In a recent column in the Financial Times titled "There is little to lose in tightening the noose on Iran," Robert McNally argues for an all-out war on Iran by proposing a quarantine and release program and a naval blockade. He justifies this war of choice on the grounds that (1) Iran is marching towards nuclear weapons and that (2) Israel's patience is draining away.
Ironically, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released during the administration of President George W. Bush (for which Mr. McNally is credited for having served on its National Security Council), as well as a more recent one released during the presidency of Mr. Obama, concluded that the Iranian government has not yet made a decision to weaponize its nuclear program. Therefore, it appears that fear, not facts, is the driving force behind the arguments of Mr. McNally and others calling for war.
Further, contrary to Mr. McNally's implicit assumption, Israel is not helpless. It has a well-established and disciplined intelligence network inside Iran. Relying on such assets, a number of current and former Israeli intelligence and defense officials have indicated that, in their assessment, Iran has not crossed their red line. Therefore, those who justify their call for a war because of the immediacy of a nuclear threat facing Israel (Mr. McNally included) are, at best, confusing Mr. Netanyahu's geo-politically motivated bluster with a genuine concern about Israel's security.
However, even that bluster has recently subsided as Mr. Netanyahu and his camp, have apparently come to the conclusion that sanctions are crippling enough that they should be given more time to bring Iran to its knees. Moreover, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, General Mofaz -- current head of the Kadima Party and the former military chief -- has clearly stated that an attack on Iran would be at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. The pro-war camp can rest assured that if Netanyahu and his military chiefs ever make a determination that Iran has made progress toward a weapons program, they would immediately order the bombing of Iranian nuclear sites. The fact that he has not done so is proof enough that Israeli intelligence establishment is not worried about an imminent Iranian nuclear threat. Oddly enough, Mr. McNally's arguments about the ineffectiveness of sanctions appear in the same issue of FT that Najmeh Bozorgmehr's report from Tehran on the sanctions' severe and growing pain inside Iran.
While Mr. McNally fails to admit that the premise of his arguments is the same as that of those advocating war on Iran at any cost, he admits that his preferred solution is "technically an act of war." However, he dismisses its significance in arguing that "... so is attacking Iran's facilities with cyberweapons." Therefore, it appears that Mr. McNally is arguing that we should not be content with the success of the cyberattacks because the Iranian government has not yet been lured into a war. "Real success should be measured by whether or not we can force the Iranian government into a war" appears to be his implicit conclusion.
A more troubling problem with Mr. McNally's arguments is the absence of a risk-based analysis. He completely ignores the many risks of a new war in the Middle East. There is not even a mention of the fact that a war is the preferred choice of the Tehran leadership that it is their only hope for tightening their choke hold on the country. If they have not made a determination to weaponize their nuclear know-how, a war is certain to convince Iran's leaders that they need to acquire a nuclear weapon.
The war camp may not have the patience to let the Iranian regime collapse under its own weight. However, their call for a war should be ignored as a rush to war will be only counter-productive and it will strengthen the hands of extremists throughout the region, multiplying the magnitude of challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.