As the United States prepares to head for the finish line in an election year the period between now and the time when the next administration assumes the helm of the nation can be the most critical in terms of foreign policy. Call it the political equivalent of the sailing on the dark side of the moon.
This period in nether-politics can be a dangerous one as parties involved in a conflict can take advantage of this lack of focus from US policy to push ahead with programs they otherwise would find great opposition from American policymakers. Israel’s desire to rid itself of the threat posed by Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear technology comes to mind in such a situation as new rumblings of an Israeli strike on Iran are getting louder.
As we draw closer to election day in November the administration will find itself more and more caught up in getting the president re-elected and the president himself more and more caught up in darting form state to state to win back last minute indecisive voters, so much so, that foreign policy does not just take a back seat to domestic policy, it is relegated to the back of the bus, where it is likely to remain until after inauguration day in January.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about as hawkish as one can get, along with his minister of defence, Ehud Barak are both avid supporters of a military option in dealing with Iran to take out its nuclear threat. They also know that if they chose to strike during that dark period their chances of getting away with it are far greater.
If Israel were to strike at Iran would be a monumental mistake. It would be an invitation to disaster.
The manner in which Iran has decentralized its nuclear program makes targeting it very difficult. Military strike would just delay and not deter Iran’s insistence to become a nuclear power. If anything it would actually accentuate its drive.
The killing of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya earlier this week demonstrates just how volatile the region remains and how quickly a crowd can turn into a violent mob when sensitive issues are breeched. Now imagine how the people in the region will react to an Israeli strike on a Muslim nation?
As the US prepares to enter into the cocoon of domestic policies that revolves around the election of the president of the United States, it should be made crystal clear and in no uncertain terms to Israel that a strike against Iran would be completely unacceptable. An Israeli strike on Iran would place the United States in the forefront of Israel’s war against the Arab and the Muslim world, a position the United States should not find itself under any circumstances.
The first reaction from the Arab street and from the Muslim street will be directed against US interests in the region.
It is understandable that Israel remains concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and what it intends to do with its nuclear program. But even if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons and capacity to deliver those weapons, it remains extremely unlikely that those weapons would be used for the simple reason that Iran is well aware of what the repost would be.
What are the alternatives? For the moment they are not encouraging. Continue to live under the threat of imminent thermonuclear war. The other alternative which of course for the moment remains just as unattainable is to move slowly towards a negotiated peace. But that is wishful thinking.
Claude Salhani, a specialist in conflict resolution, is an independent journalist, political analyst and author of several books on the region. His latest book, ‘Islam Without a Veil,’ is published by Potomac Books. This article was originally published by ISN partner OilPrice.com.
For additional reading on this topic please see:
Emerging Nuclear States and Possible Terrorist Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons
Can a Red Line be Drawn on Iran?
Beyond Entrenchment over Iran