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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The advantage of a good deterrent: Iran calls off flotilla

Iran has officially canceled plans to send 'humanitarian aid' to Gaza. The reason given is fear of provoking a confrontation with Israel.
The final decision to call off the trip was announced by the head of Iran’s Committee for the Support of the Intifada, Hossein Sheikholeslam, who made it clear that Israeli threats of a military response were too much.

“Israel sent a letter to the United Nations stating that the presence of Iranian vessels in the Gaza area would be viewed as an act of war and would be dealt with as such,” he said.


For Iranian politicians, however, the real issues concerned policy, principle and pragmatism. Should they dispatch a vessel and challenge Israel head on, regardless of the consequences? Or should they stand down because the risks were too high?
But there were a lot of voices in Iran that wanted to confront Israel. Read the whole thing.

There are some valuable lessons to be learned here. First and foremost is the value of a deterrent. Because of the forceful manner in which Israel stood up to the Turks and said that it would stand up to anyone else who tried to run its legal blockade, the Iranians knew that there would be real consequences to trying to run the blockade. They understood that there was a significant probability that they would fail in their mission, and that failure would have consequences both in terms of casualties inflicted by Israel and in terms of loss of prestige on the international stage. That is why Iran stood down. Iran's standing down shows why it is important for Israel (and other Western countries) to have a credible deterrent that they are perceived as being ready, willing and able to use.

But the flip side is that even deterrents have limits. A lot of Iranian generals did want to send a flotilla. On the nuclear front, Israel's (alleged) possession of nuclear weapons will not make Iran stand down on a nuclear weapon. Iran is convinced that a nuclear attack on Israel is a winner in every sense of the word. Although they say they are willing to absorb casualties in response, they don't really believe Israel will be able to get off a second strike, and they believe that even if Israel does get off a second strike, the casualty levels in Iran will be 'acceptable.' And Iran believes that a nuclear attack on Israel will be successful. That is why a deterrent is not good enough on the nuclear front. Iran must be stopped from developing nuclear weapons altogether.


At 9:34 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

That's true. What will stop Iran is a strong Israel. Iran is not going to be convinced by diplomatic demarches or hand-wringing protests. Its only going to be deterred by the one thing it fears most: force. Israel should worry less about world opinion and demonstrate to Iran that any attack on Israel would spell the end of Iran and its regime.

That's the only message that will restrain Tehran. Nothing else will work.


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