ahmadinejad victory 298..
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed his defiance of the UN Security Council's call for his country to cease the enrichment of uranium. Iran's refusal to obey the Security Council's ultimatum now places the onus back on the US and the council.
The major challenge facing the international community is a race against the clock. The current strategy of sanctions combined with negotiations is the best avenue; however, with every passing moment Iran comes closer to becoming nuclear. If this point is reached, the entire strategic equation will change. Time is of the essence.
Within the next few weeks it is likely that the US will implement sanctions either through the Security Council, or if it is unable to receive the support of the entire council, through a private coalition of countries from the international community. After the implementation of the sanctions, Iran will be expected to respond. Iran will have to decide whether or not to continue its enrichment program and defy international pressure or concede to the international community by stopping the program.
Iran's clear objective is the attainment of nuclear capability, but it is only willing to attain this without sacrificing too much, either in the way of sanctions or military action. Iran's continued defiance of the Security Council and its stated willingness to negotiation is its attempt to attain both these objectives.
The real test will be: If Iran continues to push forward with its enrichment program even in light of sanctions, will the US live up to its commitment to prevent Iran from going nuclear? If this situation arises, it will create heightened tensions as military options are considered. Military actions would not be limited to the targeting of nuclear facilities; it would most likely also focus on other targets, such as airports, naval bases and other strategic infrastructure.
If this happens, Iran will face a moment of truth. Facing the threat of a credible military option, Iran will have to determine whether or not it is willing to possibly risk its future prosperity in pursuit of its nuclear ambitions.
When this moment of truth arrives, there will be enough leaders in Iran who would consider the situation rationally, who are capable of calculating the relative risks and rewards. The Iranians do not want to be in a situation where they regret straining the patience of the international community.
Although the recent rhetoric coming from Iran sounds like the expression of fundamentalist positions, cooler heads do exist in the Iranian establishment. These individuals would consider reaching an agreement with the international community. The unknown, however, is who will prevail in this internal debate within the Iranian government. One cannot tell in advance.
Iran's current attitude toward the US suggests that the Iranians feel that the Bush administration could not stomach military action against Iran in the present political environment. Iran does not yet feel the pressure.
As the situation develops and the pressure on Iran increases, it is probable that Iran will respond to military threats with threats of its own. Escalating tension and a potential crisis situation might arise. However, it is doubtful that Iran will risk the well-being of its people when faced with real military threats from the US and other countries. Iran has proven that it is a nation that rationally assesses situations based on what is best for it. Until now, Iran has been acting within the bounds of rationality, and there is no reason to assume that it would make decisions that could bring about calamity.
The writer is a former director of intelligence in the Mossad and is the founding head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Interviewed and brought to press by Ryan Nadal