There is a lot of debate going on in Washington about the after-effects of the supposed attacks. Many say that unless boots are on the grounds, the US may not be able to effectively rollback Iranian nuclear capabilities.
But the fact is that the picture may be over-exaggerated as a fierce air-attack could delay the nuclear weapon making capacity of Iran by a decade: the time is sufficient to allow diplomatic pressure to take shape with full rollback of Iranian nuclear program on agenda. Moreover, such delay may result in volunteer rollback. But the big question is how much Pentagon’s involvement is required and for how long to delay Iran’s nuclear program by a decade? Moreover, is the risk worth taking?
The war between the US and Iran may be catastrophic for the whole region with oil prices rocketing sky high and depression spreading all over the Middle East. The fact is that Iranian armed capabilities are no match to even Israeli military capabilities and therefore, the contest between the US and Iran is heavily asymmetric and unequal. The attack will divide the West and the Rest more and as it is oft-stated, the US would be labeled as anti-Muslim even by the Sunni states. There is disagreement and dissent against Iran among Sunni-majority states but there is even higher dissent against Israel and this is true among both Sunni and Shiite-majority states.
If there is an observation in the US that Iranian regime is anti-American, it may not necessarily become pro-American by regime change. True, regime-change would bring many cheers in Washington and London and it may result in fairer and lesser state-controlled regime as well. But the changes may be temporary and may reverse with time. The weaponization may also become the policy of the replaced regime, later. Moreover, bringing regime change may turn out to be costly affair with the US not gaining even economically. The future regime may turn out to be prototype of the present regime. Therefore, the attack, if it takes place, should be targeted more at annihilating Iranian nuclear capabilities, instead of bringing regime change.
If Khamenei regime represents Iranian nationalism, the regime change may bring back nationalism after some initial de-nationalization with the future not differing much with present. The moderate and very pro-American Shah regime was a thing of past and should not be expected again. The fact is that the regimes in Turkey and Pakistan can be pro-American or anti-American depending upon the administrations; in the past, present or the future. But future regimes in Iran and Afghanistan are very unlikely to evolve as pro-American in long-term.
But it does not mean that attack is not possible and that Iranian ambitions can not be contained. The onus of preventing war lies as much on Iran as it is on the US and Israel. Iran must do its home-work properly and should consider the consequences of war on itself more than those on the US and Israel. The consequences would be devastating and hugely damaging for Iran in military sense, while the US may have to pay politically and Israel getting more isolated.
The US does not have a leverage vis-à-vis Iran as it has with Pakistan. A long-term deterrence may not work between Israel and Iran and Iranian capabilities could lead to increased radicalization of Islamic institutions, which further could spillover instability in the region and also lead to more tension around Israeli neighborhood. Pakistani and Iranian nuclear capabilities would substantiate each other and could lead to cascading hyper-proliferation and hyper-aggression in Asia.
Iran, the US and Israel all three need to take certain steps to avoid the standoff over the nuclear issue. Iran on its own should adhere fully to the NPT as a non-nuclear state, it should allow full inspection of its all nuclear facilities by IAEA officials, it should stop further enrichment of U-235 and should account for the used fuel and most importantly it should pursue no weaponization program and should also take steps to roll back previous misadventures. The US on its part should give conditional bipartisan words of no attack against Iran. Israel should also give words of no attack for any reason other than nuclear rougeness.
But in case Iran does not listen to the US and the rest of the West and continue upgrading its weaponization program then the US can warn it by pre-war attacks. Iranian threats of targeting American warships in Persian Gulf and other nearby areas should be met by making clear to Iran the disproportionate and heavily asymmetric American response to such attacks. The biggest generals are those who prove to their adversaries the consequences of fighting an unequal war and a certain defeat resulting from this misadventure.