Patrick Clawson believes there are ways to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but it will depend on global cooperation, credible economic threats, and the willingness of the United States to show that it is ready to take military action.
What’s more, the Washington-based Iran expert stresses, those who claim that Israel is trying to force the United States into conflict just to serve its own needs have it wrong.
“This is not an Israel problem,” he said in a Jan. 13 phone interview with NJ Jewish News. “It’s about proliferation, and it’s a global concern.”
“Consider,” he added, “who has fought hardest to prevent Iran’s nuclear armament — France — and you know that’s not out of concern for Israel. And it’s inappropriate to expect Israel to solve the problem alone.”
Clawson, the director of research and head of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will expand on those views in a talk on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany. The presentation — “The Last 10 Yards: Will Iran Get a Bomb?” — will be hosted by the Stop Iran Now Taskforce of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey.
During the interview, Clawson quoted a former head of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service, who said there was no need for airstrikes against Iran; its nuclear weapons effort could be dealt with quietly, with minimum overt confrontation.
Part of that effort undoubtedly involves subterfuge, such as the Jan. 11 killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Clawson said he sees such an action — which, he said, may well have been undertaken by Israel — as a preemptive effort to avoid military conflict, with its toll of death and destruction, while obstructing Iran’s march toward nuclear capability.
While most of the Iranian press is government-controlled, he said, factional infighting reveals competing views. “Tensions will continue to escalate, and there will be more bellicose statements from Iran,” he predicted.
Unless “an over-exuberant” officer in the Revolutionary Guard commits some rash action, Clawson said, he doesn’t expect an armed confrontation.
Clawson is cautiously optimistic that military conflict with Iran might be averted, and that the Obama administration’s approach — stepping up diplomatic and economic pressure — might persuade the Tehran regime to halt its nuclear weapons program. Sanctions could create a situation so dire that the current regime decides it simply isn’t worth continuing with its nuclear program.
“I’m not nuts,” Clawson said. “I know there are people who are highly skeptical — among them some in the Jewish community. But internal pressures — both domestic and economic — are such that the non-military tactics might work.”