Obama's Iran Options

(Washington Post) Michael Gerson - By building a broad international coalition against Iran and applying effective sanctions, the Obama administration has raised the stakes of the confrontation. After an initial period of naivete, the administration concluded that inducements would not be enough to hold back Iran's nuclear ambitions. The only hope is the application of costs that Iran cannot bear. Sanctions have not caused Iran to back down, but the approach is not yet exhausted. It is worth another twist of the tourniquet to reduce significant exceptions and exemptions. The Iranians have traditionally used diplomatic meetings as a method to weaken sanctions in exchange for the promise of more meetings. A negotiation conducted by America and Europe that eases pressure only as a reward for compliance would send a final signal of seriousness. The containment of an Iran with nuclear weapons is not a serious option. Behind a uranium shield, the Iranian regime would increase its support for terrorism and destabilize its neighbors, who would find a nuclear deterrent of their own highly desirable. And how would promises of future containment be minimally credible? If Western nations did nothing before Iran had nuclear weapons, why would they become more determined after Iran possesses them? A limited strike on a few key facilities, including Iran's two uranium enrichment sites, it is true, would only buy time. The message, however, would be clear enough: If you keep at it, we'll do it again. Close cooperation with Israel in designing a targeted strike against enrichment facilities would have an added benefit. If the Israelis are convinced that America - after a last diplomatic push - is serious about preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, Israel would be less likely to take quick action of its own. American resolve is the best guarantee of Israeli patience. Obama wants to be known for winding down long wars. But he has shown no hesitance when it comes to shorter, Israel-style operations. He is a special ops hawk, a drone militarist. Iran should take this fact seriously as it calculates its next move.

2012-02-24 00:00:00

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