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
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
“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.
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
They warn that “history is replete with instances of intelligence
Depending on the IAEA can prove disastrous, due to the
restrictive conditions under which it operates in Iran.
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.
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.”
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.”
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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