A U.S. attack on Iran? Not coming soon
Tehran has softened its tone, but tough decisions await the next US president.
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This change of tone came after weeks in which the US and Iran traded threats and warnings over possible American or Israeli military action.Skip to next paragraph
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In particular, an Israeli military exercise last month was widely seen as a warning to Tehran.
"They are trying to signal that they are really concerned about what is going on here. And [the US and other nations] don't want to let this go too far down the road," he said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies seminar on June 26.
The likelihood of Israel bombing Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities is not zero, but it is not as high as many experts seem to think, Mr. Pollack said at the CSIS seminar.
Meanwhile, talk of force, either overtly or through hints and nods, may be counterproductive, according to Jon Alterman, director of the CSIS Middle East program.
"The more we talk about force, I think the less likely you are to get Gulf ally cooperation.... They are terrified," Mr. Alterman said at the CSIS event.
Elizabeth Cheney, former principal deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, took issue with this position, saying that it is essential that the Iranians believe the US will use force if necessary.
Statements from those in power saying that force is off the table are counterproductive, Ms. Cheney said.
"Whenever you've got statements like that, in my view it actually makes the potential of having to use force greater because people will think, 'Well, the Americans aren't serious about using force,' " she said.
The key way for US officials to look at the issue may be to decide their bottom line as to whether they could live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
If they decide they can't live with an Iran that has a nuclear arsenal, what they are really saying is that they are willing to invade Iran to prevent that from occurring, Pollack said.
"And I don't think that the American public is ready to invade Iran to prevent it from having a nuclear weapon," he said at the CSIS seminar.