After international inspectors announced this week that Iran could be close to producing its first nuclear weapon, Israel warned that it might launch military strikes to halt Iran's nuclear program. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any attack by Israel or the U.S. would be met with "iron fists." U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned that using force would have "unintended consequences," and shouldn't even be considered until all other options, including tougher sanctions, have been exhausted. If the U.S. won't do it, should Israel take out Iran's nuclear facilities on its own?
It's now or never: For years, Israelis have been "anesthetized" by the illusion that we had plenty of time to figure out how to foil Iran's nuclear ambitions, says Ari Shavit in Israel's Haaretz. But the International Atomic Energy Agency's's new report proves that Iran is developing nuclear detonators and warheads, making Israel's neighbor "a real and immediate threat." It seems "our time is up" — we must "decide between bombing or allowing a bomb."
"The 'manana' approach to Iran"
But bombing Iran won't solve much: Iran's nuclear facilities wouldn't be easy to destroy, says The Economist. Some are sheltered underground, and are nearly impervious to attack. At best, Israel might delay Iran's efforts to build a bomb by a few years. But remember, Iran and its "well-armed proxies" — Hezbollah and Hamas — would respond to an attack by unloading every weapon they have on the Israeli people, which is why even Israel's military isn't so sure this is a good idea.
"That's right, Iceman. I am dangerous"
And Iran already has a "nuclear option": Because of the IAEA's new report, "all the usual Tom Clancy-esque scenarios of Israeli airstrikes and Middle Eastern mayhem have resurfaced," says Liam Denning at The Wall Street Journal. But there are plenty of good economic reasons not to "squeeze Tehran too hard or bomb it." Iran exports 2.5 million barrels of oil a day — 5 percent of global supply. And an astounding "one-third of [the world's] seaborne oil passes through" the Straits of Hormuz, a "choke-point" that Iran could easily block. That would surely cause oil spikes that weakened industrialized economies can't afford. In that sense, Iran holds an economic "nuclear option" already.
"Iran's existing nuclear option"