Sanctions against Iran are tightening, including Europe’s ban on oil imports. But Tehran is highly unlikely to reach a negotiated agreement over its nuclear program. In the choice between Iran having nuclear weapons and a US military strike to prevent that, a strike is the least bad option.
1. Nuclear weapons in Tehran will cause global nuclear proliferation, as other states in the Middle East seek their own nuclear weapons in response, and as Iran provides uranium enrichment technology to US enemies. The global nonproliferation regime would be weakened.
2. Deterrence is costly and might not work. In practice, deterring a nuclear Iran means extending the US nuclear umbrella and pledging to fight nuclear wars on behalf of America’s regional partners. But, is the US really willing to trade New York for Riyadh?
3. A strike would significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program. A US strike would cause immense damage to Iran’s nuclear program. It is unlikely that Iran has significant operational nuclear facilities that America doesn’t know about. The United States could destroy Iran’s known facilities.
4. The consequences of a strike are manageable. While serious, the consequences of a US strike on Iran’s nuclear program would be less grave than many people fear. The US could also put in place a strategy to mitigate the worst-case outcomes.
5. A strike is the least bad option. Make no mistake about it, a strike on Iran’s nuclear program is an unattractive option. But it is better than the even worse option of allowing a nuclear-armed Iran to threaten international peace and security for decades to come.