NY Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, is often overly optimistic, but he may be correct in today’s column about dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat. He suggests that because the Islamic regime has lost so much legitimacy by its blatant behavior in rigging the recent elections and in brutally cracking down on the massive protests, it may be vulnerable to the threat of harsh economic sanctions. Friedman doesn’t see this as a certainty, but he sees the regime as getting a face-saving opportunity for backing away from its nuclear ambitions by being able to explain that it’s to avoid those sanctions and the attendant suffering of the population.
At the same time, Friedman thinks it’s a good idea that Iran also feel threatened by a possible Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities. Like myself, Friedman opposes such military action, but he reasons that if this is seen as a real possibility, it may also influence Iran to back down. This may seem like thin gruel, but this dual approach may deter Iran from becoming a radical mullah-driven nuclear power (an unsettling thought) and Israel from triggering a conflagration by attempting to preempt Iran (another nightmare).
Interestingly, this scenario suggests that Americans for Peace Now and J Street both take a different tact regarding sanctions. Neither of these leading dovish pro-Israel groups have joined the current mainstream consensus of the American Jewish community in urging harsh sanctions on Iran. I believe that their dissent is tactical rather than a principled opposition to economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran, but they might consider rethinking this posture.