Iran-Israel Status Quo Inspires Both Hawks and Doves

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.”

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. I would love to see an analysis of a double game that seems to be playing out in the Mid East.

    It seems the US is holding out the carrot of neuteringIran, only if Israel relents on a peace agreement. I.e. US is using Israel’s “exitential threat” rhetoric to demand mid east peace before (not after) dealing with Iran. The identical one year time-lines for both peace negotiations, and Iran’s alleged nuclear breakout seems too much of a coincidence. Is this a dual containment of sorts? Contain Israel and Iran, and force Iran under threat of action, and force Israel under the threat of inaction to start heeding US interests?

  2. Not a pretty picture — exactly. And that’s the biggest reason why containment’s the way to go.

    I notice that Mr. Gharib reports without demur Aslan and Avishai’s belief that Iran wants a bomb. Normally he would mention that Iran’s desire for a bomb was “unproven.” Are we to deduce from this that he has come to understand that Iran indeed wants either a bomb or a break-out capability that would allow it to go nuclear quickly? If he has come to such an understanding, I can only applaud his conversion to realism on this issue.

  3. The two ‘doves’ mentioned above have their facts wrong.

    Did the absence of a nuclear Iran stop Hezbollah from attacking Israel in 2006?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Hezbollah did not attack Israel in 2006. Two Israeli soldiers were captured on Lebanese soil near the town of Aitaa al-Chaab, and Israel responded by sending in ground forces. The aerial bombardment of Lebanon started shortly thereafter, killing hundreds of civilians.

  4. Dear Sir or Madam: Your article’s assumption that Israel’s itching to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities is based on false assumptions of Israel’s naive disregard for the consequences of such acts and their actual intention to do so bercause:

  5. Israel is not ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities despite the attacks Ahmenijad’s threats because (l) Israel’s leaders are not unaware naively of the consequences of such an act(s), (2) Just because Israel once successfully destroyed nukes in Iraq and Syria, doesn’t mean she would automatically repeat such behavior despite the predictable havoc incumbent on such acts.

    Of course Israel feels victimized by kidnappings, suicide bombings, multi-national war attacks on her sovereign territories, rocket attacks on her civilian settlements, ad nauseum. Why not urge her enemies (Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.) to make P E A C E and stop torturing her & her innocent citizens (including pregnant mothers of 6 children) instead of uselessly warning Israeli not to attack Iranian nuke facillities when she probably has no intention to do so?????

Comments are closed.