Pundits and politicians alike have been making a number of predictions of late about Iran's future trajectory. To the extent that the scenarios they are outlining serve to justify the policy options they propose and endorse, it may be useful to step back and examine the logic that guides them. After all, many of the assumptions that drove our approach to Iraq policy in the run-up to our invasion of that country were based on intellectual quicksand that would not have stood up to closer scrutiny -- among them, the idea that a post-Saddam Iraq would recognize Israel and become a major partner in the peace process.
So, in no particular order, here's a survey, and an assessment, of some of the assumptions guiding the debate on Iran policy:
- Once the current regime crosses the nuclear threshold, it becomes untouchable. There seems to be a strong belief that if the Islamic Republic obtains the capability to produce nuclear weapons (and masters the science of manufacturing reliable delivery systems), it has guaranteed its perpetual existence. But nuclear weapons by themselves are no guarantee of anything. The 20,000 plus warheads in the Soviet arsenal did nothing to prevent the implosion and collapse of the USSR, and might even have contributed to the process by diverting financial resources to the military budget that might have done more good elsewhere. Short of detonating nuclear weapons in Iranian cities to hold the Iranian people hostage, the possession of atomic devices offers Tehran no protection against regime change driven by internal forces.