Monday, September 10, 2012

What "Red Line" on Iran?

From INSS Insight No. 369, September 9, 2012, by Asculai, Ephraim: ...The issue [of “red lines”] is now resurfacing as part of a proposed understanding between the US administration and Israel, with the intention of lowering the tension between them.
The main point of contention is that Israel assesses that Iran has already gone far enough with its nuclear weapons development program to produce them at will, while the US administration thinks that there is time enough for a “diplomatic solution” to this issue.
The US also assesses that it will know well in advance if the Iranians are “breaking out” and starting the relatively short route towards the production of nuclear weapons. ...
There are two implicit assumptions here:
  • the first is that the US intelligence system is infallible, and
  • the second is that the IAEA inspectors would discover an Iranian “breakout” in time to sound a reliable warning.
The problem is that Israel does not share these assumptions, and indeed, both are difficult to embrace.
  • Intelligence is not infallible, as history has shown, and
  • the IAEA is very limited in its observational powers, especially in Iran.
Reliance on intelligence can lead to overconfidence and misread facts, and the stakes, at least for Israel, are too high for that.
...The fact that the US has maintained that there is still time for a diplomatic solution may also imply that the US has not issued any warning or even an ultimatum to Iran...
Thus, the talk of setting red lines seems to be little more than a method of dousing the public disagreements between the governments of Israel and the US, at least until after the elections. The Iran issue, however, will only grow more and more serious – and less reversible – as time goes on.
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