Multilateral solutions and Diplomatic contusions.
Engagement! Containment! The Straight of Hormuz!! they cried. All of it sounded wonderful over pate in Ivy League circles. In fact, just before Obama took office shelving the military solution became high fashion, put it in a drawer they said. Engagement became the order of the day. But now, strange winds are afoot.
A last resort military solution to prevent nuclear armed mad mullahs depends on a number of critical components. The exhaustion of other options, the willingness to use force, and technical ability. These three factors are now coming into alignment and the Strike Option is not only back in play, its got top shelf billing.
1 – Exhaustion
The toughest sanctions we are going to see, after over a year and a half of delay and failed engagement are now law in the USA. The Europeans may soon follow suit. Either way the card is in play. No one believes sanctions can prevent a nuclear Iran. At best they are a delaying tactic. This latest final round of sanctions may represent the exhaustion of all other options, knocking requirement one off the list in short order, as Iran’s nuclear & ballistic missile programs advance.
2 – Willingness to use force.
Israel, long believed to be the military option wildcard has always been willing to use force. The Israeli public by overwhelming majority in polling has shown it is fully prepared to strike, even if it means going against the wishes of President Obama. Equally, it’s far from a secret that Israel’s political & military establishment is unified over the need to prevent a nuclear Iran. No shocker there, the Israel chapter is closed.
Things get interesting when we look outside of Israel..
The White House has been stressing that bi-lateral discussions in the security & military echelon between America & Israel have never been closer. That dialog is focused in many ways on the Iranian threat.
We’ve seen over the past year large joint military exercises involving US & Israeli forces, gaming missile defense & regional war scenarios. The intent is to buttress the new interlink between Israel & America, tying the IDF into the US/European central command regarding missile threats.
Of greater note, much of the dialog seems to involve joint planning of theoretical strike options. Either by Israel alone or perhaps involving US assets themselves should the need arise. A far cry from the American position of just a year ago when military options were shelved, and US official after official landed here in Israel to warn us not to strike..
Since the US pushed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran through the UN Security Council last month, Jerusalem has increased diplomatic efforts to convince the White House that for the sanctions to work, a credible military option needs to be on the table to scare Iran to reconsider its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
An indication that this might have happened came in the latest issue of Time magazine, in an article titled “An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.”
Written by Joe Klein, the article claims that in recent months, the US military’s Central Command has made significant progress in planning targeted air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which were deemed impossible to penetrate just two years ago.
According to the report, the progress was made possible by the “vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region.”
Israel has reportedly been “brought into the planning process.” [...]
Winds of Change
Could US military planning, and intelligence views have changed so drastically?
According to former CIA director Michael Hayden, that just maybe the case..
A US military strike on Iran has become more likely and could be justifiable in the future, former CIA chief Michael Hayden said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“My personal view is that Iran left to its own devices will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon,” said Hayden, “and frankly that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.”
The former CIA director stated that an attack on Iran had not originally been a serious option, but in light of Iran’s intensified pursuit of nuclear materials, the military option “may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.” [...]
We know that the 2007 NIE which discounted the Iranian nuclear threat publicly, has now itself been discounted by US intelligence. The Pentagon has drastically changed time-lines for an Iranian nuclear capable ICBM maturing, possibly as soon as 2015.
These events suggest a new acknowledgment that the threat to the US is real. The Washington Obama engagement track has failed spectacularly, while prominent voices in the US House & Senate continue to imply the military option was never shelved at all..
A Nuclear Iran could shatter the Obama legacy
Others have now begun suggesting that President Obama, a leftwing ideologue without parallel, may be forced to strike just in order to keep his ideological dreams alive. The notion put forth being that a nuclear Iran will utterly destroy key aspects of Obama’s core foreign policy visions. Non-Proliferation, and a non-nuclear new world order. Issues which any novice following events could immediately recognize as near & dear to his heart.
Taken as a whole, it might seem as if the Political, Military, and Intelligence wings of the US Govt apparatus have all swung round, up to & possibly including the President himself. If that were indeed the case it would knock off the 2nd requirement – The willingness to use force.
It is worth noting that international polling has shown majorities in favor of the whatever it takes to stop Iran school of thought..
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a gathering of ambassadors in Moscow on Monday conceded that “Iran is moving closer to possessing the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of nuclear weapons.”
Moscow’s admission comes at a time when much of the world is beginning to recognize the magnitude of the threat of an Islamofascist state possessing weapons of mass destruction. In a Pew Research poll of 22 countries last month, a majority in 16 of the states preferred a military strike over tolerating a nuclear Iran. In the U.S., 66% preferred a strike, while 24% objected to it.
In Egypt, 55% supported a military strike on Iran, while 16% opposed it. In Jordan, the figures were 53% to 20% in favor.
So even Mideast Muslims understand the danger to themselves — and they understand that their supposed great enemy, Israel, is likely to be the power to rid the region of that grave danger.
So do Americans. IBD/TIPP polls have consistently favored Israeli military action, and did so again by a 56% to 30% margin in last week’s survey (see chart)
These consistent views internationally, combined with rumors of Muslim states willing to even quietly assist Israel should the need arise all point to military force as a credible option.
3- Technical Ability
The last requirement on the list is the great unknown. Clearly America could level the Iranian nuclear program, the top tier of the regime, and even the bulk of the IRGC itself if it so chooses. That is not speculation. America is an unstoppable military juggernaut which could from a distance cut through Iran like a hot knife through butter.
We are not in the same league as the Americans, but Israel might be able to do hefty damage to the program, as well as Iranian Ballistic Missile production facilities should it be backed into a corner. If we could with international assistance, open a corridor for 2-3 days of sustained strikes utilizing air power, sea based assets, and Jericho missiles it is likely Israel could do some major damage to Iran’s illicit abilities, and knock the program back years if not a decade or two.
The notion put forward by detractors that a serious strike would only delay Iran 2 or so years seems frankly comical. Iran is teetering economically, and its programs have taken 20 years to put together at a cost of endless billions. Any serious blow could be a fatal one. Leaving in its wake an already near collapse and stagnant economy ravaged by 30%+ unemployment, combined with a sanctioned regime starved of capital or ability to regenerate nuclear programs or options.
In any event the Iranians may not leave Israel, America or the Gulf region much choice.
As public opinion solidifies, options exhaust, and political opinions change in Washington. The last remaining hurdle, technical ability may well fall into place.. If it already hasn’t.
In the 48 hours since this was posted a number of events directly related to the analysis above have taken place. The EU has indeed followed suit. Both the EU & Canada have announced wide ranging strict fuel & energy sector sanctions on Iran, effectively closing the current sanctions effort chapter.
The top US Department of State official on Iran, and a point man in the Obama Administration engagement effort at the end of this week is resigning. Is this the most potent signal yet that the failed engagement effort is over? Or that the military strike option has indeed gone top shelf? Perhaps both?
This post has been nominated this week as a Non-Council submission to the Watcher’s Council. Woot! My thanks to the Watcher and the Council for their reading and consideration. Update July 31st – I got shellacked!! Congrats to this week’s winners!