Getting real

Dealing with an Iran that is unlikely to unlearn the technology of enriching uranium


Getting real
by Trita Parsi

In this guest post on Tony Karon’s excellent blog, the Rootless Cosmopolitan (Tony is senior editor at, I write about the subtle shifts taking place in Israel on Iran. -- TP

The distinction between the apocalyptic rhetoric Israeli leaders use publicly in relation to Iran, and the more pragmatic view they hold among themselves on how to deal with Tehran and its nuclear program, has long been clear to anyone paying very close attention. In short, it’s clear that many of Israel’s key leaders don’t believe Iran is a suicidal ideologically-crazed regime that would risk destroying itself in order to destroy Israel, and therefore that even a nuclear-armed Iran would not be an “existential threat” to Israel, although clearly it would present a major strategic challenge by fundamentally reordering the balance of military force in the region. And of late, some of them have begun a gingerly but very clear retreat from the idea that Israel will have to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if no one else does — President Shimon Peres has said as much, publicly, and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has echoed that position. I asked Rootless Cosmopolitan’s favorite Iran expert, Dr. Trita Parsi, to weigh in on the basis of his extensive research and interviews with many of the key decision-makers on the Israeli and Iranian sides. Trita’s book Treacherous Alliance — The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S. is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the Israeli-Iranian relationship, and why there’s plenty of room for pragmatic coexistence:

Israel Gets Real on Iran

By Trita Parsi

On the eve of his departure from political life, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Olmert delivered a stinging parting shot – putting under question not only the wisdom of holding on to Palestinian land, but also the feasibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“We have to make a decision, one that goes against all our instincts, against our collective memory,” he told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Recognizing that no other Israeli leader ever had uttered these words publicly, Olmert went on to declare that “Israel must withdraw from almost all, if not all” of the West Bank to achieve peace.

On Iran, Olmert argued that Israel had lost its “sense of proportion” when stating that it would deal with Iran militarily. “What we can do with the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese, we cannot do with the Iranians,” Olmert said, in stark contradiction to his own earlier warnings on Iran as well as the rhetoric of many of his hawkish cabinet members. “Let’s be more modest, and act within the bounds of our realistic capabilities,” he cautioned.

Olmert’s interview dashed the hopes of neoconservatives in Washington hoping for an Israeli post-November surprise through the bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities. With the U.S. facing a financial crisis and Israel’s lacking the “proportions” to take on Iran, the risk for military confrontation with Iran in the last months of the Bush Administration has decreased significantly, according to most analysts.

Olmert’s statement may signal a long-overdue shift towards Israel’s Plan B on Iran. Israel’s first preference had been to pressure the U.S. to exercise its own military option on Iran, and to prevent any diplomatic breakthrough that might cause Washington to accept some level of Iranian uranium-enrichment capability. In this regard, Israeli warnings of its readiness to attack Iran if the U.S. declined to do so served primarily to pressure Washington to launch a military strike. Talk about the Israeli military option was aimed at keeping the American military option on the table.

Since the mid-1990s, a key tenet of Israel’s foreign policy has been to sound alarm bells on Tehran. Originally, the aim was to prevent any thaw between the U.S. and Iran out of a fear that Israeli security interests would be sacrificed in a potential U.S.-Iran deal. Plan A was to nip this in the bud by undermining efforts to pursue diplomacy in the first place.

This policy did not lack critics, however. An internal Israeli Iran-committee in the early 1990s led by former commander of the Israeli air force, David Ivry, concluded that the aggressive Israeli rhetoric had prompted Iran to turn its focus towards Israel. Iran has enough problems in the region, the committee argued, there was no need to make Israel shine any brighter on Iran’s radar.

As Iran’s power grew in the region, Israeli concerns grew accordingly. The more Iran could present itself as an indispensible actor in the region, the greater the risk of a U.S.-Iran accommodation. Left with few good options, and an unwillingness to consider how a U.S.-Iran deal could change Iran’s behavior towards Israel, the inclination in Israel was to intensify the very policy its Iran-committee had warned against.

But while Israel’s Iran hawks argued against U.S.-Iran diplomacy, they had a hard time digesting the Bush Administration’s opposition to Israeli-Syrian diplomacy. The contradiction in the Israeli position was evident during AIPAC’s conference earlier this summer. Ephraim Sneh – a leading Iran hawk of Israel’s Labor Party – argued passionately against U.S.-Iran diplomacy while making an equally passionate case for diplomacy Syria. His justification was that in case of war, the Israeli public must know that every stone had been turned before their young men and women were sent to battle. On Iran, however, Sneh did not acknowledge the same justification.

Olmert’s valedictory interview may be the first small steps towards a Plan B on Iran – one that takes as its point of departure the new regional realities: A balance of power that has shifted away from Israel, and an Iran that is unlikely to unlearn the technology of enriching uranium. Israel now needs a way out of the prison of its own rhetoric. Repeating statements that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” and using a rhetoric that creates an air of inevitability of war has left the Jewish State with no real options. A more nuanced rhetoric on Iran may have the down-side of reducing pressure on the U.S. to act - “If we don’t talk about Iran, the world will forget about Iran,” as Israeli Iran expert David Menashri put it – but has the up-side of enabling new options to emerge for the Jewish state.

Warning about being “boxed into the corner,” a recent Haaretz editorial offered a clear break from Israel’s Plan A: “The best chance of calming the atmosphere and reducing the threat lies in starting negotiations between the United States and Iran… [I]t is the only route not yet tried and is likely to help moderate Iranian policy. Israel must encourage an American rapprochement with Iran, with the understanding that this will serve the Israeli interest as well.” And in a video by the Jewish Council for Education and Research, several high-ranking Israeli generals throw their weight behind U.S.-Iran diplomacy as a path towards advancing Israeli security.

Still, in spite of the many rising voices against Israel’s losing approach on Iran, the Jewish state is a long way from discarding its Plan A.

Unlike Olmert who recognized the unfeasibility of Plan A while leaving office, Israel’s new Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, may enter office with Plan B in sight. She rejects the idea that Israel “will not be able to live” with a nuclear Iran and says Israel must deal with the challenges it faces. Though Livni won’t go as far as Barack Obama in promising direct diplomacy with Tehran, she may help Israel find a few more options on Iran.

First published on

Trita Parsi President of the National Iranian American Coucil and author of "Treacherous Alliance -- The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S.", a Silver Medal Recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award, the most significant award for a book on foreign affairs.


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by IRANdokht on

Now I understand what zigzagging means...

All that "zigzagging" you did was just a precursor to advocate surgical military attacks on Iran! 

For your information, the targets of a surgical attack would include the nuclear sights in Iran. For your information these sights have been placed in heavily populated areas which means the nonsignificant number of casualties that you deem acceptable per your standards, would be a lot higher than any real Iranian would ever want to see. 

The people who are trying to keep peace and are being silenced and harrassed by the opposition systematically are the voices of human rights advocates and their lawyers, and also the lobbyists who are working in DC to stop such surgical or any military attacks on Iran.

Thanks for clarifying your point (finally) I was wondering why you kept twisting my words and sounded so angry and accusatory. Now I get it! Peaceful transitions are out of the question because some opposition members abroad want so bad to get back in and take revenge. I won't even ask who these oppositions abroad are that are all too clear but disorganized. I think I already found out who you're rooting for.

by the way, instead of capitalizing my name to score a cheap chuckle, please note the spelling of coup d'etat. It might come in handy some day ;-) 



Think what you want....

by Kouroshs (not verified) on


This is really interesting. I am going to first respond to what you said at the very end, claiming that you never said anything about uprising from within!! Then, what did you mean by EVOLVING and the fact that enormous bloodshed was required? how could any of that happen without an uprising?????? stop zigzagging for the love of god.

For someone who insists that people should read others' comments THOROUGLY you have totally missed the point and seriously misread my message. I said In the event of a coup de'tat (thanks for correcting my misspelling bythe way), Should there be one, as one just one of the ways a foregin power could get rid of the mollahs and make their intervention. IN this day and age of Advanced Technology, it can be done in so many clandestine ways without alarming the basijis or jondollahis.

In principle i agree with the fact that a coup de tat typically needs strong ties within the establishement, but even if that is not the case and even if for instance US decided stage an attack only on sensitive and key targets to paralize IRI, and even if during that attack something goes wrong and we will end up with some civilian casulties GOD FORBID, It will be still , less Costly than being the victim of IRI thugs and willingly falling into the hands of their armed forces who are just waiting to suppress any movemnet with outmost force.

The `opposition does have a very clear face! the only problem is that they are not getting their collective acts together and they are so disorganized. You are talking about a smooth transition??? what do you think this is, the US elections? should we appoint a committee to make things as smooth as possible??

They do have a clear face regardless of the fact that who is hated most, and more than akhoonds and why. And frankly, i think it would be a good idea if you made a mention of exactly who those "few voices" who are trying to bring freedom to iran are (That you mentioned in your previous posting)and that are being suppressed by the oposition groups abroad.

The issue of trust has really no place in this discussion when you are talking about a country with 70 + million population who are fed up. How could we "trust" that In 1979 everything that our people did in the name of freedome and independence was going to bear fruit? How could any form of opposition create that strong sense of trust in their followers??? how can they promise anything? They can't. And by the same token, Let's suppose people Evolved from within!! and did something, how can you be sure that there is trust and there won't be any divisions and chand dastegi?


Kourosh S

by IRANdokht on

You seem to have a problem with the way I express myself and my view points. Fine!  As long as you know what my point of view is and you don't go on translating what I said and hearing not so clear signals here and there. For example if I say I think foriegn intervention would cost us many lives and cause a bloodshed you translate it to me not caring how many people lose their lives!!!

you said:

Could it be any more clear that you possibly don't care how many people can lose their lives, should there be an uprising? because as i am sure you are aware, IRI won't just sit back and let the show go on without killing and maiming and arresting a huge number of people.

and if there would be a foreign intervention, is there not that possibility that the rate of casualties could be far less? as in a coup de' ta and not necessarily bombing cities and main facilities?


What I am saying is that Iranian people have lived with the atrocities of this regime for 30 years and the ones who are living comfortably out here should not be advocating military attack on our people.

Now you brought up the option of a coup d'etat...  Correct me if I am wrong but any coup would require a significant number of armed forces currently in Iran or at least the higher ranking officers to be involved.

A Coup d'etat needs personel from within and as far as I know IRI has been chosing those people very carefully amongst the most faithful of their own. A coup doesn't happen from the outside even if CIA is involved, remember Venezuela?

The pasdars and the basij army are all armed and if faced with a CIA coup d'etat, you will see a large number of casualties and a widespread chaos.

The people also would have to know and trust the elements who are trying to overthrow the regime. When you hear the opposition members talk about executing anyone who's been working with IRI and hanging all akhounds from the trees on Pahlavi St, don't you think that they would be alarmed about another series of quick executions by the hand of the new regime? 

Most people in Iran had to work within the regime because a lot of jobs are gov. related. They don't hear about a smooth transition and honestly, I don't blame them for getting nervous and not trusting anyone.

The opposition does not have a clear face and voice there (or even here) and they do not give anyone a reassurance about their possible future to even eliminate resistance within the people who are unhappy with the current regime.

So yes I think foreign intervention will cost us greatly. Did I say uprising from within? or as you even said "advocate" it? NO!

I hope I was clear this time.




by KouroshS (not verified) on


The reason i did not address you directly was because i was replying to American wife. Had you replied to my posting initially, i then would be directly addressing you. Fair enough for you?
I have said it many times and i have no problem repeating it. You praised Dr.parsi's article and that was just fine. The clear signal came when you directly recommended an uprising from within and that everyone should "get over it" and that it requires enormous bloodshed. Get Over it? Is that how you deal with those who are entitled to their opinion of believing in outside intervention? Why don't you get over youself?

Could it be any more clear that you possibly don't care how many people can lose their lives, should there be an uprising? because as i am sure you are aware, IRI won't just sit back and let the show go on without killing and maiming and arresting a huge number of people.

and if there would be a foreign intervention, is there not that possibility that the rate of casualties could be far less? as in a coup de' ta and not necessarily bombing cities and main facilities?

And you know what? I appreciate your suggestion, but i insist that you refrain from telling people or making recommendations as to how they should read comments and what sort of conclusions they ought to make. That is really not within the area of your expertise.

American Wife

ok... wonderful.

by American Wife on

Now that we've all made "nice nice", I'll get the tea and cookies.  We'll play a little takheh nard and I'll impress you with my corr corree even when I don't win. (my finglish is terrible so please have patience with me).

Actually this is not unlike a family discussion.  There are a bunch of us in my family and when we get together it's an unspoken rule that there can be no more than 4 of us together in one conversation.  It doesn't take long before the Irish temper starts and before you know it, someone's got their panties in a wad and some not-nice words get thrown out.  We're pretty sensitive and it doesn't take much to get our feelings hurt. 

But just like my family, I'd rather be here than anywhere else (here being  Who knows... if you stick around, you might even hear me admit I was wrong about something.

Yeah. Right. 

My husband is still waiting for that....:-)


Kourosh S

by IRANdokht on

With all due respect "she" is right here and you can address "her" directly!

I am still confused about what you really could have thought I meant and what kind of "clear signals" were sent to you and where from?

I said that people should not advocate any foreign element's regime change in Iran because it's costly. You told me I was chest thumping!!  If that's chest thumping please rest assured that I will not stop just because it sends some individuals different signals!

I do suggest that you read what people write thoroughly before you allow those not so clear signals to affect their meaning!




Thank you and Likewise, But..

by KouroshS (not verified) on

I sincerely appreciate all the respect and rest-assured that it is mutual. However, I only responded with what i cleary saw in ID's writing, To claim that no change will be forthcoming unless there is uprising from iranians in iran, "enormous bloodshed" sends a clear signal to me about what could possibly be going on in the author's mind. Perhaps she could have picked better terms to get her point across, and saved us all a whole lotta grief.



by IRANdokht on

Thank you American wife for clearing up this mess!  I was shocked to see how everyone is being attacked regardless of where they stood. I guess emotions run high, maybe too high sometimes.

Thanks for your well written comment. I hope people concentrate their time and effort and find a way to unite or at least agree to disagree as you said.  The article is well written and should not be hi-jacked by nonsense.

And also thanks for the vote of confidence. You are a wise lady and a valued member of this site and the iranian community.


American Wife


by American Wife on

You're standing in a circle trying to shoot at something in the middle and all you're doing is shooting each other!

However it was said... to whom it was directed... my point was simply that you're criticizing IRANdokht for something she did not say.  Her comment was exactly... "The country needs to evolve from within and the change cannot be forced upon the people without enormous amount of bloodshed, so give it up!"

There is simply NO one on this site that is more opposed to NON intervention of outside sources... she is 100% opposed to any form of "surgical" strikes and ANY form of attack or intervention that will cause these enormous amounts of bloodshed.  She is concerned for her country and hamvatans and believes wholeheartedly that change needs to come from within. 

If I have mispoke her intentions I will apologize to her in the boldest of language.

Kourosh seemed to imply that she was FOR bloodshed...Rezayi defended her stand AGAINST bloodshed... bystander decided to join the party and AGAIN enforce the idea that ID was for bloodshed... MY comment to bystander was repeating YOUR words which HE obviously mistook.  Then YOU turn on bystander who is actually defending YOUR words on poor Rezayi.

Have you ever been to a fair... they have these shooting galleries where the stuffed animals move from right to left and you have shoot something to win.

You don't have to shoot somebody to win your point.  Another great article that is moving along nicely and intelligently until the little fishys swim in and decided to cause chaos.  What's so sad is that you're so focused on name-calling that you're missing the entire point. Many of these registered users have been discussing issues for years... stating their case and point respectfully and in most cases, with a geniune fondness for their opponent.  They respect one another and for the most part agree to disagree.

I'm a visitor myself.  But I have great respect for these wonderful people.  All I am saying is that it is to YOUR benefit if you would extend that same curtesy.  Sure, we all get excited or frustrated.  But there is no one with more love for her country than IRANdokht.  At the very least, agree or disagree with a true understanding of what she is saying.

Thank you gentlemen... for I do believe that you are. 


bystander... why don't YOU

by kouroshs (not verified) on

bystander... why don't YOU take a second look

American wife.

I think that i am a tad bit more comfortable with the English language since at least i don't address the wrong individual with comments i have for someone else.
I am just like all you people out there, making my voice heard. No agenda, No chips on my shoulder.

Am i hell -bent On being considerate? Is anyone? hmm. I don't know about that lady. But i do reassure you that I get it, as i am sure that you also get it based on your knowledge and understanding of the issues. So please don't play this useless game of shooting snide remarks at me and expect me to appologize for no good reason.

Thank you.


For Bystander

by KouroshS (not verified) on

Oh i am sorry, I did not know you were rezayi's Legal representative.
So according to you, people should rise up and get killed, (That is what she means by bloodshed, is it not) so we can avenge all the blood that has been lost so far, forget about all other possible solutions and maybe a little hand from outside. WOw, What a very effective strategy. Blood for Blood!

Exteremly smart,


Rezayi Na balad nistam.

by KouroshS (not verified) on


Na balad nistam. Khosha be halo rozo jenabali ke engilist as hameh behtare.

When she says this :
The country needs to evolve from within and the change cannot be forced upon the people without enormous amount of bloodshed, so give it up!

What the hell Do you think is she talking about? Btw: there is nothing wrong with the spelling and i am very clear on what this word means.

And one more thing. I am not here trying to hook up with anybody or impress women. like you are. So, yekhorde relax kon. Ok?

American Wife

bystander... why don't YOU take a second look

by American Wife on

And why is it that you ever so conveniently advocat the potential massacre of hundreds of thousands to get rid of a regime?

Perhaps you're not very comfortable with the English language?  Perhaps you THINK you see what you're saying because you have some other agenda?  Perhaps you're just another anonymous nobody with a chip on your shoulder? 

When you finally "ge" it, I think YOU owe ID an apology since you're so hell bent on being so considerate.



Rezayi: You made real boo boo !!

by Bystander (not verified) on

You see brother, Kourosh S is correct. Your problem is that you form an opinion before you read a text. Koroush is asking Irandokht, why is it that she has never advocated in favor of the change of the Islamic regime given the murder of hundreds of thousands of people by the regime.

Did you ge it now? OK? Now apologize!


Kourosh S

by Rezayi (not verified) on

Where did she advocate any massacre?

agha agar englissi balad nisti majboori be englissi benevissi?

go look up what "advocate" means and check the spelling before aaberooyeh harchi mardeh jeloyeh in khanoomayeh irani bebari!



by kouroshS (not verified) on

what is all the chest-thumping about?

You have basically discredited all the currently active existing opposition groups for one reason or another, so i am wondering who else is left out there? does dr. Parsi waiting in the wings with an army of intellectuals to make a landing anytime soon?

The mojaheds, the communists, the Monarchists compose the core of the opposition groups abroad.
And why is it that you ever so conveniently advocat the potential massacre of hundreds of thousands to get rid of a regime? What was the great accomplishment of such great tactic back in 1979?

I guess you are just so excited by dr. parsi's talk that you think everyone is ready to jump off the bridge right here right now.



by Bystander (not verified) on

"Iranian people living in the country do not trust the opposition groups abroad and will not help anyone to perform a regime change that is backed by foreign powers."

How did you come to this conclusion? By watching Iran from California?

Niloufar Parsi

Trita, Great article!

by Niloufar Parsi on

Somewhere along the line, we will have to face the fact that neither the US nor Israel have been interested in peace until it has been forced on them. This is not how true democracies would work. The democracies, the 'free' have demonstrated no ability to share power so far. 



Very smart

by KB on

Great article Dr Parsi.

Thank you for all that you and NIAC do to promote peace.


Thank you Dr Parsi

by IRANdokht on

Dr Parsi's clear and concise analysis of the events in the middle east is refreshing, he explains the issues, the history, the conflicts of interest, the politics and the possible outcomes of the events in the region the best way I have ever seen.

I attended a forum last night and listened to Dr Parsi analysis of the region, the power distribution, the strategic conflicts of IR and Israel and the solution for a more balanced, hence peaceful region.

I am convinced that the ones who are determined to argue with Dr Parsi, label him and contradict him have never even listened to the man speak, never read any of his articles or his book and are doing so based simply on their own inability to realize that the Iranian people living in the country do not trust the opposition groups abroad and will not help anyone to perform a regime change that is backed by foreign powers. 

The opposition abroad is out of touch and is trying to silence the few voices who are trying to help bring peace and civility to our nation. The monarchy is gone, it's over, give it up! Communist groups and mojaheds are not the solution either, people are more afraid of mojaheds than they are of the akhounds. The country needs to evolve from within and the change cannot be forced upon the people without enormous amount of bloodshed, so give it up!

Listen to the voices of reason out there people!  read Dr Parsi's articles and his book, listen to him speak, educate yourselves! oh yeah and STOP your hate and the grudge! it's counterproductive.

Thank you Dr Parsi for the clarity of your analysis and your tireless determination.



The Free World & Iran

by Nazanin Ghasemian on

The free world bears responsibility in the problematic regime it's trying to face down today. It's hard to have sympathy for the world leaders who are having a hard time solving this "Persian Puzzle". I feel sympathy for the military families who end up sacrificing for politicians. In Trita Parsi's (excellent) book, he explains that the United States decided to thumb its nose at Iran when Iraq's prospects looked good. The glory of unilateral victory is always sweeter than admitting you got help from a "foe". Iran decided that they would follow the US example until America had no choice remaining except to consider state level talks.


Great hope for peaceful co-existence

by Mehdi on

Restoring Iran-US relations is the best solution. The IRI is ready for it and it can lead to a very modernized Iran, which effectively removes any security threat, eventually. This would also put Israel in a much more secure position, and in the longer run make it possible to even have Iran as a friend. Most of the animosity is based on nothing. There is no real issue. There is a falsehood that has been used by certain shabby characters in order to sell weapons, coffins, etc. People and even the governments of Iran/US/Israel have no real problem with each other - it's really all shadow problems, ballooned into an elephant by mysterious characters on all sides (who probably even work together). People are the only losers of such animosity.

Thanks Mr. Parsi for all your great work! Iran owes you - as well as Israel, for giving them both peace.

American Wife

great article... just great!

by American Wife on

by....      go away... you're an idiot

Fred...    just say what you've got to say. We ignorant Americans have to read it twice just to understand what you're saying.  You're too verbose.

Toofan...   how do you wish to be addressed Oh Kingly One?  Your Highness... Oh Supreme One.. Oh Fearless Leader. I left my satirical wit at today. We need skatermom to come up with something clever.

If you need an Executive Administrator... pick me!!! pick me!!!




by Lefty Lap Poodle (not verified) on

"Would the free world allow the world’s most active terrorist sponsoring regime to complete its full cycle dual use nuke program side by side its current capacity to churn out ICBM delivery vehicles?"

Yes! A simple yes! Get over yourself Fred you don't need so much introduction to ask a simple question.

iraj khan

Mr Parsi analysis is clear and to the point

by iraj khan on

Iranian regime is far from suicidal and Israel should not be afraid of Iranians producing atomic energy. I hope the plan B would come into forefront. People in Middle East need peace more than anything else.


Very well put

by Abarmard on

This article explains the Iran-Israeli political challenges very well.

Thank you


My two cents

by Toofantheoncesogreat (not verified) on

Iran must accept Israel -> Israel must accept a nuclear enriching Iran -> Israel must return the Golan Heights and help create a palestinian state -> Arabs must accept and recognize Israel -> Iran and Arab countries must solve remaining geographical issues -> American and foreign forces must leave the Middle East -> A Middle-Eastern union must be formed that is both economical and based on defence including Israel -> I get voted as the almighty ruler and president of this new Union and most of the funds must be used to build a golden throne for me which shall be covered with flowers and Brazilian strippers.

Toofan Out!


Fait accompli

by Fred on

For some time now various Islamist republic lobbyists have been floating the idea of fait accompli vis-à-vis its nuke. Given the mountain of hard evidence of the Islamist republic’s incontrovertible direct relationship with the most virulent international terrorist organizations, on top of its horrendous treatment of its own citizens, this approach only validates the core problem. Would the free world allow the world’s most active terrorist sponsoring regime to complete its full cycle dual use nuke program side by side its current capacity to churn out ICBM delivery vehicles?


The entire ME should become

by .... (not verified) on

The entire ME should become nuclearized once the Islamic Republic goes nuclear; it is only a matter of time.