Countering the Threat From Iran

Article by Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, Director of the FSD

These three dimensions of the Iranian challenge – the nuclear, regional and missile programmes – are designed to reinforce one another. Iranian nuclear capabilities are meant to provide a strategic umbrella for proxies’ conventional capabilities and subdue regional rivals, while Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal was amassed, among other things, to deter Israel from striking the Iranian nuclear programme. The Iranian challenge requires the west to develop a comprehensive strategic response that considers all dimensions of the threat. As the US and its European allies enter nuclear diplomacy with Iran, they ought to be mindful of the regional picture and factor it into their deliberations with Iran – even if each of these dimensions is treated separately and differentially. An integrated western strategy should not rely merely on diplomatic and economic tools, while neglecting cyber, military (as a last resort) and other potential options. Incentives should be balanced by credible disincentives that create and maintain deterrence. A successful long-term and integrated approach also calls for strategic patience, close consultations with regional actors directly and strategically impacted by Iran and viewing the new development towards Israeli-Arab normalisation as an asset. Failing to develop such a comprehensive approach will likely encourage Iran to raise the stakes of brinkmanship and ultimately pour more fuel on the regional fire.

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