by Michael Rubin
An Israeli strike won't suffice.
On October 1, President Barack Obama ascended the podium in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House and declared negotiations with
Where Obama sees tentative success, reality suggests failure. Faced with irrefutable evidence,
Obama's supporters have rallied to put the best face on the P5+1 dialogue. "Obama . . . got more concessions from Iran in 7½ hours than the former administration got in 8 years of saber-rattling," Juan Cole, president of the one-man Global Americana Institute, wrote on his blog. Former Carter administration adviser (and October Surprise conspiracy theorist) Gary Sick was likewise effusive, calling the meeting a "historic moment after thirty years of mutual recriminations and hyperbole." The truth, however, is that any agreement was short of specifics.
Not surprisingly, the Iranian regime has been defiant in recent days. Ahmadinejad called Obama's criticism of
The Obama administration may convince itself that it remains in control of the diplomatic process and has placed serious constraints upon any Iranian breakout capability, but countries with more at stake know better. Last month's Iranian test of ballistic missiles capable of hitting
Different threat perceptions muddy the international approach to the Iranian nuclear challenge. For the European Union, the Iranian nuclear challenge revolves around the viability of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as the efficacy of European foreign policy on the international stage. After all, the Islamic Republic's proliferation activities marked the first international crisis in which the European Union consciously sought to lead. Should
For President Obama and most of the American foreign-policy apparatus, a nuclear-weapons-capable Islamic Republic would be strategically untenable. A nuclear
Many in Europe and the
It is for these reasons that Israeli officials across their political spectrum — from Meretz and Labor on the left to Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu on the right — consider a nuclear-weapons-capable Islamic Republic of Iran an existential threat.
On June 7, 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed
Not surprisingly, therefore, the Osirak strike is often voiced as the model should
That the Israeli military could force a delay in
Still, the aftermath of a strike may not go as Israeli officials plan. However Iranians may feel about their current leadership, they are, without doubt, fierce nationalists. The best thing that ever happened to the Islamic Revolution was Saddam Hussein's invasion, as it allowed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to consolidate control at a time when the revolutionary forces threatened to spin out of control. Any attack on Iranian soil would again enable the regime to rally the Iranian people around the flag. Some analysts and Iranian exiles argue that, faced with bombing, ordinary Iranians — dissatisfied with their government's poor stewardship of the economy and repressive social policies — might turn on the regime. This is wishful thinking: Even if it were true, the Iranian government is master of the information operation. Word would soon spread that the Israelis had hit a school bus, or kindergarten, or shot down a civilian jetliner, allowing the Iranian government to exploit the cultural theme of martyrdom to the advantage of Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, international diplomatic opinion would turn fast on
Israeli officials may believe that, as with
But would a delay not achieve
In short, an Israeli strike might buy time, but it would not buy enough time. The Islamic Republic would arise from any attack with greater lethality than before. Any attack would be a huge gamble, albeit one that Israeli leaders are likely to take given the inability of the P5+1 to raise the cost of Iranian defiance to the point that the supreme leader, to paraphrase Khomeini's statement on ending the Iran-Iraq War, drinks his chalice of poison and agrees to step back from the brink. Alas, because the Western world does not share Israel's threat perception, it is neither likely to force upon the Islamic Republic the degree of coercion necessary to achieve a change of regime behavior, nor is it willing to lay the groundwork — through support for independent trade unions, independent civil society, and democratization — to assist Iranians seeking fundamental change in the nature of their regime. This will leave
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