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Contentions

The Israeli Election and Iran

David Sanger, writing in the New York Times, suggests there is “a new dynamic afoot, one that seems likely to become even more complicated” once the Israeli election is settled:

If the government that emerges is even more determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary, Mr. Obama may find himself trying to negotiate with one of America’s most determined adversaries while restraining one of its closest allies.

It is strange to suggest that a complicating factor is replacing an Israeli government “determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary” with a new government “even more determined” to do so.  The suggestion reflects an implicit view that the principal U.S. goal is talking to Iran, and that Israel thus needs to be restrained from acting as long as talks are proceeding.

But “talks” are a tactic, not a goal.  If the goal is the end of Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the goal is materially assisted by a new Israeli government “even more determined” to end it before it is too late.  Unambiguous U.S. support for such a government, rather than attempts at “restraining” it, would send a message to Iran that there is an effective time limit for the “carrots,” and that the consequences for rejecting them go beyond another set of ineffectual UN sanctions.

Virtually, the only chance for successful talks with Iran lies in convincing it the carrots will not be available for long, and that there is a credible threat of consequences beyond a rhetorical “option,” always on the table but never likely to leave it.  If Iran believes the U.S. will restrain Israel as long as talks proceed, the talks will proceed until the nuclear program succeeds, after which Iran will reasonably suspect that the carrots offered will get even bigger.


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