Some say this window is five-months long, while more cautious observers talk about 18 months. One way or another, the countdown has already begun – in the course of 2012, all parties will complete their preparations (for attack or for sustaining a strike.) For the time being, we are in the midst of a wave of threatening rhetoric that will keep mounting.
The plethora of statements on the Iranian issue in the past week does not offer anything new or attests to agreement between the United States and Israel regarding the intensity and pace of steps needed vis-à-vis Iran. However, the frequency of the statements constitutes a warning: The military option is on the table, today more than ever before. Should Iran’s military nuclear development continue, the gun is already loaded.
Publicly at least, the US chose to move closer to the Israeli position, which argues that the diplomatic-economic weapon isn’t enough; one must also wave the military stick. And indeed, the Americans are accompanying their statements against Iran with military moves such as troop deployment in the Gulf and public discussions of preparations and capabilities.
Secret dialogue?Yet the talk about a military strike being capable or incapable of stopping Iran’s nuclear program includes an element of deception. After all, curbing Iran’s nuke project does not necessarily have to include the bombing of dozens of Iranian nuclear facilities.
A military strike is just one aspect of the attempt to convince the Iranian regime that developing nuclear weapons does not pay off. A convincing military attack does not have to target fortified nuke sites; such assault could also be convincing if it hits sensitive government sites or important infrastructure targets, which are not necessarily related to the nuclear project. The second element is of course the significant economic sanctions.
This year, the Free World will be embarking on the deciding round against the nuclearizing Iran. Should the Iranians fail to curb themselves, the entire region will start the countdown. It is possible that at the end of the process the decision will be not to strike Iran, and then we shall find ourselves facing the direct path to an Iranian bomb.
There is also the possibility that as result of the effective pressure, some kind of secret dialogue track with Iran will be launched in order to give Tehran the option to withdraw. It is very possible that reports about Iran’s invitation for inspectors to return to its nuclear sites signals the beginning of such secret dialogue.