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Israel Wouldn’t Benefit from Attacking Iran

Bill Kristol’s call for an Israeli attack on Iran is as bad as you’d expect, but it’s worth discussing briefly to remember a few important points. Kristol writes:

As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons, undeterred by the West’s leading power, a 21st-century tragedy threatens to unfold. Unless. Unless a dramatis persona who didn’t exist in 1936 intervenes: Israel. Ariel Sharon once famously said that Israel would not play the role of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Nor will it play the role of Poland. Despite imprecations from the Obama administration, Israel will act. One prays it will not be too late.

Comparisons between Iran and 1930s Axis powers are wrong for so many reasons, but it is especially misleading in this case. There is something quite jarring about a comparison that likens one country’s development of a nuclear program to provocative acts or acts of international aggression (i.e., Germany reoccupying the Rhineland, Italy invading Ethiopia), and then calls on another state to commit an act of international aggression to “respond” to a threat that doesn’t currently exist. Let’s hope that Iranian leaders aren’t taking these examples to heart, since they would conclude that they must not seek to “appease” the more powerful states threatening them with attack and decide to rule out any negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue.

It is possible that Iran’s leaders, including Khamenei, are willing to consider a deal with the U.S. on the nuclear issue. If that possible opening is disregarded and squandered by increasing threats against Iran, it makes it that much more likely that Iran’s government will conclude that Western governments have never been interested in reaching an agreement and will never accept one. Dismissing Iranian gestures out of hand, as Netanyahu has been doing, will give Iran reason to assume that a diplomatic solution is impossible. That in turn would make conflict more likely, and that wouldn’t be in the interests of any of the countries involved.

One reason that Israel likely won’t attack Iran is that it wouldn’t benefit Israel very much to do so. At most, an Israeli attack could set back Iran’s nuclear program by a few years, but the international fallout from such an attack would last longer and would cost Israel more than it could have possibly gained through military action. An attack would make a negotiated settlement impossible, and it would make Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon more likely.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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