Friday, March 2, 2012

Iranian Options

I was very tempted to leave this post blank to indicate the lacuna of options, but it would have been as confusing as the ending moments of the Sopranos.  Ok, not quite that confusing.

So, let's run through the options, shall we?
  • Invasion: No thanks.  Not feasible, not affordable, not again.
  • Special Operations: A suicide mission that is unlikely to work?  Not so nifty despite the apparently cool movie
  • Air strike: Unlikely to have a significant impact since the key sites are buried.  Unlikely to do more than just delay by a few years at best while creating more support for the government and providing more incentives for developing the weapons.
    • How about just bombing to create costs and provide incentives to stop--compellence?  Because it only really works when you have a force on the ground helping out--the Kosovo Liberation Army.  I just don't see the US willing to bomb for six months or more.  And a weekend of bombing is vastly over-rated, as Madeline Albright found out.
  • Naval Embargo: Would reduce ability to sell oil but would likely lead to closure of Strait of Hormuz for short time and much more difficult flow of oil from that part of world for quite a while--do any of the economies in the world need an escalation in oil prices? 
  • Sanctions: Doing that.   
  • Killing Iranian scientists: somebody is doing that.
  • Cyberwarfare: Stuxnet.  Somebody is doing that.
  • Regime change:  How would that work?  
What's left?  Trying to contain Iran by building coalition of neighbors opposed to it?  Well, we blew that with the destruction of Iraq and the alienation of Pakistan.  The former is, well, Bush's fault.  The latter? Lots of blame to go around, including Pakistan and Obama

Abetting an Israeli attack is just as problematic as the US doing it on its own.

I am reluctant to admit it, but I may have adopt a modified Waltz position: North Korea got nukes, and has not used them.  Yes, it complicates the politics of the region, but disarming NK or invading it were not feasible.  So, we are stuck with a nuclear North Korea.  Iran may or may not weaponize, but if it chooses to do so, I really do not see anyway of stopping it.  Iran is not as easy to invade as Iraq, nor is the US as able to do so.  Iran has learned from Iraq's experiences and the US bombing campaigns of the past to put the important projects deep underground.

So, when Peres demands that the US puts all Iran options on the table, I have to ask two things: who are you to make demands of the US? and what freakin' options?  I am not a Realist (I don't think it is all about anarchy and insecurity), but I am realistic.  When there are no good options, jumping at any of them is probably not the way to go.  When people ask me what options we should choose, my answer at the moment is: more of the same--sanctions, international coalition to oppose, maybe some cyberwarfare, but not much more than that.  A nuclear Iran is undesirable, certainly, but unavoidable?  The Israeli nuclear force will have a job to do--deter an Iranian nuclear attack.  I agree with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--Iran's leaders are not irrational.  They seek to survive and they want their political system to survive.  A nuclear exchange is to be avoided.  A nuclear Iran would be problematic in the extreme, but we have learned over the past 60 years how to manage relations with countries that have nuclear weapons.  It is not easy, and it may go wrong some day, but there are no options that are likely to prevent Iran from going nuclear.


J.Collins said...

Interestingly enough, NK has found nukes are a pretty good way to maximize one nation's benefits as well as deter. The NK situation also demonstrates another point: sitting down with one's foes, however frustrating it can be at times, can produce some meaningful results. Just a thought!

Naadir said...

How regime change works:

1. Bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran.
2. MEK's Maryam Rajavi (rightful President Elect of Iran) assumes office.
3. Iran is the new New Zealand.