THE BLOG
12/12/2013 12:00 pm ET | Updated Feb 11, 2014

Which Route to Defuse Iranian Nuclear Bombs?

There are two routes on the table for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The American route is the recent Geneva agreement to start a diplomatic process aimed at getting Iran to give up voluntarily all means of obtaining military-grade nuclear material. That process is to begin with a small relaxation of the sanctions already in place which are currently working effectively against Iran, in exchange for essentially ceasing all current Iranian nuclear developments. Over the next six months, both sides have already agreed in principal to conduct negotiations to lead to a secure non-military Iranian nuclear program that will satisfy Israeli security needs and, it is hoped, radically change the complexion of the Middle East.

Essentially it boils down to a test to see if such a conclusion is in the cards. In the meanwhile nothing comes off the table -- the vast bulk of the sanctions program remains in place and, if all else fails, the military option remains available.

The Israeli route is to NOT test the Iranians, simply because they do not believe the Iranians will ever voluntarily give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Instead, Israel proposes to further ratchet up the sanctions immediately, and force Iran to choose between a collapsed economy and nuclear weapons. Sanctions have worked to bring Iran to the negotiating table, Israel says, so more sanctions would, in theory, work more. The threat of a credible military option would continue to hang over Iran by either or both the Israelis and Americans.

The Israelis and the Americans are wringing their hands in anguish over the strains the argument is putting on the powerful alliance between the two countries. They both stress that the relationship will survive the radical differences between the two routes, perhaps because Israel does retain throughout its independent right to flex its military power.

Very little thought, though, seems to be given to the Iranian side of the debate. Tiny bits of evidence filter out that the Iranian currency markets are firming even before the relaxation of the sanctions begins. That is not surprising because markets anticipate the future. That suggests that the Iranian business community has hopes its government will accept the American route?

While uncomfortable, perhaps, the dispute between the US and Israel might in fact be highly advantageous to Western interests. It would not serve either the American or Israeli strategic aims for Iran to get too comfortable with any clear consensus between the two. Both those routes have strong arguments pro and con. Having the Israeli Prime Minister sitting on the sidelines as an unpredictable wild card as the American plan proceeds, or as a straw horse for diplomatic advantage in negotiations, must send shivers through Iran from time to time.

Our best strategy is to not send Iran any blankets to sooth those shivers. Instead, let the debate rage until we get to a satisfactory end agreement--if one is possible.

In this manner, Iran will thus remain uncomfortably off balance and much more likely to come voluntarily to a desirable conclusion.

If it comes to pass, it will be the result of a truly solid US/Israeli partnership confident enough to cope with very different tactical views!