The alternative to an Israeli attack on Iran
Serious diplomacy, not military action, will bring regional security.
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Consequently, a successful bombing campaign by either the US or Israel would simply guarantee a nuclear armed and vengeful Iran five years down the road. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, said recently that if Iran left the NPT, it could build a nuclear weapon within a year.Skip to next paragraph
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To make matters worse, any military attack would reduce rather than increase the likelihood of a democratic takeover. As unpopular as the Iranian government is, the expectation that a secular democratic government would emerge in the aftermath of a bombing campaign is wildly optimistic and reminiscent of the Bush administration's miscalculations going into Iraq. War with Iran would be the death knell and not the savior of the Iranian democracy movement.
Any serious effort to address the Iranian challenge must recognize the true nature of the conflict. There is nothing apocalyptic about the nuclear stand-off or the Israeli-Iranian rivalry. Rather, these are strategically driven conflicts that can be managed and even resolved through the appropriate level of diplomacy.
A give and take is needed between Iran and Israel in which Iran must end its support for violent groups and acknowledge Israel's legitimate security concerns. Israel and the US must accommodate an Iranian role commensurate with its geopolitical weight and use Iran's inclusion into regional political and economic structures to tame Iran's revolutionary impulses.
That said, Israeli-Iranian enmity is not entirely dissociated from the Arab-Israeli dispute. The latter definitely facilitates and enhances Iran's strategy of regional destabilization. A regional system of security and cooperation in the Middle East cannot be established without an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. And it is equally important to address the question of nuclear disarmament.
For regional security to be possible it is not only necessary for Iran, Israel, and the US to grant one another minimum levels of recognition, it would also be necessary that Israel discard the notion that the regional order should be based on its nuclear monopoly.
The real choice in the long run is not between suspension of enrichment or war – it is between a verifiably nuclear-free Middle East or uncontrolled proliferation.
• Shlomo Ben-Ami is vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace and former foreign minister of Israel. Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of "Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US."