February 13, 2012

Iran already reaps nuclear benefits

Iran already enjoys a degree of nuclear prestige in its confrontation with Israel and around the Middle East.

How is Israel supposed to respond to the ongoing effort to attack Israeli and Jewish targets, including today's car bombs in New Delhi and Tbilisi? Since Israel needs to hold its fire, pending an all-out assault (as advertised) should Iran attain nuclear weapons status, it will be limited to responding in kind, or via proxy by attacking Hezbollah targets in Iran or elsewhere. And the mysterious assassinations of specific Iranian physicists and engineers will continue as needed.

Israel and the West may have little choice in the matter, given the very real implications of a nuclear Persia, and the difficulties of holding together a rough coalition of Europeans, Russia, and China. But it may be noted that, as part of our strategy against that nuclear contingency, we must limit our responses to threats or attacks that fall below the nuclear threshold.

In this sense, and only in this sense, the fact that Israel is deterred from responding in full force is analogous to the Cold War-era constraints of limited response. To avoid introducing all-out Soviet and/or Chinese intervention, the United States had to limit its own intervention in Korea and Vietnam, as well as Czechoslovakia and East Berlin.

Sanctions definitely bite, but -- by virtue of "almost" having nuclear weapons -- Iran today already has a freer hand to pursue its terrorist and other adventures, fairly secure in the knowledge that the punishment will never exceed what it can bear. The regime in Tehran can definitely taste the regional supremacy and impunity that await its full nuclear membership.

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