While the debate over whether Israel will strike Iran ebbs and flows on an almost weekly basis now, a larger collision-course trajectory is undeniably emerging. To put it most succinctly, Iran won't back down, while Israel won't back off, and America will back up its two regional allies -- Israel and Saudi Arabia -- when the shooting finally starts. There are no other credible paths in sight: There will be no diplomatic miracles, and Iran will not be permitted to achieve a genuine nuclear deterrence. But let us also be clear about what this coming war will ultimately target: regime change in Tehran, because that is the only plausible solution.
Tehran had plenty of reasons to make mastering the uranium-enrichment cycle and other technical capabilities necessary to achieving a nuclear deterrent a strategic priority following America's post-Sept. 11 regime-toppling invasions of Iran's two next-door neighbors, Afghanistan and Iraq. But the course of the Arab Spring, and especially NATO's successful Libyan intervention, has dramatically ratcheted up its sense of urgency. Even more unsettling is the increasingly likely prospect that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key ally, will fall from power sometime over the next several months, limiting Tehran's ability to resupply Hezbollah and Hamas in the event they need to be unleashed upon Israel in retaliation for any military strikes on Iran's nuclear installations.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led push to launch a Western embargo of Iran's oil exports could threaten as much as one-third of Iran's total export earnings, according to some expert accounts. The damage will come not just from Europe, which has pledged to stop buying Iranian oil, but also from Asian economies, which are already going out of their way to divert their purchases toward more reliable suppliers. In this regard, Iran's chief regional rival, Saudi Arabia, has become their most aggressive suitor -- by design, of course.