Thinking about Preventive Military Action Against Iran

[ Washington Institute for Near East Policy] Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt - Patrick Clawson: There is still a debate in the analytical community whether Iran wants a nuclear weapon or just a rapid breakout capability. If Iran's leaders announced they were developing nuclear weapons, leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and intending to test a nuclear weapon, the debate for using preventive military force would be entirely different. An additional key issue is on what basis a determination is made about the status of Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. intelligence community has a decidedly mixed record on this score. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on the other hand, has done some remarkable detective work during its on-site inspections in North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Therefore, a decision to use preventive military force based on IAEA inspections would be very different than acting on disputed intelligence. A strike on an Iranian nuclear facility would have the added objective of dissuading other international actors from pursuing nuclear arms. Michael Eisenstadt: Success would likely hinge on Washington's ability to craft a sustainable policy that effectively integrates military, diplomatic, and informational policy instruments to cause maximum destruction to the nuclear infrastructure, to mitigate the consequences of Iranian retaliation, and to set the conditions for successful post-strike diplomacy or military action. Prevention may delay but not halt Iran's nuclear program, and may in the end be just a very costly detour on the path to deterrence.

2008-07-02 01:00:00

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