Challenge to the War Party

American media are being flooded with calls for aggression against Iran, all replete with glib assumptions and careful avoidance of any deep analysis of what might go wrong. Here is what I want:

an argument for launching a war against Iran that is intellectually honest and profoundly self-critical, an argument that enumerates assumptions and questions them, an argument that searches for what could go wrong and lays out a precise plan for avoiding pitfalls, an argument that shows how war will lead us to a world we can honestly expect to be better than it would have been without war.

I predict that no one can make such an argument. I challenge the smooth-talking, “they will welcome us with flowers” set–those of you who think wars can be managed and long-term dangers avoided–to prove me wrong.

Iranian-Israeli Death Dance

In 2007 a scenario analysis of Iranian-Israeli relations suggested that the two sides would harm themselves by continuing on their confrontational course. That finding is coming true, with the harm now visible in both the domestic and foreign situations of each society. Meanwhile, the bilateral death dance continues…
With Israeli militarists firmly in control of both Israeli and U.S. Mideast policy, the Israeli-Iranian confrontation remains in endless crisis. Neither side is making any effort to create new approaches to any possible resolution so it remains impossible to determine what either side wants, intends, or would settle for. Does Tehran want to dominate the region; does it intend, when able, to take an existential risk to achieve that goal; would it settle for security and inclusion? Does Tel Aviv want to retain its military dominance and permanent suppression of the Palestinian people; does it intend to take an existential risk to maintain that dominance; would it settle for a nuclear but transparent Iran and a two-state solution? Washington will neither offer Tehran a sufficiently sincere compromise nor put sufficient pressure on Tel Aviv to determine the bottom line of either side. The only aspect of the mess that is clear is that the constant tension works to the advantage of the extremists on each side, cementing their hold on power and virtually precluding rational discussion.
The above was true in 2007, when the scenario analysis Iranian-Israeli Confrontation was done; it remains true in late 2011. Yet much has changed. Ankara has staked out rhetorical leadership of a neutral position offering Tehran great potential leverage, an opportunity of which clumsy Tehran hardliners have yet to take advantage. The Arab Spring has weakened Cairos adherence to the pro-Israel camp as well. Meanwhile, Obama has allowed Tel Aviv to obstruct his efforts to turn around U.S. ties with the Muslim world even as the U.S. position in Iraq has continued its downward course. By skillfully and remorselessly undermining Washingtons freedom of movement, Netanyahu has also steadily weakened the value of U.S. support even as he has fractured Israeli society into an increasingly violence-prone and overtly racist majority and a minority increasingly concerned about the long-term survival of Israeli democracy. The result has been to strengthen Irans regional position, weaken Israels regional position, and to enhance the risk of Israeli aggression and of Iranian militarization of its nuclear technology.

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Israeli Views of Israel

Ruth Dayan:
We built this country inch by inch, and we lost so many lives. We built public and social institutions, schools, factories. What’s going on today is awful. They’re ruining this country. I am a proud Israeli. I’ve lived through every war, endured every moment of suffering, but I never stopped believing in peace. I lost friends and family members. I’m a peacemaker, but the current Israeli government does not know how to make peace. We move from war to war, and this will never stop. I think Zionism has run its course….

And this continuous expansion of the settlements everywhere—I cannot accept it. I cannot tolerate this deteri oration in the territories and the roadblocks everywhere. And that horrible wall! It’s not right. [Daily Beast 10/30/11.]

Retired Chief of Mossad Meir Dagan:

In his first public appearance since leaving the post in September, Dagan said earlier this month that the possibility a future Israel Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”[Haaretz 6/1/11.]

We have to think about what would happen the day after. [Der Spiegel 11/8/11.]

Haaretz Commentator Gideon Levy:

The nuclear powers also ignore the fourth chapter of the treaty for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons that calls for dismantling them. They are permitted to ignore it. The world lives in peace too with the fact that 189 countries have indeed signed the treaty but that there are four, including Israel, that have not. The world has learned to live with the North Korean and Pakistani bombs even though this is a danger that is no smaller than that which Iran poses….
Israel, which has not signed the treaty, is in the same company as North Korea, Pakistan and India – that is, very dubious company. No one asks why, no one asks for what reason, not in Israel and not in the rest of the world…
There is a great deal of hypocrisy in Israel’s attitude toward the world….
Like Israel, Iran will apparently not heed the words of the world. But does Israel want in any way to resemble Iran?  [Haaretz 11/10/11.]

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It is time for another look at the alternative futures of the Iranian-Israeli confrontation.
The 2007 study offered four predictions:

Prediction #1: Co-Evolution. Iran and Israel will co-evolve: without either necessarily perceiving it, they will influence each other, revolve around each other like binary stars, each in its individual orbit but bound to the other by their mutual insistence on making the other a priority, and traveling an unseen path together. Most likely, all the while each will see only its own uniqueness; neither will perceive the increasingly significant points of similarity as their mutual adaptation subjects them to similar pressures. Judging from current trends, each will feed on the other’s hostility to the detriment of both.

Prediction #2: States of Criticality.
Potential states of criticality threatening disaster will occur. They are fundamental danger zones. A wise society will avoid them. As tensions rise and groups organize to push radical agendas, thereby making tensions rise further, it is easy to slide into the unmarked state of criticality where going one step too far leads to some sort of disaster – perhaps a tremor, perhaps the “big one.”

Prediction #3: Tipping Points. Positive feedback loops will bring to the fore dynamics that were previously insignificant, and tipping points will be reached, to general astonishment.

Prediction #4: Adaptation.
Adaptation will occur in unforeseen ways – sometimes at an unexpected location, sometimes after an unexpected delay. However it happens, Israel and Iran they will change, although our perceptions of them may not. The Israel still perceived in some quarters as a plucky pioneering movement of idealists adopted selective assassination of terrorists and then moved beyond that to assassination of opposing political leaders. Iran’s messianic Shi’ite spirit of the early 1980s has evolved into a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. vs. the Taleban in 2001 and support for the U.S.-sponsored regime in occupied Iraq today. Change is predictable; if unseen, the fault almost certainly lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Prediction #1, Co-Evolution, is supported by circumstantial evidence. The bilateral tension occupies an artificially important place in the politics of each state. Domestically, Tehran appears to have cracked down on dissidents with a degree of viciousness unusual even for Iran because of its defensiveness engendered by threats coming from Israel and its obedient superpower sponsor. Meanwhile, Israeli society is sliding steadily toward racist violence, a trend primarily the result of its colonization of the West Bank but one exacerbated by Netanyahus determination to play domestic policies off against policy toward Iran. The result is that Iranian-Israeli tensions are making both the Tehran and the Tel Aviv regimes more hardline than they would otherwise have been, thus exacerbating domestic political problems.
Concerning foreign policy, each state increasingly is finding its options limited by its addiction to extremist rhetoric and genuine security fears resulting from the Iranian-Israeli confrontation. Israeli freedom of thought and maneuver regarding its central predicament of how to deal with Palestinians is severely constrained by tensions with Iran. Iranian freedom of thought and maneuver regarding how to deal with the ring of U.S. military bases along its borders and the instability inherent in Iraqi, Pakistani, and Afghan insurgencies is similarly constrained by tensions with Israel.
In sum, Iran and Israel are co-evolving both domestically and internationally in ways that harm both of them because they have allowed themselves to become so closely linked by bilateral tensions artificially whipped up by their respective political leaders that they cannot find the freedom to focus on other arguably more fundamental and more serious problems. This evolutionary process is making each country less democratic and less secure.
Prediction #2, States of Criticality, isin early November 2011demonstrably true for a sudden state of criticality is exactly where the two states are at the moment, for no obvious reason other than the publication of yet another ambiguous IAEA report that states it cannot prove the negative (that Iran absolutely does not have any nuclear militarization plan in process). On this slim reed balances an explosion of clamor over the idea of launching the worlds first unprovoked nuclear attack.
Prediction #3, Tipping Points, has yet to be substantiated, but the occurrence of one of the predicted states of criticality suggests that the probability of a tipping point is rising.
Prediction #4, Adaptation, is more obvious on the part of the U.S. than the two primary actors. Both ruling parties in the U.S. are now firmly under Israeli influence so extreme as virtually to constitute control regarding U.S. Mideast policy. In reaction to this, however, open discussion of the long-time taboo question of whether or not the U.S.-Israeli alliance might be harming U.S. national security has now struggled into mainstream thinking, with long-term consequences yet to be discerned. In Israel, while the media discuss Israeli policy toward Iran far more profoundly and honestly than U.S. media do, groupthink has taken firm hold at the political level, leaving those Israelis concerned about Netanyahus warmongering with no political representation. Adaptation this is, albeit not in a direction likely to enhance either Israeli security or Israeli democracy. Groupthink is almost never a wise strategic course. Somewhat less visibly perhaps, from the outside, Iran too is adapting, as its domestic politics become increasingly bitter and divided. Indeed, Prediction #4 is essentially a rewording at a different level of analysis (state rather than two-state system) of Prediction #1, since the very meaning of co-evolution is that each state is not only adapting but adapting in tandem with the other.
In sum, the analysis done in 2007 made predictions that amounted to a warning that the two states would each harm themselves by failing to change course, and that warning has proven on target. The respective regimes have only themselves to blame for not heeding the warning; its accuracy supports the methodological argument that scenario analysis constitutes a useful tool for sharpening thinking about complex foreign policy dilemmas.

Arab Revolt Futures

Now that the rules governing Mideast politics have changed and assumptions are suddenly challenged, if not discarded altogether, wise policy-makers will be considering what factors will emerge as the key drivers of future Arab behavior. This post begins a new series analyzing how the Arab Revolt of 2011 is likely to develop and laying out the method to facilitate adjustments should events overtake this analysis.
Many factors contribute to, or “drive,” behavior. Among the drivers of the Arab Revolt of 2011 that will influence how it develops are:
Caveats
Factors that might in principle be considered likely to have an impact but which currently do not seem critical include the attitude of Iran, al Qua’ida, and Israel.

  • Al Qua’ida

This is particularly worth mentioning for Western audiences that may be overly fearful of the first two and biased in favor of the last. All three actors represent extreme positions that are being marginalized by the extraordinary restraint of the protesters and the relative restraint of most of the Arab armed forces, with the exception of Libya, where the military is rapidly fracturing. Military intervention by Israel or continued military attacks on the population by Gaddafi could open the door for al Qua’ida, as did the post-invasion chaos in Iraq in 2003, but for now extremists seem marginalized.

Even the attitude of the West loses importance as long as it remains cautious, since the reformers are not focused on demanding anything from the West. For example, US bases in Iraq or U.S. military aid to formerly repressive and still suspect Arab military forces may eventually become a point of attention, but at present they are not, in part because protester criticism is focused on misbehavior of the politicians rather than the military forces.
The three most important drivers influencing how the Arab Revolt of 2011 will turn out appear at the moment to be the Unity of Reformers, Reform Demands, and the Western Attitude. This could change with, e.g., the emergence of a charismatic leader like Nasser or a traumatizing attack by extremists. The Arab Futures graph illustrates the political landscape generated by the eight ideal scenarios that result from considering all three axes.
The two domestic axes in the above Arab Futures graphic stand together as a logical analytical unit: given Washington’s public stance so far (along with the restraint being shown by other external actors who might upset the apple cart such as Iran, Turkey, and Israel), it seems reasonable to focus on domestic Arab politics. The Domestic Drivers graph illustrates the political landscape, given the assumption that Washington continues to play a relatively low-keyed, non-interventionist role. Why, then, include the Western Attitudes axis in the first place? The reason is straightforward: the historic central role of the West and the continuing potential significance of any abrupt shift in Western policy; although Arabs appear very much in charge of their fate at the moment, the potential for Western interference and the sensitivity of the situation as long as power is delicately balanced between regime and protesters are too great to ignore.
Focusing first on domestic drivers, the argument here is that the result of the revolt will flow from the combination of the unity of the reformers and the nature of their program, i.e., that dictatorial regimes have already lost the initiative to the degree that the outcome has already passed out of their hands so that the reformers can, solely by their own actions, now win no matter what the regimes try to do.
More precisely, they can win, provided that they make positive-sum demands and remain unified. (That, of course, is an assertion worthy of analysis, and a different driver could be substituted for or added to the ones used in this exercise to focus on the question of how a unified protest proposing a popular agenda in the context of Western neutrality might still lose.) A reform policy perceived to be positive-sum arguably has the best chance of maintaining the unity demonstrated so far and thus of keeping the initiative in the hands of the reformers. In contrast, to the degree that major segments of the population perceive that they will be called upon to sacrifice for the good of others, opposition can be expected to intensify. The defining of such a program is clearly closely related to unity, but defining Reformer Unity as a separate driver is justified by the all-too-likely danger that such issues as personal ambitions or policy hair-splitting might fracture the reformist ranks. Thus, the argument here is that reformers must above all avoid internal fractures and offer the population a policy perceived as positive-sum for, considering the financial and military superiority of the regimes, a very large majority of the population.

Protest movement unity in…Saudi Arabia!

It’s unprecedented in Saudi history that we have people sign on their names and in such huge numbers demanding what has always seemed impossible. So far thousands have signed these petitions, people from all factions; well-off people with established careers to the unemployed who have little hope. Unhappiness with the current situation is something that has brought sworn enemies together. It’s becoming more and more difficult to tell apart the demands of conservatives from those of liberals and the demands of the majority from those of minorities. You have to actually go through the petition to pick up on the single point that they diverge on, otherwise there’s a large area of overlap across all the petitions. Across the board, there’s a demand for a constitutional monarchy and accountability and the end of corruption in handling the nation’s wealth.  [Saudiwoman.http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/are-we-or-arent-we/]

Domestic Driver Outcomes
The Unity of Reformers and Reformer Ideology drivers, represented as the two axes of the Scenarios From Domestic Drivers graph, divide the political landscape of the Arab revolt into four quadrants (which in reality are, needless to say, not separated by the borders shown in the graph but flow into each other):
A. Counterrevolution – zero-sum reform ideology and reformer disunity;
B. Losing Coalition – zero-sum reform ideology and united reformers;
C. Self-Destruction – positive-sum reform ideology and disunified reformers;
D. Modernization – positive-sum reform ideology and united reformers.
Scenarios From Domestic Drivers
Scenario A, Counterrevolution, represents a reform ideology that is perceived by significant sectors of society as demanding sacrifice rather than offering benefits. Such a perception combined with a fracturing of the reform ranks would be likely immediately to strengthen the still powerful ranks of the security forces and the rich business class that profited from cooperating with them. Timing is important. In no country currently revolting, as of the end of February, have the reformers succeeded in removing these two groups from power. If Scenario A came true under such circumstances, consolidation of the ancien regime would be rapid and probably brutal. The West European Revolution of 1848, that set back European socio-political modernization for a generation, comes to mind as an analogy.
To evaluate the likelihood of this scenario requires knowledge of the reform program, something still only dimly visible, and knowledge of the degree of unity among the reformers, something at this point almost completely invisible. It is possible to say that in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Bahrain, reformers give the public appearance of maintaining an admirable degree of unity and moderation (advocating a program of civil, political, and economic rights with which it is difficult to find any fault), thus maximizing their influence. The devil will surely come in the details, which will no doubt provoke fractures in the reform ranks, so this could be the high point of the reform tide, and yet, to date nowhere has reform victory been, so far, more than superficial. For example, if the arrest of the Egyptian interior minister is a plus, the failure of the state to charge him with crimes against the protesters is a minus, and the rumors that the regime, supposedly a caretaker institution pending elections, is now trying to ban unions, suggest that pro-democracy forces remain far from having seized control. At this point, then, considerable evidence exists that Counterrevolution has an excellent chance of winning in Algeria, where the state security apparatus so far appears strongly united against the demonstrators, a fair chance of winning in Egypt and Bahrain, where the forces of state oppression seem to be maintaining much of their internal structure, but a poor chance in Libya, where the state security apparatus is visibly dissolving.
Scenario B, Losing Coalition, represents the curious situation of a zero-sum reform ideology likely to divide the population but unity among the reformers, a situation that would seem to define the reformers as a minority of the population and to put them very much at the mercy of the elite. Politics is the art of forming a winning coalition; in this scenario, the protesters defeat themselves by forming a losing coalition. Illogical as this scenario may be, historical precedents (e.g., Russia during the months between the fall of the Tsar and the rise of Lenin; Algeria 20 years ago when the protesters split into peaceful reformers and violent terrorists; the split of Saudi Islamic dissidents between the moderate Sahwa and the violent jihadists) suggest that it is quite possible, likely to lead to the defeat of reformers, and likely to have tragic consequences for the people. This scenario can be expected to be a brief transition to Counterrevolution for states such as Egypt that have a strong security apparatus in place or Bahrain, with an external state (Saudi Arabia, in the case of Bahrain) ready to intervene. The risk of descending into a situation analogous to the Algerian or Lebanese civil wars is arguably greater for a weak state or a state in which the security apparatus fractures. In other words, fractures within both the reform coalition and the state structure lead to a great risk of chaos…in a society with a weak commitment to democracy, a term which in this context may be defined as a willingness to share power and resolve conflicts through negotiation.
Scenario C, Self-Destruction, represents perhaps an even more tragic situation, in which the reformers develop a positive-sum ideology and find themselves well on the road to victory, only to fall victim to personality conflicts among the reform leaders or some such petty trap that opens the door, once again, to Counterrevolution. One route to such an outcome for Egypt would be a split between the Muslim Brotherhood and non-religious reformers; to date, all parties in the Egyptian reform movement appear very sensitive to this danger.
Scenario D represents the ideal outcome for reformers, in which the broad appeal of their program and the sagacity of their leaders presents the type of broad, united front that already has proved itself to be, despite the assumptions of almost everyone else, a realistic possibility by the dethroning of Ali and Mubarak and (probably within days) Gadaffi.
As depicted in the Arab Modernity graph, Scenario D represents a revolutionary social step along the path of the modernization of the Arab world. The core components of this step would be signification movement by the respective Arab societies toward the globally elusive goals of civil rights, popular control over government, and economic justice. Given the challenges facing the Muslim neighbors of those Arab societies currently participating in the Arab Revolt, a resultant wave of pan-Arab or pan-Muslim nationalism inspired by the desire to share their good fortune should come as no surprise. This might take the form of pan-Islamic nationalism, a possibility that will be greatly influenced by the policy of the West toward other Muslim states. Another question concerns the degree to which such a pan-Muslim nationalist wave would focus on either spreading modernity to neighboring dictatorships (with North African odd-man-out Algeria being the obvious target) or resisting Western interference (with the obvious target being Palestine).
History suggests that this outcome is improbable, but history also suggests that the achievements already gained (the removal of two dictators, the impressive degree of moderation by protesters under enormous regime pressure, and the rapid spread of the revolt from one dictatorship to another across the region) were improbable. The record so far does not give repressive regimes much reason for hope: a few concessions plus fairly harsh crackdown failed in Egypt and Tunisia to save the dictators and has left the regime in Bahrain on the defensive, with only the Iranian and Algerian regimes maintaining full control. Minor concessions plus gentle handling of protesters is working for the regime in Jordan so far, but Saudi Arabia and Morocco are probably the only other states where such an approach of taking advantage of the prestige of the leader as opposed to the regime might be copied. Extreme repression quickly undercut the seemingly doomed Libyan regime. No dictator has yet come up with the idea of co-opting the revolt by accepting it as a fully legitimate decision of the people, nor is any likely to do so; such is not the way of dictators, Gorbachev’s precedent notwithstanding. Two months into the revolt, the reformers seem on the whole to retain the initiative, and yet, only in Libya does real social revolution appear to be on the horizon. Thus, although Scenario D is, at the moment, the reality, it will take extraordinary skill on the part of the reformers to make that reality anything more than transient.
However, Washington’s somewhat reluctant but now loud recognition of the right of peaceful protest, the refusal of the Tunisian and Egyptian military to massacre protesters, and the rejection of Gaddafi by both some military officers and numerous regime officials all constitute hopeful signs for the reformers. Other signs of the rising probability of the Arab Modernity scenario include the concessions made not only by all the states experiencing protests with the sole exception of Iran but also by Algeria, which has yet to experience any sizable demonstrations; the failure of these minor concessions to undermine the determination of the massive crowds of demonstrators; and the steady spread of the movement from one country to the next. In sum, although the achievements of the protests so far have been superficial (removal of individuals but little that could really be called even regime change, much less social revolution), the dynamics of the process tell a different story.
Stages of Political Change
The process of the Arab Revolt of 2011 so far suggests the following multi-stage process of political change:
Legal/Political Concessions – minimal concessions in all affected countries; major concessions promised in Egypt, under negotiation in Tunisia
Removal of Leader
Regime Change – appears imminent in Libya, being resisted effectively by Egyptian military
Social Revolution – not even on the horizon except in Libya, where being resisted with military force.
The significant stages in this process are regime change and social revolution. Momentous as the protests appear to be, their failure so far to reach either of these two stages in any Arab state suggests how much work remains yet to be done to realize the reform agenda.

Subsequent posts will continue this analysis, addressing the potential impact of Western behavior and the nature of underlying dynamics that might explain how the various scenarios could actually occur.

Egyptian Revolt: A Classroom Exercise

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A scenario analysis is a provocative way to guide students to think about the implications of the Egyptian revolt. The gemstones of scenario analysis are revealed by asking not the traditional “what” but “how.”
Scenario analysis can be complicated to describe, but the steps flow naturally in a group discussion, allowing the students to take the initiative and figure out for themselves how to think about the future.
The basic steps are:
  1. Select the question: “Where is Egypt headed?”
  2. Identify the causal factors: desire for civil rights and desire for economic security.
  3. Draw a grid generating the scenarios. The graph is a useful aid to the real challenge of this step: identifying the likely differences in outcome of each scenario.
  4. Identify the key dynamic powering each scenario. Much more important than asking what might happen is explaining how your predicted outcome could occur.
  5. Identify at least one other scenario that would change behavior if it became dominant. Whatever you think will happen, some other invisible dynamic is surely present in the background and needs to be identified to avoid surprise.
  6. Explain possible tipping points. Ask how a tipping point leading to a shift in dominance might occur.
That process is plenty for two or three one-hour class sessions separated by a day or two for related homework. For further challenge and further realism, the whole system can fruitfully be considered as a complex adaptive system. This provides insight into the underlying evolutionary processes of the whole system within which, in the current case, Egypt exists.

Evolution of the Washington-Tehran Dispute

Neither Washington’s nor Tehran’s behavior is fixed in stone; rather, each adapts and each sometimes passes the ball, though the other side usually fumbles it.
U.S.-Iranian relations today are plagued by untested assumptions that constrain policy, effectively putting  decision-makers in a mental box preventing them from seeing alternative tactics that might greatly enhance their side’s national security. In other words, these decision-makers are using bad models. Good models are still wrong; model airplanes do not actually carry passengers anywhere. But a good model airplane enables engineers to build better real airplanes. Policy formulation is no different.
The first step toward improving the bad mental models used by decision-makers is to write them on a napkin over lunch or graph them on a computer. If the explanation or drawing is ridiculous, laying it out will make its failures much easier to see. Immediately, someone will ask, “What does this mean?” or “Why don’t you mention X?”
Since we all run multiple scenarios (conservatives love “help, the sky is falling!” while liberals love “kumbaya”) through our fevered little brains all the time, try naming a couple of factors you think matter, put each on an axis, and name each of the four alternative scenarios that results. An example for U.S.-Iranian relations using three key factors (driving forces) has been analyzed in “Modeling U.S.-Iranian relations.”
Examination of the specific policies inherent in a compromise between the U.S. and Iran reveals the fundamental policy changes a move away from the near-war status quo will require.
A simple second step is to see if your scenario set includes a “dream scenario” and a “nightmare scenario.” Chances are it does, so concentrate on them. Based on the scenario exercise, the “Conflict vs. Cooperation” chart above was generated, illustrating several core attributes of a U.S.-Iran “war scenario” and a U.S.-Iran “accommodation” scenario. The details illustrate the very real distinctions in a wide range of policies implicit in these two scenarios. The Compromise Scenario would, for example, require major U.S. military deployment policy shifts (not to mention Israeli deployment shifts) and a fundamentally new U.S. attitude toward the mirage of U.S. domination of the Mideast. This contest for Mideast influence is not about “good” vs. “evil;” it is about real, specific, and highly arbitrary policy positions.
Call this the “peace” scenario if you want, but by “peace” one should mean not just the absence of falling bombs but friendly, stable, productive relations that benefit both sides – not surrender, not empire and colonization, but a mutually satisfactory relationship. Today the U.S. and Iran are very, very far from such a situation, causing great harm to both societies, although burnishing the “tough guy” credentials of several politicians. The analytical point is that realizing the accommodation scenario entails a number of very specific policy shifts, among which are the rather obvious ones enumerated.

A third big step forward would be to investigate how reality is evolving. The world does not stand still. Neither Iranian nor American leaders or societies have policies or attitudes fixed in granite; changes occur, even if sometimes they do so at a glacial pace. Alternatively, policies may be maintained in the face of changing conditions, resulting in the buildup of pressures that can create a political earthquake. Calling one side “good” and the other “evil” only obscures the view of whatever evolution may be occurring either in policy or reality.

Both Washington and Tehran adapted their conflict resolution strategy and degree of ideological commitment regarding bilateral relations during 2010.
Washington’s conflict resolution strategy appears to evolve toward conciliation during the first six month’s of Obama’s administration, but Tehran chose not to test that policy in any very clear and consistent manner; similarly, Tehran’s conflict resolution strategy appeared to evolve toward conciliation during the Ankara-Brazilia nuclear initiative, but Washington chose not to test that possibility in any very clear and consistent manner. Tehran’s level of ideological commitment appears to be increasing steadily, but in Washington, Obama gave the impression at the beginning of his administration of a marked shift toward pragmatic analysis. Meanwhile, the political environment appears to have remained consistently challenging, with neither side making any significant military adjustments.
If the world is right where it was a year ago and if politicians on both sides are portraying the other side as recalcitrant, this does not mean that nothing changed. Rather, this means that an historic opportunity appears to have been missed by leadership incompetence on both sides. This analysis of scenario evolution suggests that flexibility that could have been exploited to achieve progress in fact existed in the positions on both sides and that the failure by each side to make serious efforts to make serious efforts to transform the highly threatening politico-military environment into a more benign environment played a critical role in the joint U.S.-Iranian 2010 policy failure. Tehran toyed with Brazilia and Ankara without making crystal-clear concessions on nuclear transparency, thus wasting an opportunity to occupy the moral high ground. Washington, trying to escape from a mess in Iraq and falling further and further behind in Afghanistan, nevertheless failed to explore the broad area of common interests it shares with Tehran in stabilizing both countries. With regional stability at risk and nuclear war on the horizon, neither Americans nor Iranians can afford such incompetent policy-making.

This scenario evolution analysis also suggests that both Tehran and Washington speak not just the language of force but also the language of reason; unfortunately, both seem somewhat hard of hearing when the other side uses soft language and a bit lacking in the finer social graces.

Modeling U.S.-Iranian Relations

As we move toward yet another round of “negotiations” between a Washington unwilling to grant Iran the right to play by the same nuclear rules as Israel and a Tehran unwilling to lose its new prominent spot on the regional political stage in return for some unspecified reduction in the U.S.-Israeli threat, the fate of the world is in the hands of politicians on both sides who pay more heed to special interests than to true national security. The trading of insults, the certainty that one is completely in the right, and self-inflicted damage to one’s own security take the place of serious contemplation of what is being risked and what might be gained. If we built our homes with such abandon, we would all still be living in trees.


The battle between Washington and Tehran is being fought on a terrain filled with the peaks of a high-tension political environment, torrents of ideological commitment, and the precipices of conflict resolution by force. And that is just the simplified view of the model illustrated here. It is easy to understand why the dispute defies solution; what is hard to understand is the abandon with which powerful politicians toss out rash soundbites about a potential nuclear war. Even such a simple model as this might put their feet back on the ground…
Three driving forces propel U.S.-Iranian relations according to this simplified model, generating eight possible outcomes.
The critical question for investigation is where reality lies in relation to the upper left red octant, representing the war scenario, in which actions are based on faith rather than analysis, the political environment is hostile, and the conflict resolution strategy of each side relies on force rather than negotiation.

The two critical scenarios are “Compromise” and “Conflict.” These extremes are distinguished from the other six scenarios by their importance and relative stability, the result of their internal consistency.
“Compromise” and “conflict” are words whose meaning is in practice often blurred. Is a country “compromising” when it goes to the negotiating table only to make the same old demands without offering any concessions? Does a “conflict” exist in the absence of military threat when an economic embargo is in place? This chart is designed to focus the mind on the real meaning of these two terms for the case under evaluation. 
Applying the abstract model to U.S.-Iranian relations, the above “Conflict vs. Compromise” Chart would convert into something like the following:
The actual meaning of “compromise” and “conflict” in U.S.-Iranian relations is far more detailed and precise than the mainstream media or glib politicians typically admit.
The fraudulent U.S. debate over whether or not Washington should “compromise” by talking is a red herring that conceals the true meaning of the word. In fact, “compromise” has very precise content for both sides. For the U.S., it implies recognition of Iran’s right to play by the same nuclear rules as Israel, Iran’s right to national security (which it obviously does not have if ringed by U.S. military bases or if its sea coast is patrolled by U.S. aircraft carriers and Israeli nuclear submarines). Compromise implies that Washington must make strategic adjustments to allow Tehran significantly greater regional freedom of movement, in brief a big step back from empire. For Tehran, it implies accepting a less tense environment that will remove from Ahmadinejad much of the “justification” for repressing domestic political opposition and refocus attention on both his economic record and his civil liberties record. It means relinquishing the nuclear non-transparency card in return for greater national security. For both, it means replacing a zero-sum mentality with a positive-sum mentality.

Washington and Tehran have much to think about between now and the opening of the next round of nuclear talks.
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NOTE: For a review of scenario analysis, see Analyzing the Future.

U.S.-Iranian War Even If No One Wants It?

Have the international political context and the respective domestic political contexts of Iran, the U.S., and Israel placed Iran and the U.S. on a slippery slope leading to war, whether or not anyone actually wants it?
Political science theory offers an explanation of how war may occur even when neither side desires it.
Are U.S.-Iranian relations on such a path?
One can of course debate the sincerity of either Iranian or American leaders in professing that they desire peace, but even if we take both sides at their word, does a significant danger of war still exist?
The classic arms race, in which two risk-averse but security-conscious adversaries each arm because they fear the other and in the process convince the other wrongly that they have aggressive intent is one obvious path toward undesired war. Both Tehran’s effort to enhance its nuclear capabilities while minimizing the transparency of its program and Washington’s massing of offensive naval capacity in the Persian Gulf and offensive aerial capacity in Saudi Arabia and Israel are ratcheting up feelings of insecurity on each side and empowering violence-prone politicians. Countervailing steps, be they presidential addresses in Cairo or Turkish/Brazilian efforts to find compromises, seem far from sufficient to outweigh this constant pouring of gasoline on the fire of mutual national security concerns.
An arms race creates an incendiary environment for an undesired clash. Another criterion tosses sparks on the tinder: the degree of “true believer” attitudes, i.e., an orientation toward ideology rather than practical conflict resolution that would impede willingness to search for a genuine positive-sum compromise. If to this dangerous mix is added an actual preference for violence, then war seems predictable. In the diagram, the red octant represents such a situation.
Toward War No One Wants

The Political Behavior Model illustrates a world described by three factors:

  1. Environment
  2. Ideological commitment
  3. Conflict resolution strategy.
The “challenging” extreme of the environmental axis can be viewed as representing an arms race, certainly an example of a fundamental political challenge. The three axes produce eight ideal alternative worlds or scenarios. The red octant, which one might label “war,” represents the most extreme scenario, where ideologically committed actors caught in a challenging security environment prefer to resolve disputes through violence. [For a technical review of scenario analysis, see Analyzing the Future.]
The obvious point of this theoretical construct is that it points out ways for those trying to avoid war to influence the course of events: action along any one of the three axes might suffice to alter the course of events. The question for U.S.-Iranian relations is the degree to which reality is moving toward the war scenario.
Given the continuing high level of U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf and Iran’s continuing development of nuclear capability, the military environment is if anything increasingly challenging. Israel remains under the control of factions that have historically shown themselves to be quite willing to use force and that continue vociferously to defend in public the logic of that dangerous attitude. In Iran and Israel, ideology seems strongly to influence behavior, with religious fundamentalism and zenophobia powerful in both societies. Now the U.S. mid-term elections have emboldened a faction likely to place unusual, for Americans, emphasis on ideology rather than pragmatic problem-resolution and that will be very willing to rely on force.  Along all three axes, the U.S.-Iranian relationship appears to be moving toward the war scenario.
This trend does not make war inevitable; indeed, general recognition of the rising danger might make politicians more sober. However, this analysis suggests that multiple, separate pressures are currently pushing politicians in the direction of war, a situation that will take great commitment to resist. With political careers in all three countries invested in looking tough regardless of the risk, where such commitment might be found is unclear. The easy way forward thus appears to be to continue sliding toward a war that perhaps not a single individual–Iranian, American, or Israeli– actually wants.

Measuring Superpower Performance in Insurgencies

Assessing a big power’s performance during intervention in a developing world insurgency is inherently difficult because no single, simple measure provides a remotely accurate tool. Here’s the beginning of a metric for the job – an explanation of the dynamics driving the dual, interacting cycles of regime and opposition decline into the chaos of mutual violence. To the degree that your case study of choice fits this Chaos Scenario, the losers include the local populace and all who dream of peace; the winners are no more than those extremists on both right and left who exploit chaos for power and profit.

A conservative regime desperate to hold power relies ever more on brute force (its own weak force buttressed by that of its foreign patron). The more it does so, the more it comes—fairly or not—to be seen as an (inevitably) illegitimate lackey, consequently undermining its authority and thus pushing it further into a vicious cycle of repression, corruption, and loss of prestige. This process, in turn, makes it ever more difficult for the regime to engage sincerely and positively in the cooperation with reformers so vital to focusing it on the needs of the people rather than the narrow, short-term needs of the regime that enable the strengthening of links with civil society.

Contradictions between reformers demanding a share of power and leaders seeking to retain their personal and class positions come to the fore. Protected by the patron, the regime marginalizes reformers, forcing them into the arms of insurgents. A regime that relies on a foreign patron to maintain its position either is likely already to be composed of conservative politicians seeking power for its own sake rather than idealistic liberals. However it starts, its conservative, selfish tendencies intensify under the stress of coping with increasingly vociferous reformers, increasingly violent insurgents, and a populace increasingly alienated by the inevitable regime war crimes. The patron, lacking understanding of local conditions, trapped by its public lauding of the regime, and ultimately more interested in profiting from its intervention than building genuine local independence, is both sorely tempted not to change horses in midstream and manipulated by its client.

Opposing this elitist coalition is a cynical group of embittered activists whose experience has pushed them over the edge from idealism to fanaticism. Now convinced of their own perfection and the pointlessness of trying to compromise with a regime increasingly addicted to its own form of extremism, the activists-turned-radicals-turned insurgents’ particular form of the corruption of power knows no more bounds than does that of the regime.

The longer the contest lasts, the more immoral it becomes as the two sides compete for the title of “bloodiest butcher of them all.”

The above description is all too familiar. Eventually one side will tire, and the other will gain control of the slaughterhouse. The loser will be society, by then crushed morally and physically.

To the degree that this description comes to reflect reality in a Muslim society where the American Armed Forces are at war, not just the local society but also America will end up a loser – regardless of which side ends up controlling the slaughterhouse.

When taking stock of the Western-Islamic confrontation, this description provides a metric for evaluating the overall course of the conflict. To the degree that it is accurate, “we the people” are losing, and the forces of extremism, of chaos, of exploitation are winning. These forces may be jihadi terrorists or gun-running masters of the military-industrial complex; either way, they are believers in violence, profiteers of chaos. It is this distinction—not “body counts” or the claims of politicians or the emotional drivel of glib media propagandists or battlefield results—that voters need to understand.

Historical Analogies for the Iranian Predicament

Finding Iran confusing? So is everyone else. We (i.e., Westerners threatening Iran and Iranian politicians who threaten it in their own myriad ways) might all just want to calm down and consider for a moment the lessons we might learn from history.

Zionist politicians intent on expanding Israeli territorial control and defeating any country (and Iran is the last) willing to defy Israeli regional military domination are doing their best to make the case the Iran is sui generis. On this one point, Khomenei would certainly have agreed. But Khomenei has been dead for a long time, and Iran looks more and more like other countries every day.

It is almost impossible to view the Basij without thinking of the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution: naïve and no doubt frequently sincere youths full of indignation, minds crammed with ideology and played for fools by corrupt leaders. So far, they remain under control, but Mao ended up having to call out the army to control his teenage bully boys, and that pretty much trashed his revolution.

It is also almost impossible to view the IRGC without seeing that model of military kleptocracy, the Pakistani Army (see Alyesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc. on the latter). Pakistan and Iran are similar in many ways, not the least because both have politicized and educated publics that have demonstrated the will and capacity to take charge of their own fate and defend their rights. The impressive overthrow of Musharraf and the Lawyer’s Movement in Pakistan as well as the courage of protestors both against the Shah in 1978-9 and today in Iran hold lessons in democratic action that put complacent Americans, whose democracy is also under domestic attack, to shame. In Pakistan, the masses concerned about civil liberties tamed the military only to see corrupt and incompetent politicians slip back into power. Are senior clerics in Qom right now considering how Iran might do better?

There is no embarrassment in admitting that we foreigners don’t have a clue about what is happening in Iran. Events strongly suggest that Khomenei, Ahmadinejad, the IRGC, the Qom clerical establishment, and the Iranian populace don’t either. After all, while you were reading this article, the situation changed. But there are historical precedents worth contemplating while we all (hopefully) take a deep breath and calm down.

Managing the Iranian Challenge: Part II

The second in a series exploring how to manage the Iranian challenge…

The first hint of how to approach Iran is contained in the long-winded phrase “anti-Western, ultra-nationalist, theological conservative, politically radical Shi’a.” Before trying to defeat the enemy, it’s wise to figure out who the enemy is and, indeed, whether or not the adversary truly is or need remain an enemy. An adversary will become an enemy when so defined: Treat an adversary as an enemy and the adversary will respond in kind, thereby “proving” the “truth” of your original error.

We can assume that all Iranians love their country and want to see their society continue to exist, but beyond that, the 70 million people of this nation caught between the 19th and 21st centuries constitute a collection of highly disparate groups, few of which started out “anti-Western.” It’s the long, sorry history of Western interference in Iran’s internal affairs that is responsible for Iranian “anti-Western” feeling; it isn’t opposition to the West. Indeed, many parts of Iranian society have long been attracted to Western ideals of civil liberties and democracy. A desire to protect oneself — to protect moral values or territorial integrity or independence — isn’t the same as being “anti-Western.” In simple terms, to oppose Western interference is not to oppose the West.

The details are complicated, but the bottom line is not: Washington can begin the long road of eliminating Iranian “anti-Western” sentiments simply by ending its bullying rhetorical tone, treating Iran with respect, and recognizing the right of Iran to be held only to the same standards as other countries.

[For evidence that Washington remains far from ready to address the Iran issue with an open mind and intellectual rigor, see this report on the appointment of Dennis Ross.]

The “ultra-nationalist” component in Iran may prove to be much harder to deal with, but the first step is to recognize that this component doesn’t equate to “Iran.” Whatever the strength of ultra-nationalism in Iran, it derives most recently from Iran’s desperate defense against Saddam (and his former U.S., Russian, Arab, European allies) and is strengthened by every insult, every application of pressure, every demand for “preconditions before negotiations,” and every demand that Iran obey rules to which it never agreed and which no other country is required to obey. Those Iranians desiring pragmatic economic development or the strengthening of civil liberties have no ground to stand on in the domestic Iranian political debate as long as Iran is besieged; they’re in the same position, only worse, that Americans were in on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq. To speak out is to risk denunciation as “traitors.” And in Iran, those accused of treachery by the regime risk not just political marginalization but death. The world may have to endure Iranian ultra-nationalism until that generation ages, but the world does not have to go out of its way to empower that ultra-nationalism.

As for the “Shi’ite” component, Washington decisionmakers felt it was worth spending a trillion dollars to install a Shi’ite regime in Baghdad, so Washington can evidently live with Shi’ite governments. In addition, Shi’ite regimes constitute a valuable bulwark against Sunni Salafi jihadism. To know that a particular regime is “Shi’ite” doesn’t say much about whether or not it can find common ground with the West.

Even to know that it’s “theologically conservative” says little. We may, for example, find the attitudes toward women of theologically conservative Shi’ite hard to stomach, but our own treatment of women has undergone a revolutionary shift over the past century; if we see ourselves as leaders, it does not follow that we can always insist that others obey our own timetable. Moreover, every major religion on earth today encompasses highly discomforting contention between its conservative and liberal wings. Such moral debates are important and a valid issue to be considered during foreign policy formulation but should not be confused with decisions about war and peace.

The first step in resolving the problem of Iran is thus to recognize that Iran, like other countries, is composed of many communities. This means recognizing that no homogenous entity called “Iran” naturally exists in any sense that is significant for international relations unless we manufacture it. A Pearl Harbor event or a 9/11 event can, temporarily, make “politics stop at the water’s edge. A nuanced, thoughtful policy, in contrast, will permit natural differences within a national political system to emerge. In other words, the natural complexity of a society and the factional complexity of the resultant political system offer endless opportunities for adversaries willing to combine patience, consistency, sympathy, moderation, and generosity.

Looking Deeper.

Having made the challenge very complicated by asserting that Iran is composed of many communities, all of which need to be taken into account, we need some analytical method of simplifying again so we can make progress. In brief, do a small set of explanatory factors exist that drive much of Iranian behavior and that might be used to analyze the behavior of all the various Iranian communities with significant impact on Iranian foreign policy? This essay has identified three such “drivers” of Iranian behavior:

· Security: the need for national physical and economic security as well as the need of a regime for political security; thus, this incorporates concerns about “regime change” from the outside and illegal narcotics that might destabilize society.

· Independence: the freedom to follow an independent national and international path; the former would encompass the freedom to practice one’s own culture, the latter the freedom to pursue foreign policy goals of choice without being marginalized (admittedly difficult in practice to distinguish from a desire for influence). The desire for independence is critically distinct from the desire for influence: the former presents no direct threat. Nevertheless, it is frequently confused by others, who see “hermit kingdoms” as implicitly threatening the global system. Thus, advocates of global free trade may be hostile toward countries that simply want to “opt out” (partly for psychological reasons and partly because such “opting out” denies the “globalists” the benefit of the hermit kingdoms’ resources).

· Influence: both the international bully and the committed idealist proselytizing to the world want influence. An intermediate position would be one that insists upon being consulted on regional matters but is willing to compromise on the specifics.

Different communities within a society will react in different ways. One may emphasize economic security more than military security. Another may feel independence merits greater economic sacrifice. Some may translate “influence” into a demand for political control of neighbors; others may see it in terms of the right to proselytize, and over time the two can get confused (think of the confused relationship between British movement into 19th century China for economic benefit and to protect its missionaries). But the argument presented here is that the behavior of all communities will be most profoundly impacted by these three drivers. The more sophisticated a foreign policy, the more drivers can be taken into consideration, but these three constitute a reasonable starting point.

Combining these three drivers generates a model of behavior distinguishing eight different scenarios representing eight ideal types. These are ideal types because this is of course just a model, so no single scenario (i.e., no octant) can be expected literally to predict actual behavior. Nevertheless, the model may usefully guide expectations and structure thinking about the conditions likely to elicit certain types of behavior.

Consider, for example, the red octant (upper, rear, left), symbolizing an Iran that desires a great deal of influence, perceives itself as lacking security, and which is striving for an extremely independent foreign policy line.

· Security. How Iranians actually assess their security is difficult to determine. There can hardly be any doubt that Iran today in fact exists in a severely challenging political context: Bush Administration rhetorical threats have still only been qualified, not eliminated; Israeli rhetorical threats are being stepped up; U.S. military bases continue to surround Iran; the Israeli military threat only grows; Sunni Arab hostility is palpable; anti-Iranian terrorist groups roam its borders; Sunni Taliban insurgency threatens to bring its old Afghan Taliban enemy back into power; the Pakistan Baluchi instability threatens to spill over into Iranian Baluchistan. In addition, Iran’s economic security is being undermined by a range of factors, including both the incompetence of the regime’s economic policy and the Western embargo preventing it from modernizing its energy infrastructure. It is therefore only logical to assume that Iranians are uneasy about their physical security. Nevertheless, a counterargument also exists. The longer Iran survives without being physically attacked, the more secure it may feel despite continued rhetorical attacks on it. In addition, the replacement of Saddam with a Shi’ite regime in Iraq enormously enhances Iranian security, and the ability of its Hezbollah and Hamas allies in the Levant to hold their own provides a small further measure of security. Finally, the increasingly obvious need of the U.S. for assistance in escaping from the regional mess it is entangled in clearly serves Iranian interests.

· Independence. The degree of independence from international norms that is desired will vary widely across Iranian communities. For most of the Iranian elite, the desire for domestic policy independence is strong, though this is perhaps not true of the average Iranian. The man in the street probably would gravitate toward independence in personal behavior from the regime, except when the international context appears particularly threatening. For Ahmadinejad’s faction, the desire for independence in foreign policy line is also strong, in part because Saddam’s invasion taught them a lesson, in part because they gain power domestically and prestige in the Muslim world from their independent stance, and in part because they believe in Shi’ite proselytizing.

Influence. “Influence for what?” is of course the question. To marginalize a state absolutely is to ensure absolutely that the state will be hostile. No state can logically be expected to accept an international political system that marginalizes it: the ball is in the system’s court. That is, it is up to the system to make the first move, take some measure of risk, and test the intentions of the marginalized state by allowing it some influence. There are many ways in which Iranian influence in its region can be of benefit to the U.S., as is finally beginning to dawn on Washington. The world will not learn which Iranian decisionmakers may accept types of influence the U.S. might find acceptable until Iran is given the chance. The mere offering of options to Iran would alter the history of the region and force Tehran to make tough choices.

Numerous points of contention touched on above remain essentially untested. A key untested question in dealing with Iran is the significance of its desire to proselytize. To what extent particular Iranian factions might trade Shi’ite proselytizing or the right to play regional power politics for international respect and a solid sense of security remains unknown. The answer is unknown because the West has not seen fit to make Iran the kind of offer that would even put the question squarely on the table. Only a far more discriminating approach to Iran by the U.S. can begin to provide the answer.


Ahmadinejad’s neo-con war generation faction seems to fit squarely within the red octant, for example. Other factions may occupy more complex political spaces. Most Iranian factions can be expected to support the right of Iran to pursue nuclear technology, since the rest of the world has this right and, by the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, so does Iran.

Mousavi can be expected to agree with Ahmadinejad that Iran faces profound security threats, but he may well be willing to take much more seriously any American offers to address such concerns simply because he has not built his career by frightening voters and is not waving the bloody shirt in his current campaign against Ahmadinejad. Moreover, Mousavi can be expected to put economics higher on his list of security concerns than Ahmadinejad has. Mousavi will probably differ markedly in his attitude toward “influence,” perhaps being satisfied to be treated with respect and consulted on regional affairs rather than exploiting issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli dispute to score political points. As for the third driver, “independence,” while Mousavi, prime minister during Iran’s existential war against Iraq, can hardly be expected to return Iran to a position of subordination to the West, it seems likely that he will be much less interested in the egregious emphasis on standing aloof from the West of which Ahmadinejad is so enamoured.

The West has cluttered its negotiating table with negative options and cut off its own nose by its arbitrary blindness to positive options. The multi-party rightwing faction that has controlled Israel for the last generation has encouraged this attitude in great part as a cover for its own expansionist agenda. In allowing itself to be led by the nose, Washington has needlessly sacrificed American security on the false alter of “Israeli security,” in the process endangering the security of both countries. A case in point is the issue of nuclear research. Singling Iran out for discriminatory inspection procedures will only collapse the political space for flexibility. This suggests an obvious way forward: working toward the goal of common inspection procedures for all countries in the region. For the Obama Administration even to suggest this as a distant but morally justifiable goal would open political space in Iran for compromise. As long as Washington acts to preserve the emotional intensity of the nuclear issue, playing into the hands of Tehran hardliners, other factions will have little choice but to express outrage at the U.S. position. Aside from the highly symbolic issue of nuclear technology, other factions may only occasionally overlap with the political space inhabited by the Ahmadinejad faction. Indeed, Mousavi has already made clear in political speeches over the last month his dissent from Ahmadinejad’s Palestinian policy.

In sum, real space exists between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Beyond that momentary difference, so many options exist for offering Iran substantive choices at low risk to the West that momentum toward new positions could be created in innumerable ways. The overall approach is important, as stressed in the original article that provides an overview of how to manage the Iranian challenge. But the details are also important, as will be discussed…

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A future post in this series will take a more detailed look at the array of options for testing Iranian intentions that are at the disposal of Washington in the fundamentally critical arena of national security. As far as can be determined from the pubic record, American decisionmakers do not appear to have done more than scratch the surface of the options that a sincere and imaginative group of policymakers might “put on the table.” Stay tuned.