Will Israel Attack Iran? Don't Hold Your Breath

How do you know someone has no idea what they’re talking about? They predict that Israel is about to attack Iran.

From the perspective of people in Israel who are closely following these issues, this idea is ridiculous. Understanding why this is so tells us a great deal about the situation.

First, it is too early to consider such an option in strategic terms. As long as Iran has not completed its effort to obtain nuclear weapons, the less there is to be gained by destroying uncompleted facilities or processes that are not yet at their full capacity. The earlier one attacks, the easier it is for the Iranian regime to rebuild.

Second, the whole Israeli strategy has been based on winning the maximum amount of Western support against the Iranian nuclear program. Israel worked hard to encourage the United States and the Europeans to put tough sanctions on Iran. Now we are in the sanctions’ era and these governments want to see whether the sanctions are going to have any effect.

Clearly, they are hurting the Iranian regime. People often don’t understand the purposes for imposing international sanctions. Ideally, the goal is to change the behavior of the targeted regime. But that’s not all. Sanctions are supposed to reduce the ability of an enemy regime to do what it wants to do. The fewer assets Iran has, the less it can put into military efforts.

In addition, the pressure of sanctions is to open up splits within the regime’s leadership and between the regime and the population. The people ask: Why are we suffering? Because of bad leadership and policies. Other members of the elite ask: Why are the top rulers and their policies leading us toward the regime’s downfall and the loss of our wealth and power?

This is happening to some extent in Iran today.

Moreover, sanctions are intended to isolate the regime, so that it loses allies and trading partners. This is happening to a lesser extent, because the U.S. government is in effect making a deal with Russia, China, Turkey, and Brazil to break the sanctions in exchange for giving them formal support.