Yesterday, New York Times columnist David Sanger published an intriguing piece on “America’s Deadly Dynamics With Iran.” For those who have been following this blog from the beginning, many of you may remember I did my Master’s thesis on Plan B for Iran’s nuclear program. My thesis outlined potential alternatives for preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear program, or living with a nuclear Iran and containing it. In the end, I advocated that the United States conduct a precision strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
I wrote my thesis in 2006; as of this writing, the United States has not conducted a precision strike, and the Iranians still do not have an operational nuclear weapon. That said, I still believe that Iran’s possession of nuclear capability could still trigger a proliferation spiral in the region, making the threat of regional nuclear war rise dramatically.
Given Iran’s recent plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on American soil- in a restaurant frequented by senators and other senior American political leaders, no less — tension between the United States and Iran is at a hair-trigger. Previous covert actions of unknown origin such as the Stuxnet computer virus and the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists have succeeded in pushing back Iran’s nuclear programs by one or two years. At this point, serious policy-makers are openly discussing the potential of an American strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
This week, some experts believe the IAEA might release evidence that the Iranians have been attempting to weaponize their nuclear program. Furthermore, as the United States cuts back forces in Iraq, Iranian forces have fewer targets to retaliate against in the event of an American strike on their nuclear facilities.
I believe that an American strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is a real possibility over the next twelve months. The probability of an Israeli or American air strike on Iran by December 2012 spiked at the end of October from about 7.5% to 40+% before settling at 20% today on Intrade. I think the probability is somewhat higher than that, but the IAEA’s report should provide more information about exactly how far the Iranians have progressed with their nuclear weaponization program.
Either way, I have included a brief poll to see what this blog’s readers think will happen with regards to Iran by election day.