America’s war on Iraq inadvertently helped Iran in its quest for dominance in the Middle East, a Rider University professor told an audience in Edison.
Speaking Nov. 27 to seniors at the JCC of Middlesex County, Jonathan Mendilow said former President George W. Bush erred when he “donated Iraq to Iran.”
Mendilow said with Iraq now lacking both political influence and military muscle, Iran has been able to turn its attention elsewhere, including enhancing its nuclear arsenal and supporting terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas throughout the world.
However, the biggest threat of Iran’s nuclear capability would not be a “big war” but the resulting power imbalance in the region.
Mendilow, chair of the political science department at Rider University in Lawrenceville, is the author of articles and books on the Israeli political system and global affairs.
Generally, he said, countries that gain nuclear capability don’t engage in “big wars” because of the retaliatory threat they pose to each other. Mendilow said it would seem that “atomic weapons are a deterrent to all-out war.”
“It is unthinkable that there will be all-out war in the Middle East or Asia or any place,” he said. “This is a weapon that is so terrible that it puts the big all-out wars out of the question.”
Another “game-changer” is Israel’s Iron Dome missile deterrent system, which proved 90 percent effective in intercepting missiles launched during the recent Gaza offensive, said Mendilow. However, a nuclear-empowered Iran may be emboldened to continue a power play in the Middle East.
“Would a nuclear Iran allow itself to conduct an operation in Saudi Arabia?” asked Mendilow. “I think so, because they know the big war is out.”
If he were an Israeli, he said, he “would be nervous”; but, he added, “A Holocaust scenario is not in play in the Middle East.”
“So far Iran has been extremely rational in its threats against Israel,” said Mendilow, “and Israel has been very rational in its response to those threats.”
Mendilow, a South African native who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, served as spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces for four-and-a-half years beginning in 1980.