Mona Charen

Incentives and sweeteners were ineffective. And Iran has, correctly in my judgment, sized up the military threat it faces. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that he does not believe Israel or the United States will attack Iran's nuclear sites. The U.S., he explained, is bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is suffering a declining economy. "We do not foresee such a possibility at the moment." Nor, Mottaki claims, does his government worry about an attack by Israel, whose government is weak.

And yet, if Iran were to threaten Israel with a nuclear strike, the results might not be as tolerable for Iran as former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani predicted a few years ago. Iran should use its nuclear weapons (when it gets them) against Israel, he said, because one bomb would utterly destroy Israel whereas a counterattack would do "damages only" to Iran.

But Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has analyzed the nightmare scenario of a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel and comes to a very different conclusion. Obviously, any nuclear attack suffered by any country would be a catastrophe -- particularly for one so small as Israel. But Israel is believed to possess nuclear weapons of much greater power and yield than any weapon Iran is likely to get in the near future. Cordesman estimates that Iran would launch a 100-kiloton bomb, which can inflict third-degree burns at a distance of eight miles. But Israel would use 1-megaton bombs that inflict such burns at 24 miles. Israel's arsenal is also large, estimated to be in the neighborhood of 200 warheads, with multiple delivery methods including cruise missiles launched from submarines. If forced into a nuclear war (God forbid), Israel would probably aim for Tehran, a city of about 15 million situated, Cordesman says, "in a topographical basin with mountain reflector. Nearly ideal nuclear killing ground."

The great unknown is this: How crazy is the Iranian regime?

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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