Emanuel Shahaf

The end of the Iranian military option

Now it’s official – the attempt to force Iran to give up on its nuclear program has fizzled. Peacefully, silently, democratically. After making it easy for us and letting us deal for eight years with a dream of an enemy, a nasty, provocative, ghastly looking, antisemitic, homophobic holocaust denying President Ahmedinajad, the Iranian people appear to have managed a master stroke that even the supreme leader, Ali Khamenai, found too irresistible to prevent: The election of Hassan Rowhani to the presidency has made a military solution to the Iranian nuclear threat all but impossible. This pleasant looking cleric who seems to be a moderate and certainly talks that way is now likely to do what his predecessor Ahmadinejad should have done, had he been a wiser man: Iran under Rowhani will work with the international community, will cooperate with the IAEC, will open doors to some of its nuclear facilities and make its nuclear program more transparent. How much more ? Just enough to get by.  By doing so it will certainly be able to relieve the strict regimen of sanctions because the world, not surprisingly, wants to encourage Iran.

Will Iran give up on its military nuclear program? Nobody really knows at this time and it really isn’t all that relevant. It’s not relevant because Rowhani’s election has made it extremely difficult to continue to view Iran as an arch enemy of the Western world. Without a clear picture of an enemy, no Western nation including the US will be in a position to support a military strike on a cooperating Iran.

The implications for Israel are considerable. Assuming that Israel will not  strike an Iran that is cooperating with the West on its own, just like the rest of the world, it will have to live with the fact that it is likely to be a nuclear power with nuclear military capability. Not that this is a revolutionary conclusion, after all anybody contemplating a military strike on Iran to prevent it from going nuclear is certainly aware of the fact that such  a strike, while delaying the military nuclear program, would at the same time make its completion at a later stage a foregone conclusion. Anybody who thinks that a nation of 75 million people with Iran’s resources can be prevented from developing a military nuclear capability while other nations in the area have developed it, is living under illusions.

The apparent moderation of the incoming Iranian president could serve as an interesting diplomatic opening if the present Israeli government were interested in developing a healthier relationship with its former ally. This would not be out of the question since the Arab Peace Initiative has had Iranian support even before the election of Hassan Rowhani and he may be just the kind of guy who would challenge Israel by making some interesting moves. Preventing the influx of Iranian soldiers into Syria could be one of them.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government, desperately clinging to the premise that nothing has changed, would likely be at a loss playing along.  Come to think of it, that seems to be the goverments position on almost everything which has to do with security and foreign affairs: Nothing has changed and nothing will because Israel really doesn’t want it to. And that’s a pity because the only thing that is constant is change. And it’s happening now.



About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".