Russian President Vladimir Putin often prevails because everyone is unsure that he will act prudently, the way we might in a similar situation. He is obviously a risk taker and some might even suspect he is unstable. Perhaps one of the few upsides to a President Trump would be that the world, and especially our enemies, might be hesitant to confront us for the same reasons.
This line of thought led me to a possible solution to our Iranian nuclear problem. As I have previously noted, we have a Plan B if either the nuclear deal falls through or Iran fails to meet its obligations. The problem is that we would be very hesitant to employ this plan as the risks of escalation are great and our current administration is congenitally timid. Our adversaries in Teheran fully understand this diffidence, and that greatly lessens the plan’s deterrence.
But what if we subcontracted Plan B to a more believable implementer? No one doubts that Israel will do anything within its power to prevent Iran from having the nuclear capability to make good on its constant threats to annihilate them. Currently, however, Israel doesn’t have the necessary tools to do much about it, other than issuing vague threats involving its own nuclear arsenal. And if they followed through, the consequences would be far worse than our Plan B. So, what if we gave Israel the tools?
This involves access to B2 stealth bombers, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) devices, and some technical support for their use. One approach would be to station the strike force on Israeli soil if a safe location could be found. But a better solution would be to let the Israeli Air Force station its crews at the American base on Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean. The range and lift capacity of the B2 bomber are enormous, so almost anywhere in the world would work.
No doubt the world would convulse. Russia in particular would have a diplomatic fit though there is not much they can do to prevent this, short of war with the U.S. We have a perfect object lesson of this reality in Putin’s recent incursions in Ukraine, employing sympathetic resident insurgents. What could we or the other Western democracies do about it? The fact is, though no one was willing to admit it, Russia has an important vested interest in Ukraine. Similarly, we and Israel have an important vested interest in a nuclear-free Iran. Worrying about our fingerprints on an Israeli operation would be entirely comparable to Putin fretting about his obvious complicity in Ukraine. Both of us must do what is needed and the world understands that fact.
Once things settled down, nothing would happen except that Iran would be faced with an entirely new reality. Israel wouldn’t wait for the kind of proof needed in a court of law or even to convince a skeptical Security Council. If Iran restarted its covert development, or let slip evidence of its ongoing efforts, they would understand the real risk they face. Mossad is a formidable force that would lie behind the IAEA in enforcing the inspection provisions of the nuclear pact. This would now have real teeth and we could feel confident in signing it.
Any redistribution of force like this entails risk. However we have declared that allowing Iran to become a nuclear power is unthinkable. If we really mean that, this plan may be the only feasible enforcement mechanism. Unlike the nuclear pact, which is time-limited, this deterrence would remain indefinitely. We would be sending a message of real determination and, not incidentally, going a long way toward mending a fractured relationship with a good and valued ally.
I am sure that there are those who fear that Israel might recklessly employ this fearsome weapon in a spasmodic reflex of preemptive revenge. But there is absolutely nothing in Israel’s short, tumultuous history that supports this fear. Even an aggressive leader like Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu would understand that this is a last resort weapon and that consequences of its use would be severe. The difference between having Israel rather than us make the intervention choice is that their stake is immeasurably higher. We have laid down a firm red line of no nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian Mullahs and their Revolutionary Guard. If we mean what we say, then here is a way to prove it.