Tony Karon writes:
An open disagreement between Israel and the Pentagon in recent weeks has highlighted the dilemma President Barack Obama faces in making progress on Iran. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday poured cold water on last week’s suggestion by Israeli Prime Minister that the only way Iran can be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons is for the U.S. to threaten military action. Military action, Gates warned, would solve nothing; in fact it would be more likely to drive Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu had warned, during a visit to the U.S., that “economic sanctions are making it difficult for Iran, but there is no sign that the Ayatullah regime plans to stop its nuclear program because of them.” The Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had told Vice-President Joe Biden, “The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon.”
Gates, however, turned Netanyahu’s argument on its head, warning that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would provide only a “short term solution,” setting the Iranians back two or three years. But any military strike would “bring together a divided nation [and] make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons” via programs that would simply “go deeper and more covert.” Instead, Gates argued, “The only long-term solution to avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it’s not in their interest.”