Only a truly credible threat of devastating force against Iran will peacefully prevent a potential doomsday scenario from becoming reality, and only the US can deliver such a threat.

Unlike the IDF, the overwhelming power of the US military can completely destroy — rather than merely delay — Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s ability to retaliate.

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week sent a dangerously counterproductive signal to Iran when he said, referring to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

His statement isolates Israel on an issue that requires international unity and inappropriately connotes criminality with the word “complicit.”

The US, through diplomatic back channels, reportedly has asked Iran not to attack the US should Israel choose to strike unilaterally. Thus, rather than projecting unity and strength, the US is signaling division and weakness to Iran, which will only make the Islamic Republic that much more confidently defiant about continuing its nuclear activities.

If Israel must act alone, the odds are far higher that a regional conflagration will result because Iran’s retaliation will be that much more easily supported by one or more of its regional allies: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, and possibly even Syria. Such an explosive regional war would undoubtedly draw in the US, notwithstanding its diplomatic requests to the contrary.

Paradoxically, if Iran believes that the US is about to launch a massive attack, it will back down and no force will be needed. But if Iran doubts American resolve, it will continue on its nuclear warpath.

The threat of force should be used to achieve something far more effective than the illusory “arrangement” settled on with North Korea in 1994. The goal with Iran must be a Libya-style total disarmament, removing equipment and material from Iran’s nuclear weapons program, with independent verification by the IAEA.

Such a disarmament is the only way to eliminate the many risks posed by the Iranian nuclear program. These dangers include: further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the transfer of nuclear materials from Iran to terrorist organisations and/or states, bolder attacks by terrorist groups protected by an Iranian nuclear umbrella, and an even more belligerent Iran.

As clear as it is today that a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Third Reich would have spelled catastrophe, so should it be clear with the Iranian theocracy. Even reformers with the best of intentions would need time to transform Iran’s governing system and political culture. The world must wait for major changes before concluding that Iran can be trusted with nuclear weapons.

The threat of overwhelming military force for non-compliance should be complemented by generous rewards for co-operation. In exchange for the verifiable dismantling of Iran’s entire nuclear program, the US can offer to compensate Iran financially for related losses, establish adequate guarantees for Iranian security, and provide economic and political benefits that are collectively far more advantageous than a nuclear weapon would be.

Noah Beck is the author of “The Last Israelis”, a thriller about Israel’s showdown with a nuclear Iran.
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