Scenarios Facing Israel as U.S. Withdraws from Iran Deal

(The Atlantic) Amos Yadlin and Ari Heistein - The Iran nuclear deal made some progress on delaying Iran's nuclear-weapons program and preventing war from breaking out in the near term, but fortified the regime and gave it a free hand to build and use its conventional forces. Using the time bought by the agreement, Tehran has expanded its conventional capabilities to the point that its advanced missiles and militias have become nearly as dangerous as its, momentarily halted, nuclear threat. And the post-deal influx of funds did not moderate Iran's regional policies as some of the agreement's architects had hoped, but instead allowed it to better fund them. In Syria, for example, Iran sought to prepare for the deal's sunset by building up a conventional threat that could hold Tel Aviv hostage, just as North Korea has done with Seoul. Iran acted with a sense of impunity because, it reasoned, no U.S. president would risk a nuclear arms-control agreement in order to push back on conventional activities. In the worst-case scenario, Iran may adopt an extreme response to the change in U.S. policy, leaving the JCPOA and NPT and then breaking out to a bomb. Israel would be well-advised to note that Trump's explicit promise to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East makes him less likely to order U.S. forces to strike. In this case, Israel would probably find itself acting alone, albeit with a "green light" and support from Washington. Israel would have to consider exercising the Begin Doctrine, which calls for preventing any regime that seeks to wipe it off the map from acquiring nuclear weapons. One of us - Amos Yadlin - participated in two strikes on nuclear reactors, as a pilot in the 1981 attack on the Osirak site in Iraq, and as chief of military intelligence during the 2007 strike on the Al Kibar site in Syria. Israel might now be forced to contemplate a third. The key for Israel, in such a scenario, would be finding ways to avoid further escalation. Fear that a strike could spiral into a wider war is what prompted the Obama administration to warn Israel not to strike. But a surgical strike could actually provide a middle ground between inaction and escalation to full-scale war. And if Israel can obtain full-fledged and public support from Washington and endorsements in private from the Sunni Arab leadership, it may be able to deter Iran from retaliating and escalating the conflict. Israel's primary objectives are keeping nuclear weapons out of the regime's hands, halting Tehran's aggressive actions in the region, preventing war, and changing the hostile orientation of the regime toward the West, the Arabs, and Israel. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, where Ari Heistein is special assistant to the director.

2018-06-12 00:00:00

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