POLITICAL observations & opinions

* from The Economist … powerful arguments to support President Obama’s policy of sanctions and diplomacy and reject the Republican’s “bomb Iran now” approach

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 10, 2012



Nobody should welcome the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

But bombing the place is not the answer

  • Make no mistake, an Iran armed with the bomb would pose a deep threat.
    • The country is insecure, ideological and meddles in its neighbours’ affairs.
    • Both Iran and its proxies—including Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza—might act even more brazenly than they do now.
    • The danger is keenly felt by Israel, surrounded by threats and especially vulnerable to a nuclear bomb because it is such a small land.
    • Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently called the “Zionist regime” a “cancerous tumour that must be cut out”.
    • Jews, of all people, cannot just dismiss that as so much rhetoric.
  • No wonder some people want a pre-emptive strike.
    • But military action is not the solution to a nuclear Iran.
    • It could retaliate, including with rocket attacks on Israel from its client groups in Lebanon and Gaza.
    • Terror cells around the world might strike Jewish and American targets.
    • It might threaten Arab oil infrastructure, in an attempt to use oil prices to wreck the world economy.
    • Although some Arab leaders back a strike, most Muslims are unlikely to feel that way, further alienating the West from the Arab spring.
  • Such costs of an attack are easy to overstate, but even supposing they were high they might be worth paying if a strike looked like working. It does not.
    • Striking Iran would be much harder than Israel’s successful solo missions against the weapons programmes of Iraq, in 1981, and Syria, in 2007.
    • If an attack were easy, Israel would have gone in alone long ago, when the Iranian programme was more vulnerable.
    • But Iran’s sites are spread out and some of them, hardened against strikes, demand repeated hits.
  • America has more military options than Israel, so it would prefer to wait.
  • That does not mean the world should just let Iran get the bomb.
    • The government will soon be starved of revenues, because of an oil embargo.

Sanctions are biting, the financial system is increasingly isolated

and the currency has plunged in value. 

  • Proponents of an attack argue that military humiliation would finish the regime off. But it is as likely to rally Iranians around their leaders. Meanwhile, political change is sweeping across the Middle East.
  • The regime in Tehran is divided and it has lost the faith of its people. Eventually, popular resistance will spring up as it did in 2009.

A new regime brought about by the Iranians themselves

is more likely to renounce the bomb

than one that has just witnessed an American assault.

  • Is there a danger that Iran will get a nuclear weapon before that happens? Yes, but bombing might only increase the risk.
  • Can you stop Iran from getting a bomb if it is determined to have one? Not indefinitely, and bombing it might make it all the more desperate.
  • Short of occupation, the world cannot eliminate Iran’s capacity to gain the bomb. It can only change its will to possess one. Just now that is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.



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