What to do about Iran

Obama seeks to show Iran it has more to gain by joining the world community than by opposing it.

ahmadinejad waves 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ahmadinejad waves 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A JPost.com exclusive blog "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein One of the more intractable problems facing the West in general and Israel in particular, is the developing nuclear threat posed by Iran. Iran has defied the United States led initiatives to scale down the Iranian nuclear program in order to insure that any nuclear capabilities would be for peaceful purposes only. Iran has openly asserted its right to possess nuclear weapons and has intimated at its intended use against its enemies which include the United States and Israel. The threats of a radical regime, fueled by aggressive jihadist mentality, must be dealt with seriously. What can be done to contain this threat? What model of dealing with aggressive international threats can be used in this instance? Human history is littered with similar instances of countries which, for greed or for ideological reasons, felt inspired to go beyond their borders and conquer, control or at least inflict severe physical damage on other countries. Successful resolution of such threats occurs when the aggressive country alters its policy, through persuasion or coercion, or some combination of the two. Coercion can run the gamut from soft diplomatic talk or tougher measures of economic sanctions to the ultimate course of military engagement. Obviously, there is no single correct response that would solve every conflict in every case. Even the ultimate response - of war - carries with it unhappy consequences, in terms of the economic cost and the cost in human life. War does not always work as well as we would wish. Especially in this age of asymmetrical warfare, we have seen- in the Soviet and the US invasions of Afghanistan, and in the US invasions of Vietnam and Iraq - how even relatively weaker countries can resist conquest and pacification for prolonged periods against powerful invaders. It requires great perspicacity and understanding to achieve the proper balance of force required to achieve the desired result. Sometimes, as in the case of the German aggressions in World Wars I and II, only military force could quell the threat. Sometimes, as happened in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, a long strategic isolation of the enemy, leading to an internal breakdown of order, managed to end the threat without the need for resorting to a hot war. What is the model that could work with Iran? The World War II model - that of total victory over the enemy - is an extreme measure, and one that would not be employed as a preemptive measure against an ambiguous threat. It is unlikely - and indeed highly undesirable - for the US or any other country to initiate such a drastic measure, unless it is clear that such an action is absolutely necessary as a response to overt, and not merely threatened, aggression. The Osiraq model - a surgical strike into Iran to eliminate Iran's nuclear capability, similar to the strike Israel made to cripple the Iraqi nuclear threat in 1981 - is an appealing proposal. It suggests that the problem could be eliminated in a single stroke, and at minimal cost. This proposal, while effective in Iraq, may not end the Iranian threat, and may even exacerbate the situation. The success of a military strike is dependant both on the quality of military intelligence - in locating the appropriate sites to strike - and in operational capabilities. The United States has been found to be wanting in both areas, as exhibited in the protracted war in Iraq and the embarrassment over the absence of weapons of mass destruction. Can the United States truly locate all of the nuclear facilities and wipe them out? Even if such a strike were to be effectively carried out, it might not end the Iranian threat, as it is likely to provoke the extremists in Iran and elsewhere in the Islamic world, to rededicate their efforts to attack the United States at home and abroad. In fact, the likelihood is that a military strike that is intended to be of limited duration, might well expand into a protracted military struggle and increased terrorism, as had occurred after US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Cold War model - that of pressure and isolation of the enemy, appears to offer the best prospects for long-term peace. This means organizing the "good guys" in the world into an alliance that will isolate Iran, thereby demonstrating to Iran that it has more to gain by joining the world community than by opposing it. This approach is a more comprehensive and difficult approach. It views negotiations as a vehicle for restructuring global associations and not just as a conference to discuss surrender terms. This is the approach favored by Barack Obama - negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve a new global strategy of peace. The effort involved is valuable if only for the strengthening of the Western alliance, and is one that could ultimately lead to mutual respect and cooperation among nations; in short, peace. It is an approach that requires creative new thinking, but one that, if successful, would achieve a better final result than a military option.