In the face of uncertain developments in the Iranian nuclear program, there are two important aspects to be taken into consideration by the U.S. government. Firstly, there is substantial evidence that the Islamic Republic is on the verge of achieving break-out capability for creating a nuclear device. It is estimated that such a development could happen within the next six months. In the meantime, the election of a new, moderate President of the Islamic Republic H.E. Hassan Rouhani, whose tone and articulated policies (which, undoubtedly, have been endorsed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), may create a historic window of opportunity for reaching an agreement on their nuclear program. Additionally, international sanctions imposed by the United Nations and implemented by the trading partners of Iran may also prove to be an effective tool for dealing with the Iranian nuclear crisis.
However, it is important to bear in mind the wider regional context while dealing with this issue. Israel is still skeptical of the possibility of an agreement with Iran and interprets Mr. Rouhani’s recent conciliatory rhetoric and moves as a smokescreen to kill two birds with one stone: to buy time for the final push to acquire nuclear weapons and present a nuclear-armed Iran as a fait accompli, and to scale back sanctions, with the understanding that their reactivation will be, at least, difficult. France is also supporting Israel’s position on this issue.
A similar problem may arise with another regional actor, Saudi Arabia. Any rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran will unnerve the Saudi Kingdom, which views the Islamic Republic as arch-rival and may consider such development as tipping the balance in the region in Tehran’s favor.
Two mutually exclusive strategies may be employed by the U.S. in the given situation. One would be to launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent the imminent break-out of the Islamic Republic as a nuclear power. Second strategy, alternatively, could be reaching negotiated agreement with the new leadership in Tehran with a goal of putting their nuclear program under strict, rigorous international monitoring to assure its civilian character. Both of these strategies have pros and cons, which merit closer look for choosing one over the other.
1. Military offensive operation to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites will arguably halt the country’s uranium enrichment program for a few years. This fact alone represents the major positive outcome of the operation. Another argument in favor of such a strike would be the demonstration of an American resolve in dealing with rogue states attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. It will also win the support and praise of the regional U.S. allies such as, Israel and, possibly, Saudi Arabia (and, generally Sunni population of the region).
On the downside, several issues may be identified related to a military operation against Iranian...