But is there a third, more palatable option? Finding it is the goal of every analyst who addresses the topic, including this one. That third option necessarily involves a mechanism to dissuade the Iranian regime from developing and militarizing its atomic capabilities. Does such a deterrence exist?
Yes, and it even has a chance of success. Iran, fortunately, is not an absolute dictatorship where a single person makes all key decisions, but an oligarchy with multiple power centers and with debate on many issues. The political leadership itself is divided, with important elements dubious about the wisdom of proceeding with nukes, fearful of the international isolation that will follow, not to speak of air strikes. Other influential sectors of society – religious, military, and economic in particular – also worry about the headlong rush.
A campaign by Iranians to avoid confrontation could well prevail, as Iran does not itself face an atomic threat. Going nuclear remains a voluntary decision, one Tehran can refrain from making. Arguably, Iranian security would benefit by staying non-nuclear.
Forces opposed to nuclearization need to be motivated and unified, and that is made more likely by strong external pressure. Were Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Middle Easterners, and others to act in sync with Washington, it would help mobilize opposition elements in Iran. Indeed, those states have their own reasons to dread both a nuclear Tehran and the bad precedent this sets for other potential atomic powers, such as Brazil and South Africa.
That international cooperation, however, is not materializing, as can be seen at the United Nations. The Security Council meanders on the Iran issue and an Iranian official has been elected to, of all things, the UN's disarmament commission (which is tasked with achieving nuclear disarmament).
Deterring Tehran requires sustained, consistent external pressure on the Iranian body politic. That implies, ironically, that those most adverse to U.S.-led air strikes must (1) stand tight with Washington and (2) convince Iranians of the terrible repercussions for them of defying the international consensus.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Daniel Pipes arguest that bombing Iran may be too risky, but so is doing nothing. He suggests a third way to deter Iran: