Only Threat of Military Action Will Stop Iran

By + More

Military action is a last resort. But for nuclear diplomacy to succeed, Tehran must believe that if it tries to build a bomb, the United States will undertake military action to disrupt such an effort.

Iran's near-term nuclear intentions are unclear. The recent International Atomic Energy Agency report supports the conclusion that at the very least, Tehran seeks an option to build a bomb. Believing that its nuclear program would be attacked if it sought to exercise this option might deter it from doing so, or at least cause it to defer such a decision.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

The recent alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington should be a wake-up call. It indicates that 30 years of Iranian terrorist attacks on American interests, without a U.S. military response, has convinced Tehran that it can continue to act with impunity—even on U.S. soil. Unless Washington alters Tehran's risk calculus, the United States may be targeted again. Iran may even conclude that it can also build a bomb with relative impunity.

Advocates of containment—the much-touted alternative to diplomacy or to preventive military action—often present it as a low-cost, low-risk policy option. They frequently gloss over the fact that to work, it must be backed up with a credible threat of force; that the costs of a nuclear deterrence failure in a proliferated Middle East may be measured in millions of lives lost; and that the likelihood of a nuclear deterrence failure is not trivial, given the propensity of an embattled, and increasingly insular and hard-line regime in Tehran, to miscalculate and overreach.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

U.S. interests are best served by a diplomatic deal regarding Tehran's nuclear program, bolstered by a robust deterrent posture toward Iran. Paradoxically, to succeed diplomatically and to deter, the United States needs to be ready to use force in response to further acts of terrorism by Iran, or to an attempt by Iran to build a bomb. For the threat of force to work, however, it has to be credible, and it has to dramatically alter Iran's risk calculus. Right now, neither condition is present. The United States ignores this state of affairs at its own, and its allies' peril.

Michael Eisenstadt

About Michael Eisenstadt Director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Tags
Iran
nuclear weapons

Other Arguments

#1
209 Pts
Incite Change From Within Iran

No – Incite Change From Within Iran

Alireza Jafarzadeh Author of 'The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis'

#2
139 Pts
Let Opposition Groups Do the Hindering

No – Let Opposition Groups Do the Hindering

Raymond Tanter Founder of the Iran Policy Committee

#4
12 Pts
Military Action Might Be The Only Option With Iran

Yes – Military Action Might Be The Only Option With Iran

Jamie M. Fly Former Director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council

#5
-3 Pts
Diplomacy Best Option in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Aims

No – Diplomacy Best Option in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Aims

Matthew Duss Director of Middle East Progress at the Center for American Progress

#6
-14 Pts
Learn the Lessons from Iraq

No – Learn the Lessons from Iraq

Justin Logan Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute

#7
-64 Pts
An Attack Would Only Strengthen Iran's Influence

No – An Attack Would Only Strengthen Iran's Influence

James Dobbins Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation

You Might Also Like


See More