At their final presidential debate, Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney agreed to a large extent on their approach to Iran’s nuclear pursuit: Stop Iran, but stop it via sanctions; and only if those fail, consider more drastic options.
The question is, what is the definition of the “failure” of sanctions? Both candidates seem to believe that the sanctions cannot fail. Both candidates seem to believe that the tougher the sanctions, the greater the chance that Iran will stop its nuclear pursuit. Both candidates cite the strong effects of the sanctions on Iran’s economy.
Both candidates place their hope in rationality. Both seem to believe that a country will balance the suffering imposed by sanctions against the potential gains afforded by being a nuclear power, and decide to forgo the economic pain when it gets unbearable.
Maybe that’s a great strategy. Maybe that’s a grand illusion. The problem is that neither candidate seems to entertain the possibility that it is an illusion. The risk in the candidates’ American, pragmatic, rational, culture-bound approach is that it could blind them to the fact Iran may never forgo its nuclear pursuit, no matter what. Don’t forget, even internal opponents of the Iran regime are reportedly gung ho about Iran’s nuclear pursuit. There is an internal dispute in Iran about Islamic dictatorship, not about Iran’s nuclear program.
There is another potential illusion here, namely, that at all times the US, due to its own intelligence and to Israel’s and others’, will always know the precise stage of Iran’s nuclear development. Maybe. But it would seem judicious to err on the side of caution; that is, not to wait until the last minute before acting.
Not to mention, the difficulty in militarily striking Iran’s nuclear facilities only increases as time goes by. The Iranians are not sitting tight on their defenses. They’re improving them, as well as their weapons delivery capability.
All of the difficulties with the candidates’ positions on Iran notwithstanding, it is undeniable that both articulate the threat posed by Iran forcefully. This is, no doubt, a result of an even more forceful Israeli policy of making clear (a) Iran’s existential threat to Israel; (b) Israel’s willingness to act on that threat; (c) Israel’s preference for the US to act on that threat; and (d) Israel’s success in conveying that a nuclear Iran would trigger a Middle East nuclear arms race. Israel’s repeated statement of the dire nature of the Iranian threat has, at the very least, caused the president of the US and his challenger to state for the record that Iran is a threat to American national security, not just Israeli national security. That is a signal achievement for Israel. No doubt, it will cause Israel to be even more forceful — more threatening to Iran — in the future, should the sanctions fail.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News