I have argued in previous posts that Ahmadinejad of Iran is trying to goad Israel or the US to attack Iran so that he can consolidate his control of Iran. I believe Iran is very containable and controllable. Others see the Iranians differently.
Stratfor has succinctly defined the dilemma facing Israeli security planners visa vis Iran. Israeli interests are often described to be existential in regards to Iran. There are some who believe that the potential threats posed by a nuclear Iran are so weighted against Israeli interests that Israel must do one of three things:
1. Convince American to attack Iran and destroy her nuclear capabilities. This assumes that Israeli influence over Washington is both complete and toxic. This is a favorite theme of those opposed to the neo-con (read Jewish) point of view. It is a point of view that believes in a cynical misreading and distortion of the relationship between Israel and the US.
2. Israel must unilaterally attack Iran by herself. This was successful against Iraq a generation ago. It is probably militarily possible but unsustainable for Israel to contemplate a follow-up program after such an attack. Israeli life would become a permanent nightmare.
3. Israel must hope for some international control led by US diplomacy and backed up with some military success in Iraq, that will convince Iran to give up nuclear weapons. This is at best optimistic, but possible.
I see an alternative scenario based on the belief that assumes a coalition of interested parties could be formed to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There are four major regional players that could be organized to provide a formidable deterrent to Iran. They are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States, Turkey and the EU. All four have an interest in preventing a nuclear armed Iran. Three of the four have an interest in low reliable energy prices and all four have an interest in regional and international stability.
Israel, The United States and the EU have an unlimited pool of technological and capital resources available to them. An international consortium to reduce oil dependence and develop non-petroleum based technologies and techniques could be based in the Middle East. It could be the basis for a regional security hybrid that draws on the experience of Nato and the early formation of the EU. It could provide the carrot and stick necessary to persuade the Iranians to participate in a constructive manner. A carrot and a stick, whichever is necessary.
American led diplomacy with quiet Israeli technical support could pull this together. It would have the additional benefit of highlighting the need for security in Iraq and possibly a regional solution based on common needs for economic growth and stability.
Here is how they see things at Stratfor:
Geopolitical Diary: Israel's Options Against Iran
January 03, 2007 02 46 GMT, Stratfor
The Institute for National Strategic Studies, a Tel Aviv-based think tank with strong ties to the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, released its annual report on Tuesday, saying Israel is technically capable of independently carrying out military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
Israel undoubtedly has been displeased by the manner in which Washington has mishandled Iraq, while Iran has used the situation to reinforce the perception of U.S. weakness and advance its agenda of becoming a nuclear powerhouse in the region, placing it in competition with Israel. With the United States currently lacking any solid options to contain Iran via a political resolution in Iraq, there has been intense speculation over the possibility that Israel might have to get its hands dirty and take military action against Iran -- with or without U.S. cooperation.
Israel's patience might be wearing thin, but an Israeli strike against Iran in the coming year is still unlikely. The Iranians have learned well from the pre-emptive Israeli airstrikes against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981 that effectively squashed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's development of the country's nuclear weapons. Whereas Iraq concentrated its facilities at Osirak, the Iranians have strategically spread out their nuclear sites, several of which can only be penetrated using tactical nuclear bunker-buster bombs. Even using these weapons in a sustained air campaign, the Israelis' ability to wipe out Iran's widely dispersed nuclear capability in a first-strike offensive is questionable.
Nonetheless, the Israelis do have an interest in halting Iran's expansion of power and setting back the Iranian nuclear program. This idea would be privately welcomed in much of the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which would gladly let the Israelis take the heat for containing Iran's nuclear ambitions and putting a lid on the expanding Shiite power in the region. If anything can get the Saudis and the Israelis to sit down together and talk, it's Iran.
But in Israel's current state of military and political paralysis -- a result of the 2006 summer conflict with Hezbollah -- military action against Iran is not at the top of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's to-do list. Israel recognizes the downside to launching a unilateral attack against Iran. If the military option is to be used, Israel sees the value in having U.S. forces that are well-positioned in Iraq to help carry out the attacks. The problem is that the United States simply cannot risk engaging Iran militarily while Iraq is hanging by a thread. And a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran at a time when the United States is in a severely weakened position in Iraq would further undermine U.S. capability in the region, and place Israel in a more vulnerable position vis-a-vis Iran and its proxies there. The political arrangements Washington has painstakingly attempted in Baghdad would unravel if Iran were to hold the United States complicit in Israel's actions, and Tehran would not hesitate to up its militant assets in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories in order to strike at Israeli and U.S. targets.
The Israelis have a small window of four to five years before Iran develops a weaponized nuclear program. With these considerations in mind, Israel must prioritize the various threats against its national security. For Israel to seriously consider a military option against Iran down the road, it will have to first deal with the pending issue of neutralizing Iran's main proxy on Israel's northern border: Hezbollah. Part of the Israeli decision to engage Hezbollah in a full-scale conflict in 2006 likely involved the need to degrade the group's military capabilities and deprive Iran of one of its key assets in the region. Though that plan did not pan out, Israel is bound to revisit the issue in the coming year.