Moving to Decision: U.S. Policy toward Iran

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) James F. Jeffrey - Both Israel and the U.S. have declared their unequivocal willingness to use force against Iran's nuclear program to prevent a nuclear weapon. Absent a negotiated deal, the best course of action for the U.S., and for regional security, would be to wield this threat, along with other pressure, to delay Iran's move to nuclear capability or a nuclear weapons breakout. But in the end, this set of actions may not be successful. Altogether, U.S. efforts, ranging from sanctions to the deterrent threat of military action, cannot directly produce an ideological change of heart for the Iranians or cessation of their nuclear program, a reality at the center of Israeli concerns. At best, these actions can pressure Iran to slow down its nuclear program, pay an increasingly high price economically and diplomatically, or risk a military engagement with unknown consequences. In the framework of the current approach, the U.S. can either aim for better results through negotiations or ramp up the pressure. The U.S. position carries a major problem: the perception that the window between actionable, high-probability intelligence of an impending Iranian nuclear weapon and the actual acquisition or deployment of such a weapon will be too brief for U.S. action. U.S. policymakers should confront Iran's hegemonic drive and deter or resist any Iranian efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons "breakout." U.S. strategy should be to prevent Iran's possession of nuclear weapons. It should also keep the economic pressure on Iran while reaching out to the Iranian population. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey has held a series of highly sensitive posts in Washington and abroad. In addition to his service in Ankara and Baghdad, he served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, with a special focus on Iran.

2013-02-08 00:00:00

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