Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org
The rhetoric on Iran certainly heated up this week. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta noted ominously on Sunday “if we have to do it, we will do it” when asked what the United States would do if the Iranians crossed America’s red line with their nuclear program.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Iranian leaders “have changed their calulus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
And Israeli Defense Minister told participants in the annual Herzliya Conference yesterday that the time for stopping Iran’s nuclear program was fast running out, adding “whoever says ‘later’ may found that later is too late.”
So is the clock about to run out on sanctions? Probably not.
Keep in mind the old saying that if you want peace, prepare for war. Both the United States and Israel have ample reason to talk tough right now - it increases the pressure on Iran’s critics to make the sanctions stick, thereby increasing the pressure on Tehran to negotiate.
Meanwhile, Iran has paired its tough talk over the Strait of Hormuz with a willingness to allow IAEA inspectors to return later in the month for a second round of talks. This could signal that a negotiated deal might be possible, though, the wiser bet would be that Tehran is playing for time by dangling the prospect of a deal before the world’s eyes. Odds are that this dance of threats and diplomacy will continue for a few months longer at least. Washington and Jerusalem know that the costs of waiting too long could be high, but so too could be the costs of acting too soon.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.