Saddam, Iran, and the Stability-Instability Paradox: Can Israel's "Samson Option" Hold?

Following a post from a few months back, I was pointed in the direction of an intriguing study by Duke University’s Hal Brands and David Palkki of the National Defense University that is germane to the current debates over a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and its implications for Israeli security (h/t Zach Novetsky).  “Saddam, Israel, and the Bomb: Nuclear Alarmism Justified?”, published last summer in International Security, is the result of countless hours pouring over documents captured after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The implications of Brands and Palkki’s findings for Israeli security are alarming but . . .
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War Games: What are They Good For?

A little over two weeks ago, a report in the New York Times by Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti described a recent war game run by CENTCOM that envisioned the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program.  The result:  Regional war with hundreds of American service members dead.  News of the classified simulation, which was leaked to the Times by an unnamed official, had the Twitterverse abuzz, and the subject was quickly hyped on the Left by ThinkProgress, the blog of the liberal Center for American Progress, and denounced on the Right by Bret Stephens, writing in . . .
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Turning Down the Volume on the Iran Debate

Pundits, academics, and the mainstream media have turned the volume up to eleven on the “Bomb Iran” debate in the past two months. Much of the discussion has been healthy, indeed necessary when discussing matters of nuclear proliferation and war. But much of the reporting and opining has also been reckless fear-mongering (see Glenn Greenwald’s assessment). And most arguments for a preemptive strike are premised on the assertion that the Iranian regime will eventually pursue nuclear weapons, if it is not already.

So it is refreshing to see a few major outlets cutting through the noise and stepping back . . .
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Prospects for Accidental Nuclear War in the Middle East

Many are obviously alarmed over the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Some of these fears are cartoonish and should be ignored, but there are others that should be given due consideration.  One example of the latter is the question of whether or not an Iranian nuclear weapon would raise the likelihood of an accidental nuclear war between the Islamic Republic and Israel.  Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg outlined a potential scenario last month in one of his regular columns for Bloomberg View.  But the type of “warp speed escalation” to nuclear war that Goldberg invokes is not nearly . . .
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Iranian Threat: Mortal or Deterrable?

Numerous essays have been written in recent months taking up positions on whether or not the United States should use military force against Iran in an attempt to forestall its nuclear program.  Foreign Affairs offers an excellent debate on the subject that iss highlighted by contending essays from Matthew Kroenig and Colin Kahl, taking the pro- and anti-bombing positions, respectively.  Perhaps the silliest offering in this ongoing discussion though was an op-ed in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal by Mark Helprin that is filled with contradictions and paints an exceedingly cartoonish picture of Iran.

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Mr. Helprin, a . . .
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The Historical Uncertainty of Middle Eastern Nuclear Proliferation

There seems to be one area of agreement between hawks and doves on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program:  the veritable certainty of a nuclear proliferation “casacade” in the Middle East whereby Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and others respond to an Iranian nuclear weapon with nuclear programs of their own.  Fears of that scenario were understandably raised recently when Prince Turki al-Faisal, a member of the royal family and former head of Saudi intelligence, explicitly stated that the Kingdom would consider pursuing its own nuclear capability were Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon of its own.  Max Boot cited . . .
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Max Boot and the Abuse of Historical Analogy

Let it never be said that if there’s an opportunity to make a hackneyed historical analogy that Max Boot will not take it.  Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Boot, a senior fellow at the Council Foreign Relations, asserts:

Why did the West do so little while the Nazis gathered strength in the 1930s? While the Soviet Union enslaved half of Europe and fomented revolution in China in the late 1940s? And, again, while Al Qaeda gathered strength in the 1990s?… The answer to the riddle—why did the West slumber?—becomes easier to grasp if we think about present-day relations . . .
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Preventive Strikes Against Nuclear Programs: Successful Strategy or Delaying the Inevitable?

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan recently commented on what he considers the “foolish” notion that a preventive military strike should be made on Iran’s nuclear program before it could produce weapons-grade uranium.  Jeffrey Goldberg quotes one Israeli official who says, “’Dagan thinks [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak is crazy enough to strike Iran.”  Goldberg, who notes that any decision to strike Iran would ultimately rest with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, interpreted Dagan’s statement to mean that an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities may be imminent.  That may or not be the case, but the question really is whether . . .
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What Then?

Not surprisingly, former ambassador to the United Nations—and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate—John Bolton believes that the current unrest in Egypt means it’s just the right time for…wait for it…an Israeli attack on Iran (h/t Joshua Keating).  While he might be the most frequent, Bolton is far from the only person who has made calls for attacking Iran and its nuclear facilities by either Israel or the United States in recent years.  Concerns for Israeli security are understandable considering the geographic proximity of the two nations and the abhorrent rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but these calls rarely, if ever, attempt to explain what would come after a preemptive or preventive attack.

Continue reading What Then?