As Prof. Zaki Shalom of Tel Aviv University recently pointed out, the Obama Administration must realize that “Israel’s absolute top priority is ensuring its own security and the security of its citizens”, a principle that is becoming more and more relevant as the delicate balance between Iran and Israel is threatened by the prospect of nuclear war. Understandably, the Obama Administration is loathe to enter another conflict in the Middle East on the coattails of their operations in Libya and Iraq and the winding down of operations in Afghanistan. However, should an armed conflict between Israel and Iran erupt in the near future, the President will almost certainly be obligated to support Israel and thereby find himself once again knee-deep in a regional conflict not of his own choosing.
At the beginning of her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated that none of the major challenges currently facing the global community could be solved without the involvement of the United States. Her words have rung very true in the burgeoning regional shake-down of the Middle East, where the difference between a tense peace and all-out war (possibly even nuclear) very much depends on the calculated action of the American presidency. As it stands, both Israel and Iran are at an impasse, with Iran deeming it of national importance to develop a robust nuclear program and with Israel ready to take hard military action in order to protect its own security; an impasse that without outside intervention will most likely lead to armed conflict.
In his article about the strategies available to both Israel and the United States, Prof. Shalom outlines a number of tactics he deems necessary to achieving the dual goals of ending nuclear enrichment programs in Iran and avoiding war between Iran and the West/Israel. His major argument is that it is imperative that the United States display a willingness to cut Iran completely off from the international economy and a willingness to go to war in the region WITHOUT actually going to war. In essence, it is necessary at this point to engage in political brinkmanship with the Iranian regime; to make strong decisions with backing from our allies regionally and globally in order to convince Iran that their national security rests on ending their nuclear program.
Perhaps the most important step in this process is to succinctly convince other nations (China and India amongst them) to stop importing Iranian oil and to press other oil-producing regions to make up the difference in global trade. This crippling sanction will effectively reduce the Iranian regime’s source of income to a fraction of its current level. Secondly, the United States must show its full-fledged support to toppling the Assad regime in Syria, Iran’s closest ally in the region, isolating it from political support and reducing its influence over events occurring in the Middle East. Lastly, the United States must make an overt showing of moving its overbearing military capabilities within striking range of Iran and discouraging its representatives from making statements to the media that downplay the possibility of a military option.
War between Israel and Iran is an outcome that nearly ever party involved in the issue is set on avoiding, but it will only be achieved if the United States makes bold decisions that put force behind its rhetoric concerning Iran’s nuclear program. As Prof. Shalom states, this could very well be President Obama’s shining moment.