How to tackle Iran
September 6th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

How to tackle Iran

By Dalia Dassa Kaye, Special to CNN

Dalia Dassa Kaye is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a 2011-2012 visiting fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. The views expressed are the author’s own.

As war talk spikes again in Israel, U.S. officials are searching for ways to convince the Israelis to hold off on military action. It could be that the heightened debate in Israel over military options and war preparations in the country aim mainly to elicit even tougher international and American actions against Iran.

But there are leaders in Israel – including, it would seem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who view the Iranian threat as severe enough to follow through on their threats, particularly now that they have staked their domestic and international reputations on doing so.

In order to stave off such an attack, a number of prominent former Israeli officials are calling for more explicit U.S. threats to use force against Iran. White House officials are reportedly debating whether to publicly announce red lines that might provoke American military action against Iran. The Obama administration can only expect more political pressure during an election year to make more explicit declarations supporting military force as diplomatic efforts and sanctions do not yet appear to be stopping Iran’s nuclear progress.

However, promising force or support for it are the wrong ways to prevent a unilateral Israeli strike and resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge. There are good reasons why the majority of Israel’s own security establishment opposes a unilateral military attack against Iran; these reasons do not suddenly become moot because it would be the United States conducting such action and not Israel. To be sure, a U.S. attack would likely be more effective, given greater American capabilities; and even those Israelis opposed to a unilateral attack may nonetheless favor military action if the United States is in the lead.

Yet there are other considerations and risks raised in the Israeli debate that are just as pertinent to American military action. The most critical of these are only in part about the operational issues surrounding the strike itself or the immediate retaliation it might provoke against Israel, Iran’s Gulf neighbors, U.S. forces in the region or its impact on global oil markets. They are about the dangerous longer-term strategic consequences of such an action.

Would a military attack, even if launched with superior U.S. military capabilities, actually do more than just delay Iran’s program? Might it accelerate rather than slow Iran’s seeming drive to weaponize its nuclear program? Would international pressure on Iran dissipate after a military attack? And if so, would it thus become easier for Iran to reconstitute its program after an attack?

Why would the president of the United States write a blank check for military action now without the resolution of such critical strategic questions? What if threatening “credible” military action publicly does not lead Iran to back down, as advocates of this option believe? The United States would then face the unfortunate predicament of pressure to act on its threats and engage in a war with Iran that it was trying to avoid.

Rather than public posturing aimed at encouraging the United States to make such firm declaratory policies – creating a sense of mistrust and tension in U.S.-Israeli relations that can only benefit Iran – Israeli officials should work with their American counterparts to quietly seek common strategic understandings on what type of Iranian endgame is acceptable and what conditions would need to be in place for force to be contemplated.

At the same time, the United States can continue the wide array of “assurance” policies already underway to ease Israeli concerns over Iran and bolster its military capabilities. With all the apparent doubts among Israel’s political elite that they can’t count on the United States, it is easy to overlook the unprecedented levels of military assistance and cooperation between the two countries.

U.S. military aid to Israel has reached record levels, providing Israel with the most advanced American weapon systems. President Obama and other senior administration officials have also made a number of public statements suggesting that U.S. policy is not to contain Iran but to prevent a nuclear weapons program. In the backdrop of such statements is a steady U.S. military buildup in the Gulf region, including the bolstering of naval vessels and fighter aircraft that could reach targets throughout Iran.

All these measures have yet to convince the Israeli leadership that the U.S. is serious. Perhaps an in-person appearance by President Obama in the Israeli Knesset reiterating these American positions and reminding the Israeli public of tangible American military commitments to Israeli security could change opinions, although a presidential visit to Israel before the election is unlikely.

Instead of committing the United States to take military action against Iran, a better option would be convincing more Israeli leaders and people that a military attack is still a bad idea if the goal is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. If and when President Obama goes to Jerusalem, that should be his message, not promises of U.S. military force.

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Topics: Iran • Israel • Middle East • Military • Uncategorized • United States

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soundoff (539 Responses)
  1. fedup

    If Benjamin and Ehud thinks that they have a mysterious God given right to attack Iran why the hell don't they go right ahead jack asses,have they ever thought of given back all the land they stole,it would go a long way in reaching peace,i hope Obama wins again the tide is changing however slow that might be.

    September 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  2. Mitt Romney

    Obama wins election, and im willing to bet on it. Majav... no need to repeat your comment 2-3 times on one blog, and it doesnt matter what Netanyahu does to Romney because Obama will win the election

    September 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  3. Harry

    Israel to hit Iran?! don't make us laugh! Propaganda is just a crap tool to promote self rightousness!

    September 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  4. 神谷まゆ

    Simply http://gtxtube.com wish to say your article

    September 23, 2012 at 4:53 am | Reply
  5. terrosist killers now in jordan from iraq he has uk passport

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم والصلاة والسلام على نبينا الكريم محمد صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

    امانة في اعناقكم ان تنشروا هذه الرسالة كي تفضح كل من تتلطخ يديه بدماء العراقيين الابرياء من حملة الجنسيات المزدوجة الذين ياتون الى العراق بمهمات من اسيادهم بالخارج لقتل العالم والضابط والدكتور والمهندس بابشع الطرق من الكاتم الى الدريل ( ثاقب الحديد ) الى الكي بالتيزاب ومن داخل السجون وخارجها ورميهم بمكب النفايات وكانهم ليسوا بشرا اكرمهم الله . نرجو ان تكشفوا هؤلاء لانهم يشغلون وظائف داخل المجتمع ويتخفون تحتها وهم العن من ابليس وقتلة الابرياء وسنرد اسماءهم الواحد تلو الاخر ومن هؤلاء الخونة والقتلة :

    المدعو بشار مكتوف راضي من الجنسية العراقية للاسف ويحمل جواز سفر بريطاني ويدعي بانه يحمل رتبة عميد في جهاز المخابرات العراقية وهو يدعي الان يعمل متخفيا بوظيفة نائب مدير شركة زين العراق للاتصالات ليتسنى له التنصت على المكالمات للذين ينوي اغتيالهم هو وشبكته بكل سهولة فمن خلال التنصت يعرف تفاصيل المواعيد والاماكن التي يتواجدون فيها ليسهل اعتقالهم واغتيالهم .

    وهو بعلاقاته مع ضعفاء النفوس في المملكة الاردنية الهاشمية استخرج اقامة نظامية باسم شركات وهمية وقد دخل شريك في مطعم له سمعته كي يطور علاقاته مع جميع الشرائح بالاردن واسم المطعم هو الملح والزاد مقابل فندق الهولدي ان تقريبا .

    هذه المعلومات مؤكدة من شخص من ذات الشبكة ادلى بها لي وهو هارب منهم خوفا من تصفيته من قبل قائده المدعو بشار مكتوف راضي

    امانة باعناقكم الى يوم الدين ان تعمموا هذا الايميل انقاذا لارواح الابرياء

    September 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  6. IRAN=SYRIA=IRAQ=EVIL=HIZBOALLAH=TERRORISTS

    FK IRAQ FK IRAN FK THE SHIIA IN SYRIA AND THOSE EVIL COUNTRIES , FK HIZBOALLAH./////THOSE IDIOTS THUGS SHIIA WHO MARRIED THERE COUSINS AND MAKE MOTAA WITH FEMALE CHILDREN ARE EVIL. USA SHOULD BE A SHAMED SITTING SILENT AGANIST 70.000 CEVILAINS THAT WERE KILLED BY THOSE SHIIA......USA AND NATO SHOULD GET RED OF THE SHIIA ASAD SYRIAN EVIL GOVERNMENT WHO IS HELPED BY IRAN AND IRAQ WITH RUSSIAN WEAPONS AND MONEY FROM OIL...WHY IS THIS SILENT ATTACK IRAN NOW. ISRAEL CAN HANDEL HIZBOALLAH TURKEY SHOULD GO AFTER SYRIA AND U SA AFTER IRAN GET RED OF EVIL BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

    ALI BEN HUSSAIN BEN SAHEB ALZAMAN

    November 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  7. IRAN=SYRIA=IRAQ=EVIL=HIZBOALLAH=TERRORISTS

    MAKE NO MISTAKE OBAMA WILL WIN THE ELLECTION AND HE WILL NOT ATTACK IRAN OR SYRIA AND THAT IS SHAMFUL HE SHOULD LISTEN TO THE REPUBLICAN ON THIS ISSUE...BEEN NICE IS NOT NICE POLICY WHEN DEALING WITH EVIL AND TERRORISTS IRAN AND IRAQ , TERRORISTS HIZBOALLAH AND SHIIA IN SYRIA.......ATTACK NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE./

    November 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  8. dentist

    Helpful info. Fortunate me I found your website by accident, and I'm stunned why this coincidence didn't came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

    November 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
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