Israel’s (Alleged) Nuclear Sabotage Should Be a Reminder of Its Value as an Ally

August 18, 2020 | John Hannah
About the author: John Hannah is senior counselor at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On July 2, a mysterious explosion struck the Iranian nuclear facility in the city of Natanz. Informed speculation suggests that a bomb planted by Israeli covert agents may have caused the blast. John Hannah sees in the undisputed fact that Jerusalem is both willing and able to engage in such daring operations evidence of its value as an American ally:

If, as so many suspect, Israel was behind the explosion, it has both inflicted serious damage on Iran’s nuclear program and strengthened America’s diplomatic position in confronting Iran’s efforts at nuclear blackmail. But more than that, the bombing would also emphatically underscore some of the truly extraordinary capabilities that Israel brings to the table of the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership.

The ability to place an agent inside one of the crown jewels of the Iranian nuclear program, much less smuggle in a powerful bomb and detonate it at the point of maximum damage, is an absolutely stunning intelligence accomplishment. It’s not at all clear that there’s another intelligence service in the world, including the United States, that would have been capable of pulling off an operation of such difficulty, danger and daring so flawlessly. Given the downside risks, most probably wouldn’t even have tried.

With Israel’s value as an American ally increasingly up for debate, particularly within the Democratic party, that is a lesson worth highlighting in an election year. The United States has grown tired of the Middle East. It wants to do less there, not more, and divert resources to containing higher priority threats from great-power competitors like China in the Indo-Pacific and Russia in Europe.

But at the same time, America still has important interests in the Middle East that need to be secured—not least preventing a hostile Iran, born in the crucible of “Death to America,” from dominating the region and wielding nuclear weapons. . . . Especially after a two-decade period when the United States spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives directly engaging in military conflicts in the region, a $3.8 billion per year investment in Israel, one of the world’s leading military and intelligence powers that is unabashedly pro-American and prepared to act in defense of U.S. interests, looks like an absolute bargain.

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