Today's date:
Winter 2005

A Nuclear Balkans in the Middle East

Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Labor Party and a former prime minister and foreign minister of Israel.

Here is the problem. If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, it will force the countries around it to do the same. The whole area will become a "nuclear Balkans." In addition, Iran is the center of terrorism in the Middle East.

I say Balkans because the whole region is a broken Muslim power. Nothing divides the Muslim world more than its unity. The longest war in the Middle East, which lasted seven years and had 4 million casualties, was between Iran and Iraq. And it can happen again.

The greatest danger, of course, is that Iran may be the first country to provide terrorists with unconventional weapons. That is a mortal danger. There are three important figures about the Middle East. It has 8 percent of the world population and 2 percent of the wealth of the world economy, but 65 percent of world terror.

Iran has a finger everywhere terror takes place: in Iraq, with Hezbollah and among the Palestinians. Further, it will be impossible to settle the situation in Iraq unless there is a change in Iranian policies. Now that the Iraqi army is gone, the border with Iran is open to the flow of arms, terrorists and money. It denies it, of course. But we know for sure that you can't trust Iranian denials.

And on top of all this, Iran is the only member of the United Nations that openly calls for the destruction of another state: Israel.

So there are three options for trying to stop Iran from fulfilling its nuclear course: political pressure, economic sanctions or military action.

I think it is time to move to economic sanctions. But for these sanctions to be effective, the US and Europe must harmonize their policies. If one will be lax and the other decisive, it won't work.

I don't suggest a military preemption. I think economic sanctions can achieve this goal because there are forces in Iran itself that are very unhappy with the regime of the ayatollahs.

Israel should not be the leading force in disarming Iraq's nuclear capacity. Israel does not need another confrontation with Muslim countries. The Americans wisely did not ask Israel to help with Iraq. The same is true here.