Wednesday April 16, 2014
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16.04.2014
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Ron Tira

Prepare for the Iranian tide to turn

The interim deal with Iran is a bad one, for two reasons. Firstly, Iran did not abandon its policy of acquiring the ability to build a nuclear weapon and did not relinquish its capabilities in this regard. It only promised to change its behavior for a specified period of time (for example, limiting uranium enrichment and the like) and it can change this behavior again at a time of its choosing.

Secondly, the deal revealed (yet again) the sides' strategic DNA, and this almost certainly assures Iranian success. Despite the economic hardships inflicted by sanctions, Iran never projected weakness and did not blink first, maintaining ambiguity in its position and preserving room to maneuver in negotiations. And despite its status as the only global superpower, the U.S. was eager to strike a deal and prevent a crisis almost at any cost, and its conduct during negotiations was devoid of any depth and sophistication.

There is a clear clash between Iran's policy of acquiring a nuclear weapon and America's declared policy of preventing this. In a head-on collision of this sort, the strategy must revolve around coercion: The U.S. needs to force Iran to change its policy. Meanwhile, however, the U.S. is seeking to avoid risks, even to the point of willing to forego the realization of its own declared policy. The U.S. has put risk management and cost analysis above reaching its own objectives. This is why it is not looking to force policy change on Iran, preferring to reach an agreed upon point of balance with it.

Israel, too, has lost control of the crisis and where it is headed: It did not attack at the optimal time (2010-2011); it stipulated red lines and was then forced to wait passively while watching Iran successfully maneuver without crossing them; and primarily, it acted to internationalize the crisis by painting Iran's nuclear program as a problem for the international community. But the international community recoils from conflicts, and therefore gives up its declared goals while coming to terms with Iran's non-provocative and gradual nuclearization. From the moment that diplomacy became the main channel for managing the crisis and the American administration put its faith in an interim deal, Israel ran out of options, and it now finds itself watching from the stands without the ability to maneuver or influence.

The only thing that plays to Israel's advantage is that the current situation is liable to change. The strategic environment is dynamic, and within a short period of time the circumstances can transform. Iran could become drunk on its successes and make a mistake, and new intelligence information could come to light. What is crucial now is for Israel to prepare in advance for the moment the tide turns, if and when it happens. Israel must reclaim its ability to influence matters as they pertain to this crisis and how it ends. It needs to develop parallel diplomatic avenues where it can exert influence, and be able to dictate the levels of threat posed by this crisis.

The way to all of these can be found on the path of military action.

Lt. Col. Ron Tira (res.) is the author of "The Nature of War: Conflicting Paradigms and Israeli Military Effectiveness."

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