U.S. Should Discourage Israel From Striking Iran
There is time for diplomacy and sanctions to work on Iran
March 5, 2012
The United States should discourage Israel's leaders from attacking Iran at this time. President Obama's speech this weekend at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee set the right tone and sent the right message.
Under Obama, America is leading aggressive global efforts to take the threat Iran poses seriously, and this initiative has isolated Iran. As President Obama said, the "loose talk of war" only helps Iran by driving up the price of oil—which in turn gives Iran more money to fund its nuclear program.
There is time for diplomacy and sanctions to work—even if Iran moves forward with its nuclear efforts, most reasonable estimates show that Iran won't have a capacity to produce a nuclear weapon for another year, at least. James Clapper, America's top intelligence official, recently told Congress that a one year time frame for Iran to produce a weapon was "technically feasible but not likely" given the complexities and challenges involved. And as many news organizations are reporting—including the CBS News Program 60 Minutes Sunday—someone has undertaken a very effective campaign to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program, putting more time on the clock.
But the clock is still ticking—the Obama administration has a strategy that places a lot of hope on diplomacy and economic sanctions working. President Obama made clear that an Iran with a nuclear weapon was unacceptable and that he would be willing to use military force if necessary to stop it.
The national security interests of the United States and Israel are advanced more effectively if we are in close strategic alignment. Most Americans and Israelis want our two countries to continue working closely together—there is no widespread support for one of our countries surprising the other. The vast majority of Israelis oppose any unilateral military strikes by their own government—a recent poll of Israelis found that only 19 percent expressed support for an Israeli attack on Iran without the backing of the United States. An uncoordinated, unilateral move by either of our countries in the face of the threats posed by Iran would be unwise.