Defending Israel against Iranian Nuclear Aggression: War, Genocide, and International Law

tags: Iran, Obama, nuclear deal

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, international relations, international law, art, literature, and philosophy. 

Under authoritative international law, aggressive war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, war can intentionally create the conditions that would make genocide possible; it can also be the more direct or immediate instrument of closely related crimes against humanity. It follows then, as Iran comes ever closer to achieving a viable nuclear weapons capability, that Israel has an especially good reason to fear future conflicts with such an aggression-prone Islamic republic.

Ultimately, any war launched by Iran could become genocidal.

Language has meaning. On July 23, 2014, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, called openly for the annihilation of Israel. For some time before that day, Iranian presidents, whether Hassan Rouhani or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had been proclaiming their desire to bring about Israel’s “disappearance.”

What still needs to be examined, more seriously and systematically, is whether these Iranian leaders have been calling for literal genocide, and whether, in response, Israel still maintains any legal authority to strike first.

Israel already has codified and customary rights to request a punitive General Assembly resolution, even one calling for Iran’s expulsion from the United Nations. While such a diplomatic rejoinder to Iran’s presumptively genocidal pleas could be entirely permissible and compliant with the law, it would also have little determinable effect upon Iran’s planned or considered military intentions. Of course, any such request could also be rejected by UN member states. ...

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