One week before the next P5+1 meeting with Iran in Baghdad, the RAND Corporation, one of the most influential and respected U.S. think tanks advising the Pentagon, has published a comprehensive report in the Rand Review warning against striking Iran.
The report, co-authored by RAND’s director James Dobbins, advises the US to persuade Iran against nuclear-arms through diplomatic means including economic sanctions instead of a military attack. “No effort at persuasion can begin, though, until the United States acknowledges that the Iranian nuclear program might not be reversed and thus commences preparations to deal with the consequences.”
The report predicts a military attack would have long-term disastrous consequences for Israel’s security.
An Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence.
Containing this sort of influence would almost certainly become more difficult in the aftermath of an unprovoked American or Israeli military attack. Reaction among neighboring populations would be almost uniformly hostile. The sympathy thereby aroused for Iran would make containment of Iranian influence much more difficult for Israel, for the United States, and for the Arab regimes currently allied with Washington. This would be particularly true in newly democratizing societies, such as Egypt, where public opinion has become less fettered and more influential. International sanctions would erode, and Iran would likely redouble its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Thus, what the region’s future may hold is not an Iran that has or has not acquired nuclear weapons, but rather a nuclear-armed Iran that has or has not been attacked by Israel. And while a nuclear-armed Iran that has not been attacked is dangerous, one that has been attacked may be much more likely to brandish its capabilities, to make sure that it is not attacked again.
Haaretz reports RAND has “come to terms with the certainty of a nuclear-armed Iran”, but that was not my understanding of the report. Nuclear Iran is not the same as a nuclear armed Iran.
In a document published in the think tank’s periodical, Rand Review, RAND openly disagreed with the belligerent stance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, which are set to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other high-ranking officials over the next several days. In doing so, and without naming names, RAND sided with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former head of the Shin Bet Yuval Diskin.
RAND’s call to prevent an Israeli strike and to come to terms with a nuclear Iran, on the condition that it does not test or deploy nuclear weapons, was published a week before the second round of the P5+1 talks with Iran in Baghdad, with a clear intention of influencing the Western position during the talks.
RAND, which has come to terms with the certainty of a nuclear-armed Iran and the inability of preventing it from enriching uranium, as most of its citizens support such a program, believes that Netanyahu and Barak’s approach “rests on a faulty assumption that a future, post-attack Middle East would indeed be free of a nuclear-armed Iran. In fact, a post-attack Middle East may result in the worst of both worlds: a nuclear-armed Iran more determined than ever to challenge the Jewish state, and with far fewer regional and international impediments to doing so.”