So… You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

Not a lot of wiggle room in this Rand Corporation article on whether it’s a good idea to attack Iran:

An Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence.

It is, after all, not Iranian aggression that its neighbors principally fear, but Iranian subversion. It is Iran’s ability to appeal to potentially dissident elements within neighboring societies — to the Shia populations of Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf states, and to the more radical elements within Palestinian society — that is of most concern to these states. It is Iran’s appeal throughout the Islamic Middle East as a bastion of anti-American and anti-Zionist activity that most disturbs other regional regimes. This is true even of Israel, whose principal vulnerability is not to Iranian military pressure but to attacks by Iranian-supported Hamas and Hezbollah.

Containing this sort of influence would almost certainly become more difficult in the aftermath of an unprovoked American or Israeli military attack. Reaction among neighboring populations would be almost uniformly hostile. The sympathy thereby aroused for Iran would make containment of Iranian influence much more difficult for Israel, for the United States, and for the Arab regimes currently allied with Washington. This would be particularly true in newly democratizing societies, such as Egypt, where public opinion has become less fettered and more influential. International sanctions would erode, and Iran would likely redouble its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

As I’ve said before, if Israel had the option of just doing whatever the heck it felt like forever, then it may well be sound strategy to attack Iran (and never pursue any resolution of Palestinians’ status). But it’s a country of 8 million people in a rough neighborhood. “Mutual fear and loathing forever” just doesn’t seem like a plausible endgame to me.

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