Monday, January 16, 2012

For America, Israel and Iran - policy through the prism of the US presidential election

For all three actors, strategic calculations concerning the looming US presidential election play an integral role in each state's evolving policy decisions.

 For Israel, the desire for tougher action against Iran is tempered by an understanding that Obama is reluctant to risk actions that would endanger the US economic recovery. At the same time, Israel knows that Obama would find it very difficult (in domestic political terms) to avoid supporting Israeli security in the aftermath of an Israeli military strike.

For Iran, the threatened prospect of major retaliation in the aftermath of any Israeli strike is calculated to weaken Obama's resolve in the run up to the election. The Iranian thinking is that such threats can thus encourage a false compromise (Iran's latest offers to begin talks) that enables their continued nuclear development program. Iran hopes to convince Obama that further, significant action on the part of the US will lead to a protracted, messy outcome in which no side could come out unscathed.

For the US administration, the desire to find a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis (sanctions focus) is calculated alongside the belief that if Israel is likely to attack Iran anyway regardless (as the US believes), then Israeli action now may be preferable to action later. This thinking being that if Israel were to strike Iran in the next few months, the uncertain effects of those strikes could hopefully be contained before the election.

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