Few countries in modern times could claim the title "warrior nation". The United States and Great Britain definitely can, and Israel certainly qualifies for this distinction too. Today is the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding and a reminder of the heroism of the Israeli people. This tiny nation of just 7 million has fought seven wars and survived in the face of insurmountable odds, international hostility and massive intimidation, a tribute to the strength of the human spirit and the willingness of Israelis to fight to defend their freedom.
Six decades on from its establishment, Israel continues to fight for its very existence, and remains the most persecuted nation in the history of the United Nations. The UN has left no stone unturned in its hounding of Israel, a relentless display of hatred and prejudice that shames the world body. Despite being the freest, most democratic country in the Middle East, Israel is the whipping boy for the UN's Human Rights Council, a discredited basket case of an organization that boasts some of the world's worst human rights offenders as members, including China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia and Egypt. Roughly three quarters of the HRC's resolutions in its first year were aimed at Israel, while brutal dictatorships such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma and Sudan barely merited a mention.
Needless to say, the United Nations has remained silent in the face of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel "off the map", much as the League of Nations dithered in the shadow of Nazi Germany just two generations ago. Iran's dictator doesn't mince his words when referring to Israel, calling it a "filthy entity" that "will sooner or later fall" in a speech this January, as well as "a dirty microbe" and "a savage animal" at a rally in February.
There are distinct echoes of the heated discussions in Europe and the United States over the intentions of Adolf Hitler in the mid to late 1930s in today's debate over Iran. Then as now, there was a constant barrage of calls from political elites on both sides of the Atlantic for direct talks with a totalitarian regime and illusory hopes of reaching out to "moderates" within the government, a general downplaying of the threat level, widespread inaction and hand-wringing, and staggering complacency over levels of defense spending.
The brutal lessons of 20th Century history taught that there can be no negotiation with this sort of brutal dictatorship, and it would be a huge strategic error for the West to do so. There will be endless debate in international policy circles over Tehran's nuclear intentions, but the essential fact remains that the free world is faced with a fundamentally evil and barbaric regime with a track record of backing international terrorism, repressing its own people, issuing genocidal threats against its neighbors, and of enabling the killing of Allied forces in Iraq.
It is imperative that the United States and Great Britain, Tel Aviv's two main allies, remain united in defending Israel in the face of Iranian aggression. Iran poses the most significant threat to Israel's security since its founding, as well as the biggest state-based threat to the West of our generation. As Israeli President Shimon Peres warned earlier this year, "a nuclear armed Iran will be a nightmare for the world."
As the world's largest sponsor of international terror, and a dangerous rogue regime hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons capability, Iran must be stopped. The Jerusalem Post reported just yesterday that the latest Israeli intelligence assessment is that "the Islamic Republic will master centrifuge technology and be able to begin enriching uranium on a military scale this year. According to the new timeline, Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the middle of next year." This is several years ahead of the flawed assessment of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), and gives added urgency to the debate over the Iranian nuclear issue.
Every effort must be made to increase the pressure on Tehran through Security Council and European economic, military and political sanctions, including a ban on investment in Iranian liquefied natural gas operations. In particular, extensive pressure must be applied on Switzerland to halt a $30 billion contract between Zurich-based contractor EGL and the National Iranian Gas Export Company.
At the same time, Washington and London must make preparations for the possible use of force against Iran's nuclear facilities if the sanctions route fails. In addition, the U.S. and UK must be prepared to retaliate against Iranian aggression in Iraq, with Tehran continuing to wage a proxy war against Coalition and Iraqi forces. As General Petraeus made clear in his recent testimony before Congress, Iran is actively supplying mortars, rockets and explosives to Shiite militia groups in Iraq. It has also been revealed by Coalition spokesmen in the last few days that the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been using Hizbollah guerillas to train Iraqi militias at a training camp at Jalil Azad near Tehran.
As tensions with Iran escalate, and as the stakes are dramatically raised, Britain and the United States should support the admission of Israel into NATO, offering a collective security guarantee in the face of Tehran's saber-rattling. Israel, which spends nearly 10 percent of its GDP on defense (in contrast to the NATO average of 2.1 percent), would be a major net asset to the Alliance, possessing a first rate army, air force and navy, as well as outstanding intelligence and special forces capability. There is likely to be strong initial opposition to the move by some European countries, including France and Belgium, but it is a debate that NATO should have sooner rather than later.
The next few years will be a critical time for Israel, as it faces the prospect of the rise of a nuclear Iran that has pledged its destruction. If Israel is to survive another 60 years it is imperative that the West confronts the gathering storm and stands up to the biggest threat to international security since the end of the Cold War.
The United States, Great Britain and their allies must reject the illusory promise of "peace in our time" conjured by advocates of an appeasement approach towards the Mullahs of Iran, and ensure the world does not face a totalitarian Islamist regime armed with nuclear weapons. The freedom that Israel currently enjoys was secured through the sacrifice of her soldiers through several wars in the Middle East, as well as the earlier sacrifice of American and British troops in World War Two. It is the same liberty that we cherish today in the West, freedom that must be fought for and defended.
Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events