A war is coming. We need a miracle to avert it. Both sides have been preparing for it for years. The two states are earmarking resources, holding drills, utilizing intelligence means, creating uncertainty, and publicly presenting positions that offer no way back. Israel and Iran are currently facing a growing cold war situation and are on an almost certain collision course. A war is coming.
In only few cases did a cold war not turn into an all-out war. One of the prominent cases is that of the Soviet regime’s collapse in the 1980s and its defeat in the Cold War against the West. The United States won without firing a single shot. It used its economic-technological supremacy as a strategic threat, while Western ideology won hearts on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The threat of nuclear war passed after the regime in Moscow changed.
The Israeli-Iranian case is much more volatile and it’s hard to foresee a happy ending. Israel is willing to do (and will do) anything to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. No Israeli prime minister and no IDF chief of staff will assume the responsibility for a nuclear Tehran.
Israel can live with the current Iran: A state capable of producing a nuclear bomb, while being two to three years away from arming the first missile with the first nuclear warhead. However, Israel will not allow Iran to cross the military nuclear threshold. There is no way in the world Israel would compromise on that.
“Cannot live with” and “cannot accept” are diplomatic phrases marking a declaration of war. And it will be a predictable war; at this point, commentators and gamblers are giving it 90% chance of materializing. Hence, preparations for it must be accurate. In practice, they have been completed already. Unless Iran caves in, an Israeli operation against Tehran’s nuclear sites is inevitable.
Iranian irrationalityCan the Iranian leadership cave in? Yes, it can. The regime in Tehran is not being asked to curb the entire nuclear project, but rather, to pursue what Iran itself said was its legitimate aspiration: Nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This means an immediate halt to the secret military program, willingness to fully open nuclear sites to foreign inspectors, and agreeing to transfer the enriched uranium overseas.
Such agreement won’t undermine the regime’s popularity: It will be received enthusiastically in Tehran’s markets, especially as the economic sanctions will be lifted. Nuclear arms are perceived as an imperialist gadget in Iran. The country can do without them.
The lack of symmetry may prompt an optimistic conclusion: Under growing pressure of sanctions, which are now biting and comprehensive, the Iranian regime would indeed cave in. It would forego the military nuclear option for at least the next 12 years and make do with electrical plants. The regime’s popularity won’t be hurt because of this; the opposite is true.
Yet these are rational considerations, while Iran’s leadership displays irrationality. Its secret desire for nuclear weapons is irrational, its hostility to Israel is irrational, the way its economy is being managed is irrational, and its support for Syrian President Assad serves as further proof of its irrationality.
Hence, we shall almost certainly see a war here. Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear military sites earlier than predicted, while enjoying Western and Arab assistance and backing. The sirens will wake us up early in the morning. The Home Front Command’s spokesman will instruct us to enter our sealed rooms without panicking. And the rest will be history.