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Would Israel Go Nuclear Against Iran?

And will the U.S. be dragged along for the ride?


In August 1961, during a period when tensions between Washington and Moscow were at a high point, Admiral Konstantin I. Derevyanko penned a letter to Premier Krushchev. His purpose was to alert Krushchev to what the Admiral called the “nuclear romanticism” of the Soviet General Staff. The Admiral’s words still carry the force of logic and common sense and are still worthy of our attention today:

Which planet do these people [the Soviet General Staff] intend to live on in the future, and to which Earth do they plan to send their troops to conquer territories?... By this indiscriminately massive use of nuclear weapons on a small and narrow area like Western Europe, we would not only be accepting millions of radioactively contaminated civilians, but, because of the prevailing westerly winds, would also be radioactively contaminating millions of our own people for decades—our armed forces and the populations of the socialist countries, including our own country as far as the Urals.


According to an unnamed official of the U.S. Government, President Joe Biden has told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States will not participate in a counterstrike against Iran. This is gratifying news. 

Israel does not contemplate operations against Iran or any other state that challenges Israel’s bid for strategic dominance in exclusively conventional military terms. In other words, for Israel’s national leadership, the use of a nuclear weapon is always on the table. Israel’s fundamental deterrence is still asymmetric nuclear capability.

Until now, Washington’s unconditional support for any action Netanyahu wants to take has made Washington an accomplice in Israel’s deliberate slaughter and starvation of Gaza’s Arab population and in the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria, a violation of international law. This collaborative support erodes the power and authority of the American People.

It’s time to ask whether American national interest and common sense are finally intruding in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. No one in the United States, Europe, or Asia benefits economically, politically, or financially from a regional war in the Middle East that closes the Straits of Hormuz and potentially invites direct Russian military intervention on Iran’s side. Is it also possible that Biden might object to the destruction of life in Gaza?

In this connection, the revelation that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin allegedly asked Minister Yoav Gallant, his Israeli counterpart, to inform the United States in advance of any possible counterattack by Israel is small comfort. Americans should not forget that Netanyahu wields considerable influence on the Hill, and in the mainstream media. Already legislators are falling all over themselves to send additional billions to Israel while U.S. borders remain open, Americans die of fentanyl poisoning, criminality rises, and children are being trafficked.


It may be too soon to answer the question of whether U.S. foreign policy is changing. Why? Because Israeli Media reports that there were intense debates during the last two meetings of the Israeli war Cabinet on whether to launch a large-scale strike against Iran. Such an attack would likely target Iranian command-and-control, potential long-range missile sites, airbases, naval bases, and oil infrastructure. On the other hand, there was reportedly a discussion about an Israeli response that might be more “measured” to prevent a wider regional conflict.

What Americans know is that Iran targeted Israeli military installations, not Israel’s population. And Iran used a small fraction of its arsenal and very few of their newest weapons. Hezbollah effectively sat out the event. Though it is speculated that two Israeli airfields and possibly an intelligence station on the Golan Heights sustained some damage, the entire Iranian operation had a theatrical air about it.

No one was surprised. Certainly not the Israeli air forces or their colleagues in the U.S. and British air forces. As noted above, with few exceptions, most of the 300-plus drones and missiles were intercepted and shot down. 

Nevertheless, Iran understood what was required to overwhelm Israeli and allied air defenses. We may infer that there was also a desire in Tehran to avoid escalating the conflict. Consider what would happen if Iran launched 1500 drones and 800 ballistic missiles over several hours, or even days. Iran made its point. It’s simple: Iran can destroy Israel. Tehran created new conditions of deterrence that favor Iran.

Iran announced through their UN mission that they consider the issue of the Israeli strikes on their consular offices in Syria closed. But nothing is solved. Little has changed. A million are starving in Gaza, and Americans should expect the Israeli campaign of murder and expulsion in Gaza to resume shortly. 

As a result, Netanyahu will demand the subjugation or destruction of Iran or any Muslim entity that challenges Israeli strategic dominance. For Netanyahu it’s a matter of existential importance to Israel. Yet the U.S. did not commit to attacking Iran. This is unacceptable to Netanyahu, and he will work to alter Washington’s position.

Under the circumstances, Washington should expect Israel to employ whatever military power is at its disposal, including nuclear weapons, to destroy Iran’s strategic power. Destroying Iran’s underground nuclear facilities has been a goal for a very long time. 

Moscow, however, will not tolerate a devastating attack on Iran. The question is whether Biden will tolerate such an attack and continue to indulge Israeli operations in Gaza. Perhaps Biden should pause to read Admiral Derevyanko’s 1961 advice to Krushchev before he answers.