Recently, there has been a lot of talk about a possible US-Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Both the United States and Israel have continuously accused Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and as a means of pressuring the sovereign state, have encouraged other nations to join in imposing harsh economic sanctions. Additionally, both the US and Israel have also made military strike an option on the table. The continuous rhetoric in the past years and in recent months has led many people to begin contemplating what the implications of a potential strike would be.
Iran is a very large and geographically diverse country with strong military and economic capabilities. Its nuclear facilities are spread across its terrain in deep and hidden areas, hence, any potential military strike would have to account for unknown factory locations and the difficulty of reaching entrenched targets that are deep in the country’s geography. A US-Israeli strike has the potential to ignite a regional war that would consequently deliver devastating blows to US military and oil interests. Eventually, responses would be met with counter-responses, and the dominoes of war would quickly fall. If the current economic sanctions against Iran, which are illegal, aren’t already considered acts of war, then a military strike would provide a clear casus belli. With the unstable and unpredictable Arab Spring sweeping the region, the addition of an Iranian conflict would erase whatever stability is left in the region, increase anti-American extremism in the Muslim world, and ignite a recruitment bonanza for terrorist groups that the US fears. All this instability and conflict would, without a doubt, translate into deepening economic woes for the US and its allies, and send shock waves into the rest of the world. In the long run, any possible relationship with the Iranian people would be deteriorated.
The negative consequences of a preemptive military strike are clearly dismal and it’s hard to see how the US would gain from the operation. While it may appear that preemption would calm Israeli anxiety, is it really worth risking calamity? Why is it the US’s responsibility to ease Israeli-Iranian tensions at the expense of its own national and security interests? This blind merging of Israeli and American interests is a rather dangerous precedent, as the troubling mindset arises that what is good for Israel must be good for the US. Moreover, one can also look at Israeli anxiety as irrational. If Iran possessed a weapon, why would it risk all out war and the possibility of military and political collapse in order to punish Israel? People often forget that the Iranian Mullahs, though using religion to unite the country, are actually quite rational in their decisions. One stark example can be cited when Iran refused to direct its Islamic revolution to the neighboring Muslim central Asian states during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Doing so kept warm relations with Russia, and is a clear example of the practice of Realpolitik as employed by the Mullahs in charge.
One could argue that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a stabilizing factor between Israeli-Iranian relations, similar to how nuclear weapons and the threat of annihilation deterred an all out war between the US and the USSR. A nuclear weapon would give Iran a security buffer, which is an understandable desire given the wars that have been waged around it in the past decade, and the continuous threats it has received from war hawks in the west.
In the end, the ideal solution, of course, is the gradual abolition of Iran’s nuclear weapons; however, it is unreasonable to expect that there will be compliance from only one side when there are at least two parties represented by the Israeli-Iranian dilemma. There needs to be balance or else instability is created. Israel would need to be willing to abolish its own weapons in exchange for genuine assurance that Iran has done the same, with the help of international mediators, of course. Such a compromise, however, is very unrealistic and a more realistic scenario can be illustrated by creating balance from both sides maintaining a nuclear stockpile. The current Iranian war drums that are being beat by war hawks in the west are truly a dangerous development for the world. But it is hopeful that rational government decision makers will be able to properly weigh the costs and benefits of a preemptive military strike on Iran to provide a cogent opposition to the irrational desires of those actively encouraging a conflict.