David Ignatius adds to the argument against going to war with Iran over their nuclear program with the important point that bombing that country would actually strengthen the position of the mullahs who control it at a time when they may be making themselves obsolete anyway.
Ironically, the worst option in terms of regime change would probably be a unilateral Israeli military strike. Given Israel’s capabilities, a strike would do enough damage to rally political support behind the Iranian leadership (and deflect the Arab Spring) but not enough to cripple the nuclear effort. An Iranian opposition leader told me last week that such an attack would be “a gift from God for the mullahs,” enhancing their political position rather than weakening it.
What has emerged from last week’s U.S.-Israeli discussions is a sort of tag team: The West is moving toward what it describes as crippling sanctions, while Israel waits restlessly outside the ring, apparently eager to jump in and strike a military blow. This combined pressure has already brought Iran back to the negotiating table, which is welcome but hardly a reason for the West to back off.
As the sanctions bite deeper into Iran’s oil exports and revenue, further enfeebling the regime, Tehran may have to contemplate the kind of negotiated settlement that Ayatollah Khomeini once likened to drinking from a “cup of poison.” Or, the regime may lash out with military action of its own — a dangerous course, given America’s overwhelming retaliatory power and the ability of Israel and Saudi Arabia to absorb Iran’s initial punch.
For Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, it’s a double bind: If he offers on the nuclear program a deal that would be acceptable to the West, he risks undermining what he sees as the regime’s legitimacy. But if he doesn’t offer a deal, the steady squeeze will continue. Eventually, something’s got to give.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace whose views are closely studied at the Obama White House, argues that the Iranian regime is gradually bleeding itself to death for the sake of its nuclear program. He likens the process to the demise of the Soviet Union, which bankrupted itself in an arms race with the United States.
Sadjadpour likes to invoke an old saying about dictatorships: “While they rule, their collapse appears inconceivable. After they’ve fallen, their collapse appeared inevitable.” Iran, he argues, is “at the crossroads of that maxim.”
And how we have the former head of Mossad urging the Israeli government to show restraint because a military attack on Iran would spark a regional war that serves no one’s interests.