Opinion | Saving the world through subtle diplomacy
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 22:09
Iranian nuclear ambitions have been a serious foreign policy concern for Israel, the United States and the entire global community for the better part of the past decade. Preventing the threats of a nuclear Iran has been a stated goal of the Bush and Obama administrations.
While Western supporters have stressed the importance of persevering with economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, Israel itself has been pulled increasingly toward the military option.
The concern of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his compatriots is that Iran’s new nuclear facilities, which are being fortified in an underground laboratory, will soon be beyond the reach of their country’s military capabilities.
That’s why they need us.
At this point, Israel can either stay true to their aggressive rhetoric and launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear labs, or admit that said attack would be a very bad idea.
Let us analyze a scenario in which Israel, presumably with American support, does attack Iran.
Israel’s goal of halting its tormentor’s nuclear progress would be achieved, but for how long?
Iran will not simply reverse course or stop dead in its tracks, and Israel cannot simply launch an airstrike every time Iran comes close to nuclear technology.
In fact, such a scenario is likely to make the Iranians more determined to go nuclear, and even better prepared to defend against future attacks.
That assumes, of course, the best possible outcome of this situation: one in which Iran’s reaction amounts to little more than going back to the drawing board.
Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking.
Iran’s leaders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have repeatedly insisted that they have no intention of developing a nuclear weapon and desire only nuclear energy sources.
Their country is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which only India, Pakistan, North Korea and, ironically, Israel, have not signed).
Whether or not you trust their present intentions, their intentions following a military conflict with Israel would certainly take a large step in the wrong direction.
Even if Iran does not use weapons of mass destruction, a war with Israel—which would inevitably pull in the rest of the world, especially the US—would be almost unavoidable.
But we’re good at winning wars.
The graver threat comes not from the government of Iran, or the government of any single country, but from the extremist elements of the Islamic world.
A strike against Iran would essentially demolish the bridge with the Islamic world that we have been trying to build ever since the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001.
The terrorist organizations that have caused so much pain and suffering have lost significant ground as the United States has made a concerted effort not only to combat them but to erode their support by gaining the trust of Muslims.
Sympathy for anti-western ideologies would skyrocket. Israel, already unwelcome in its part of the world, would be making itself into a target.
The enemies of the United States would multiply, putting our servicemen and women overseas, and indeed our average citizens, in extreme danger.
A second scenario, though difficult for Israel to accept, would prevent the world from spiraling into war or bringing about a new wave of terrorism: Israel swallows its pride and allows its threats of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities to go unfulfilled.
In this scenario, the United States, Israel, and the United Nations continue to apply economic and diplomatic pressure in an attempt to peacefully prevent a nuclear Iran.
In this scenario, a full-scale war does not erupt between Iran, Israel and their respective allies.
And, most importantly, this scenario does not fuel the fires of Islamic extremism and anti-western sentiments to unprecedented levels.
Perhaps this approach will fail.
Perhaps Iran will go back on their promise to pursue nuclear technology only for energy purposes, and develop a weapon after all.
This is where the United States needs to use subtle diplomacy, by making clear to Iran that it is prepared to exercise its full military strength if Iran moves toward nuclear weapons, and by making clear to Israel that any military engagement of Iran without sufficient reason will not receive American support.
The Iran-Israel dynamic is shaped by a balance of power. Iran will not attack Israel because it knows that would mean a swift and complete retaliation by the United States and its allies.
Israel will not attack Iran without the support of the United States because it knows it lacks the military strength fight such an enemy on its own.
It may not be an ideal solution, but Israel hasn’t left itself many options. In any case, I see it as a much better alternative to World War III or another 9/11.