Yes, it would indeed be a bad idea for Israel to unilaterally start a war with Iran, particularly when Iran is nowhere near having a nuclear weapon. Leave
aside the international uproar and the prospects for incendiary retaliation; assuming America got involved in the war, as it almost certainly would, this
would probably create more anti-Israel sentiment among the war-weary American public than this country has ever seen.
In fact, for Israel to attack Iran anytime soon would be such a bad idea that I don't think Israel will do it. So even if I accepted the premise that
American policy should assume whatever form is required to minimize the chances of Bibi Netanyahu's doing something crazy, I wouldn't worry
about crazy behavior in this particular case. (Although of course Netanyahu, as always, will for tactical reasons want to look like he's just one bad night's sleep away
from bombing Iran.)
My concern is the opposite of Goldberg's--not that we won't demand enough from Iran, but that we'll be willing to surrender too little. If reports out of
Baghdad are reliable, P5+1 isn't offering sanctions relief in exchange for Iranian concessions, and Iran is insisting on such relief.
Of course, either or both sides could be bluffing; we'll know more soon. But if it turns out that a refusal to offer any sanctions relief keeps us from
securing the concessions we seek, that would be almost as crazy as Netanyahu attacking Iran. There are two reasons:
1) The Iranian concessions that are being contemplated are pretty valuable. For Iran to halt 20-percent enrichment and surrender its existing
20-percent-enriched uranium would mean it would no longer have any uranium that's even remotely near weapons-grade level (around 90 percent). And, though
the Fordow plant wouldn't be immediately dismantled, it would halt production. All of this would amount to a big step toward the essential goal of P5+1:
Iran confines all future enrichment to the sub-5-percent level that is needed for nuclear energy and submits to intrusive monitoring that ensures as much.
In short, Iran would be, verifiably, far, far away from a bomb.
2) Sanctions relief is cheap. Do you have any idea how many sanctions we've imposed on Iran over the past two decades? Check out this list (but make sure your scrolling muscles are in shape first). And hey, we
don't even have to tap that reservoir of sanctions, because those are just the US sanctions--the acts of Congress and executive orders! There's also UN
sanctions and EU sanctions. And one EU sanction--the embargo on Iranian oil that's scheduled to take effect in July--is tailor made for this occasion. The
sanctions "relief" could just assume the form of delaying the onset of the embargo by a few months. Then if Iran didn't deliver on its commitments, the
embargo would kick in automatically; enduring relief from the embargo would require additional EU action, contingent on demonstrated Iranian
compliance. (This would in that sense be sanctions "relief" in which the default is set to "distrust".)