Unless the White House soon adjusts its policy on Iran, the US may end up adopting a policy of nuclear containment rather than prevention, two senior Israeli defense analysts warned on Sunday.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, and Ephraim Asculai, a senior research associate at the institute, published a paper titled, “Is the US receding to a containment policy on Iran?” In the paper, the analysts cite an IAEA report on Iran – which was released on May 22 – as indicating that “while there are no major surprises, Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium programs are creeping slowly but surely toward a situation that will soon be unstoppable.”

The researchers note that US President Barack Obama and members of his administration have repeatedly vowed that prevention “is not a bluff,” adding that Obama likely “spent some time” during his visit to Israel driving home this message to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Yet “there is still confusion about US policy on Iran that goes to Obama’s ability to uphold the policy, even if he is firmly committed to it,” the paper states.

The White House has asserted that US intelligence services – combined with information supplied by the IAEA – will give a timely warning should Iran embark on the production of nuclear weapons, but Landau and Asculai say nagging questions cast doubt over that assertion.

“First, it is blatantly apparent that the ‘diplomatic’ route for solving the Iran conundrum has failed, even though the US administration has yet to admit this. In considering the next stage, can the United States indeed depend on the fact that it will obtain reliable information that an Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons has been taken?” they write.

“If it does,” they continue, “will it be a state when there is still a realistic option of employing military force in a manner that will reverse the current trajectory toward a military nuclear capability? And most importantly, will the US ultimately be willing to employ force in dealing with Iran?” Landau and Asculai also cite doubts among some defense observers “over whether the Iranian decision will be necessarily noted and/or that there will be enough time to then stop Iran.”

They warn that “history is replete with instances of intelligence failures.”

Depending on the IAEA can prove disastrous, due to the restrictive conditions under which it operates in Iran.

Iran might further curtail the IAEA’s inspections, or even expel the inspectors altogether, and it is doubtful whether that development would cause the US to consider military action, the researchers argue.

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At most, the UN Security Council would sound another warning, giving Iran more time to break out without being detected, they write.

An even more worrying scenario is that Iran has “parallel, clandestine enrichment and development nuclear weapons programs,” Landau and Asculai write. “This scenario cannot be discounted.”

The paper states that “if the implications of these doubts are not addressed head-on and the US policy of prevention adjusted accordingly, very soon, containment of a nuclear Iran might very likely become the default policy of the United States, even though Obama currently (and adamantly) rejects it.”

The paper addresses Obama’s unwillingness to use military force in Syria to confront the actual use of chemical weapons, despite earlier stating that this would mean crossing a red line.

On the one hand, this “lack of interest in intervening militarily in Syria might indicate a similar unwillingness to do so in Iran,” the paper says, but on the other hand, “it is equally plausible that Obama is choosing his next Middle East battle. If one accepts that it is highly unlikely that the administration would employ military force in two Middle East crises, it could be that the resistance to using force in Syria means that there is actually a greater chance that it could be used in Iran.”

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