There’s an interesting dichotomy in the current perspectives regarding Israel’s position on Iran. Both those who advocate for an Israeli (or U.S.) strike on Iran and those opposed to such action are using the tense status quo between the countries to bolster their viewpoints.
First the hawks: At Commentary‘s Contentions blog, the prolific Jennifer Rubin picks up on Senator Scott Brown’s Wall Street Journal op-ed espousing reverse-linkage — that the Iranian nuclear standoff must be resolved before any major breakthrough in Arab-Israeli peace can occur. But Rubin takes it a step farther than Brown, calling for regime change by military strike against Iran irrespective of a nuclear program:
But of course, an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, even without nuclear weapons, is largely responsible for the ongoing terror directed against Israel. This is the real barrier to peace. […] That will only come when terrorist groups (including Hezbollah on its northern boarder) are defanged. And that requires regime change and/or a decisive blow to their patrons in Tehran.
So Middle East peace depends not only on containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but removing its regime altogether. This is a striking admission — that there is no way to avoid conflict, even if Iranian leaders are diplomatically coerced to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program. The thinking relies on Rubin’s claim that many of the negative effects of a potential Iranian nuclear weapon are already occurring. If this is true, Iran’s increased regional clout due to a bomb would only be a matter of degree, not one that would decisively shape regional dynamics.
Conversely, some doves use the same point that many of the hypothetically intolerable consequences of an Iranian bomb are already a strategic reality, and thus argue an attack would only exacerbate the current situation. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Reza Aslan and Bernard Avishai point out much of the chatter from hawkish circles, which kicked into high gear with Jeffery Goldberg‘s recent Atlantic article, centers on the “existential threat” to Israel posed by “a ‘nuclear umbrella’ for Hezbollah missiles and Hamas terrorism.” Aslan and Avishai retort:
And exactly what is a “nuclear umbrella”? Did the absence of a nuclear Iran stop Hezbollah from attacking Israel in 2006? If war resumes, God forbid, would a nuclear Iran keep Israel from attacking Hezbollah missile sites in Lebanon any more than, say, the images of bombed out Beirut apartment buildings on CNN?
The answer is obviously no.
Aslan and Avishai argue the consequences of an attack would only make matters in the region much, much worse. They predict a “devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences” should Israel attack Iran and deduce Iran wants the bomb “as an ultimate hedge against invasion by superior conventional forces.” While they’re realistic this may “cause irreparable damage to the global anti-proliferation regime” and threaten Western regional interests, they soberly conclude a nuclear Iran “would be a lesser evil than what we will confront in the wake of an attack to prevent this.”
Containment, in other words, still has risks. But it is more likely to work than an attack. The latter scenario, everyone but those on far right seems to agree, will definitely not be “a pretty picture.”