that Israel herself (based on demographics and cultural shifts) might turn more rabbinical (theocratic), does that impact thinking about the timing of possibly dealing with Iran?

    • Comment Link Chris Monday, 14 January 2013 10:53 posted by Chris

      It's a statement because that's how the debate is structured. A statement is provided and participants choose to agree or disagree and explain why. Every debate is the same.

    • Comment Link Aaron Thursday, 10 January 2013 15:54 posted by Aaron

      Regardless of what side you take on this debate why is the title of the debate a declarative statement as opposed to a question?

    • Comment Link Steven Brant Thursday, 10 January 2013 15:21 posted by Steven Brant

      If the US and USSR could survive their nuclear stand-off, I think Israel and Iran could too.

      What would be required, in my opinion, is for Israel's government to more accurately reflect the desire of a significant portion of its citizens for peace. We Americans are shown a unified, hard-line Israel in the news we see on the major networks, but Israeli society is not that monolithically conservative. There is a large peace movement there, which our mainstream media never tells us about.

    • Comment Link Anwar H. Saturday, 05 January 2013 03:07 posted by Anwar H.

      I am for the motion and i draw my conclusion from two points of perspective.
      1) Many say if Iran gets the weapon it would/will trigger an "arms race" in the region. But Israel itself is the only country in the region that has the weapon, but that hasn't triggered an "arms race," despite the fact that the countries in the region are all technically at war with Israel.
      2) And second, do you really think that a country (Iran) which has endured so much pressure (sanctions, scientists killed, etc.) would, after getting the weapon, just use it in an instant. It's like a man who gambles away all in his possessions (money, car, house), and after years of hard labour finally earns back all he's lost, only to gamble it away again. And really do we think the leaders of Iran are demented enough to use the weapon, knowing full-well that it would also mean the end of them.
      So, many believe Israel disapproves of Iran getting the weapon not because of a fear that it will be used on them, but rather because it will shift the balance of power (militarily) in the region, from one dominated by Israel to one no longer dominated by Israel.

    • Comment Link Carlos Deegan Friday, 04 January 2013 17:33 posted by Carlos Deegan

      The issue in my opinion is proliferation. Just as with gun ownership in the US, the odds are that the more people who have arms, the greater the likelihood that an accident will happen. It is in the interest of the world that no new members of the nuclear club be permitted.

    • Comment Link Mujtaba Roozbahani Thursday, 03 January 2013 19:18 posted by Mujtaba Roozbahani

      As a Iranian in exile, I have to say that the Iranian regime is brutal dictatorship and this regime continued a useless war with Iraq in 8 years just to stay in power. The result of that war was more than one thousand billion dollars in damage and one million dead and injured only on the Iranian side. A regime that is killing its people every day and robbing the whole country will start a nuclear war against its neighbors whenever it feels a threat from its people. So the world most stop this regime from getting the nuclear bomb, and the best way is to support Iranian opposition not to attack Israel.

    • Comment Link Daniel R. Martin Thursday, 03 January 2013 15:45 posted by Daniel R. Martin

      I don't believe that the Iranian regime, despite its odious rhetoric, is demented or suicidal. Its awareness of its own instant annihilation if it were ever to use a nuclear weapon will keep it from attacking anyone else; doing so would gain it nothing.

    • Comment Link Francis  Corry Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:32 posted by Francis Corry

      The importance of our jewish population to our culture has been so great that the United States is obligated to defend them if anyone should consider annihilation. Iran leadership has repeatedly confirm this as a basic principle..Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. The U.S. has to help Iran in a regime change.

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