The Iran Impasse



Despite Iran's twisted effort to hijack this week's nuclear nonproliferation conference at the United Nations, the United States and other Western nations turned the heat back on the Islamic Republic's obfuscation when it comes to its own nuclear program.

But walking out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his speech — as several nations did — is not enough. Too many deadlines have come and gone, and as the world dithers, Iran's growing threat to world security is spiraling out of control.

Despite the Obama administration's efforts to get Russia and China on board for harsh sanctions, they're not there yet.

We do not even know if tough sanctions will even begin to accomplish what earlier efforts to halt Iran clearly haven't. How long the world refuses to act decisively will have a direct impact on how Israel responds.

From Jerusalem, there is a near-unanimous sense that something needs to be done to combat the greatest threat to Israel's existence. But whether to go it alone with a military strike remains a source of great debate. It's obviously the last resort option, yet one that the country needs to — and clearly already is — preparing for.

Yossi Klein Halevi, prominent Israeli thinker and journalist, believes that such a strike is inevitable, given the international reluctance to move forward. He said that President Barack Obama appears more concerned about aligning the international community on sanctions than he is about stopping Iran.

As a result, he told a group of Jewish communal activists here recently: "It is most likely that Israel will take a pre-emptive strike against Iran."

For analyst Yossi Alpher, who also visited here recently, the conditions required to unleash such an attack are not yet ripe. He includes among these a clearer sense of what such an attack would achieve and what the reaction would be, along with what he calls "at least a yellow light" from the United States.

Clearly, a major cost-benefit analysis is taking place in Israel. Everyone knows the price of such an attack could be high, both in terms of a revenge strike on Israel by Iran and/or its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies, a potential attack on U.S. forces in the region and/or potential isolation by the international community, including the United States.

The reality is that both in the United States and in Israel, most analysts agree that there no longer are any good options when it comes to Iran.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — and the world — would do well to heed her own words at this week's U.N. conference: "Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability. Ultimately, however, we will all be judged not for our word, but for our action."


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