An Overheated Call for Action Against Iran

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In the Washington Times, Gary Anderson writes, in the course of an op-ed piece arguing for the inevitability of an Israeli strike on Iran:

When the Israelis go after the Iranians, the United States will get blamed in the Muslim world no matter what we do to dissuade the Israelis. No argument will convince the professional America haters, who set the narrative on the Muslim street, that we didn't put the Israelis up to it, so why try? If it is going to happen, we should give serious consideration to helping the Israelis get it right. A massive disruption of Iran's nuclear program will not permanently destroy Iranian nuclear ambitions, and it likely will coalesce Iranian public support around an already unpopular regime. Again, so what? The Iranians have not shown the will to unseat the regime.

Slow down there, buckaroo. Sanctions, Stuxnet, and various other programs designed to deny Iran a bomb seem to be working for the moment, so before we launch a strike with unpredictable consequences, let's give these other methods a chance to work. And let's say Israel does strike Iran (I still believe, despite the apparent success of the Stuxnet virus in slowing down Iran's centrifuges, that there is a chance -- a less than 50 percent chance now -- that Israel would strike Iran before the end of this year). The "America might as well join in the fun" argument has its obvious perils. For Israel, Iran's nuclear program represents, I think, an existential threat; for America, Iran represents a serious threat, but not one to its existence. At this point in American history, is it wise for Washington to open-up a third front (or fourth, of fifth, depending on how you count) in the Muslim Middle East? The downsides are great. Finally, the argument that "the Iranians have not shown the will to unseat the regime" profoundly misreads the health of the regime, or the ultimate desires and capabilities of the people who oppose it. This regime will not last forever, and I worry more and more each day that we -- the West -- will do something inadvertent, or advertent, to slow the arrival of the coming revolution. I know the arguments on both sides of this question, and I'm convinced that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will only help strengthen the regime's stranglehold over Iran's unhappy citizens. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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