If you're pro-Israel and want to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, it's time to leave the U.S./Israeli echo chamber that gives only two ineffective options - more sanctions or war.
First, some background. It is vitally important to distinguish between nuclear "break-out" capability and the actual building of a nuclear weapon. As long as Iran is not attacked, it has many reasons to achieve nuclear capability but not manufacture.
An attack on Iran by nuclear powers such as Israel and the U.S. in the absence of concrete evidence of actual nuclear bomb manufacture would violate international law and be intensely criticized by most of the world. It would legitimize a subsequent crash-program of bomb-making by Iran, as many experts anticipate. Therefore, not making a bomb actually serves Iran as a better deterrent than manufacture, which would cross an obvious "red line."
In addition, Iran has genuine religious compunctions about building a weapon of mass destruction, as it showed by choosing not to use chemical weapons during the http://cns.miis.edu/npr/pdfs/81ali.pdf">Iran-Iraq war , by Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwa http://www.ww4report.com/node/929">against nuclear weapons and by Iran's support of a nuclear-free Middle East. Also, it is inconceivable that Iran would pre-emptively use a nuclear weapon against Israel, when it would kill huge numbers of Palestinians, contaminate Islam's third-most holy site, enrage the entire Muslim world, and suffer Israel's terrible retaliation. In fact, three directors of Israel's intelligence (Ephraim Halevy, Meir Dagan and Tamir Pardo), who should know best, have said that Iran poses no "existential" http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mossad-chief-nuclear-iran-not-necessarily-existential-threat-to-israel-1.404227"> threat to Israel.
The conclusion that Iran is reluctant to build a nuclear weapon is consistent with the official consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has not yet made any http://news.yahoo.com/US-iran-not-yet-decided-build-nuclear-bomb-140132073.html"> such http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/getting-ahead-of-the-facts-on-iran/2011/12/07/gIQAAvvCjO_story.html"> decision . It also explains why many Israeli leaders have been wrong since 1992 in repeatedly predicting an imminent Iranian bomb , and why the International watchdog agency's recent report finds little recent nuclear research and no evidence of http://www.fpif.org/blog/no_really_iran_isnt_developing_nuclear_weapons#.TtVgwYwR2Yg.gmail%20http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-11/iran-nuclear-weapons-charge-is-no-slam-dunk-commentary-by-robert-kelley.html"> weapon construction .
Now let's consider sanctions. Buffeting Iran's economy with ever-tightening sanctions has had little influence on its nuclear program. From 2007 to the present, Iran went from 3,000 to 8,000 uranium enrichment http://www.iranwatch.org/wmd/wmd-nuclearessay-footnotes.htm">centrifuges , greatly increased its stock of low-enriched http://www.powerandpolicy.com/2011/07/20/iran-ramping-up-uranium-enrichment/"> uranium , and developed more potent missiles.
None of this constitutes building a nuclear bomb and delivery system, but it does demonstrate increasing nuclear capability and a dose of reality for those who keep promoting sanctions to bring Iran to its knees.
History helps us understand why tougher sanctions are not likely to be http://cns.miis.edu/npr/pdfs/81ali.pdf">effective . With U.S. support, Iraq brutally battered Iran with chemical weapons and bombs during the 1980s, with over 200,000 Iranian http://necrometrics.com/20c300k.htm#Iran-Iraq">casualties . After this searing experience, one can understand why Iran might develop a "never again" insurance policy of achieving nuclear capability as a matter of defense.
Another important element in Iran's sustained resistance to coercive and painful sanctions is anti-colonial nationalism. Practically every Iranian resents the colonial history in which Russia undermined Iran's fledgling constitutional government, the British suppressed Iranian attempts to control their oil resources, the American CIA overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh government, and an American-supported Iraq made an unprovoked attempt to invade Iran.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in repeated polls, the majority of Iranians defend their country's right to enrich uranium for peaceful http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/jan07/Iran_Jan07_rpt.pdf"> purposes (http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/527.php?nid=&id=&pnt=527&lb=brme">link2, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/640.php"> link3) , whether or not they approved of President Ahmadinejad, no doubt viewing sanctions as one more attempt at colonial suppression. No popular regime change would alter this view.
Thus, there is little hope that sanctions will stop Iran from enriching uranium or developing nuclear capacity. Assassinations, sabotage, cyberattacks, and a near-complete oil embargo are dangerous provocations that may lead to retaliation and unintended war.
Finally, war won't prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Numerous key Israeli and American military leaders oppose attacking Iran (IDF leaders Ashkenazi, Shahak, Eilan, Eisenkrot, Halutz and former Mossad Dagan and Shin Bet Diskin; U.S. Joint Chiefs Mullen, Dempsey and Secretaries of Defense Gates and Panetta [references at the end of this article]). Many of these leaders predict that an attack would delay nuclear weapon production by only a year or http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3641005,00.html">two , would drive Iran to build a nuclear http://csis.org/files/publication/111027_Iran_Gulf_Military_Balance.pdf"> weapon , and produce outcomes that could badly impact both Israel or the U.S.
Others list soaring gasoline prices and economic http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_story.asp?id=17909">fallout (http://business.financialpost.com/2011/11/29/4-scenarios-for-oil-if-israel-attacks-iran/">link2), casualties of American soldiers and innocent Israeli and Iranian citizens, conflagration in Israel and the Middle East, and a derailing of the Israel-Palestine peace process. If and when these realities of a third Middle East war hit the U.S. homeland, Americans may well blame Israeli and U.S. political leaders for dragging them into a disaster which better-informed military leaders opposed.
Neither more sanctions nor military action will protect Israel. "Diplomacy" will also fail if it doesn't offer Iran genuine trade-offs, or ignores opportunities for http://www.niacouncil.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7795&security=1&news_iv_ctrl=-1"> confidence-building . The only realistic option is to allow Iran to enrich uranium in return for enhanced oversight and inspection of its nuclear program. Arms control experts https://www.fas.org/pubs/_docs/specialreport2_iran_nuclear_program.pdf"> concur (http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2011_03/Ferguson">link2, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/mar/20/a-solution-for-the-usiran-nuclear-standoff/?pagination=false"> link3) that a deal along these lines would provide the greatest likelihood of Iran not developing a nuclear weapon.
Leaders of Cleveland's Jewish community urgently need to promote discussion of this best option for Israel and the U.S. before it is too late.
Norman Robbins, M.D., Ph.D., is an emeritus professor at Case Western Reserve University and Iran consultant for Cleveland Peace Action.