The Corner

National Security & Defense

Today’s Iran Debate Misses the Point

While hugely important in terms of Iranian relations with the outside world, U.S.-Israel relations, and Barack Obama’s relations with Congress, the labored, contradictory, and unspecific Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has little bearing on whether the mullahs do or do not get nuclear weapons. Let me explain:

If one assumes, as one should, that the Iranian leadership is determined to build a nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it, then the economic issues (sanctions, boycotts, embargoes) that drive the P5+1 negotiations are tangential. They affect the speed, cost, and difficulty of building an arsenal, but do not impede its ultimate realization.

The only way to stop Iran’s program is by using force, presumably by attacking its nuclear infrastructure from the air. Yet this prospect, now marginalized as the “war option” in contrast with two years ago, is no longer discussed.

With Benjamin Netanyahu just reelected prime minister, Israel has a leader seemingly prepared to take fateful steps. Distracted by negotiations, however, we hardly think about this — even though the Israel Defense Forces has twice before attacked nuclear installations (Iraq’s in 1981, Syria’s in 2007), and both times to universal surprise.

Will the Israelis bomb Iran or not? I am unable to answer; but I can tell you that this, and not the minutiae of the Lausanne Agreement, is the issue.

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