by Prof. Louis René Beres
Is the Iranian adversary expectedly rational,? they will need to inquire in Jerusalem, valuing its national survival more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences?
These are not frivolous or contrived descriptions of presumed Iranian leadership orientations. The resultant wisdom of any considered Israeli preemption will ultimately depend upon choosing correctly, and on reliably anticipating Iranian judgments over an extended period of time. For genuine safety, Israel must prepare to make decisions that are subtle, nuanced, and of protracted utility.
Such eccentric kinds of reprisal would inevitably center upon those preeminent religious preferences, and institutions that remain most indisputably sacred to Shiite Iran.
For Israel, facing a rational adversary would undoubtedly be best. A presumably rational leadership in Tehran would make it significantly easier for Jerusalem to reasonably forego the preemption option. In these more predictable circumstances, Iran could still be more-or-less reliably deterred by some or all of the standard military threats available to states, credible warnings that are conspicuously linked to "assured destruction."
But it is not for Israel to choose the preferred degree of enemy rationality. Moreover, there are other pertinent considerations here, factors that could portend grave hazards even from an altogether rational Iranian nuclear adversary. These noteworthy factors would bear upon certain issues of Iranian nuclear command and control; issues of stability of Iranian strategic decision-making, during periods of crisis, or mounting tensions; and issues of Iranian leadership capacity to decipher a rapidly changing and presumably more threatening strategic environment. This last issue would involve Tehran's incremental assessments of expectedly ramped up U.S. and/or Israeli responses to an unhindered Iranian nuclearization.
On analytic balance, it may even be more purposeful for Israel to use this tactic in those cases where Iran had first been judged to be rational.
The importance of an early sequencing for this vital judgment cannot be overstated. Because all specific Israeli deterrence policies must be founded upon the presumed rationality or irrationality of prospective nuclear enemies, accurately determining precise enemy preferences and preference-orderings will have to become the very first core phase of Iran-centered strategic planning in Tel-Aviv.
In essence, the persuasiveness of Israel's nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis Iran will require prospective enemy perceptions of retaliatory destructiveness at both the low and high ends of the nuclear yield spectrum. Ending nuclear ambiguity at the optimal time could best allow Israel to foster precisely such needed perceptions. This point is very important.
Together with any such consideration, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, both civilian leadership and military, will need to determine: (1) what, exactly, is valued most highly by Israel's Iranian enemies; (2) how, exactly, should Israel then leverage fully credible threats against these core enemy preferences.
Before such an argument on the logical possibility of preemption could be rejected, one would necessarily have to assume that ensuring national self-preservation was somehow not Israel's highest priority. Such an assumption, of course, would be incorrect on its face.
This looks like an oxymoron
This binary plan would seek to deter any Iranian resort to nuclear weapons, and, simultaneously, to intercept any incoming weapons that might still be fired if deterrence should fail. While the warning is now often repeated again and again that Shiite eschatology in Iran could welcome a cleansing or apocalyptic war with "infidel" foes, such a purely abstract doctrine of End Times is ultimately apt to yield to more pragmatic calculations. In the end, high-sounding religious doctrines of "Final Battle" that were initially trumpeted in Tehran, will likely be trumped by vastly more narrowly mundane judgments of both personal and geo-strategic advantage.
In essence , Louis René Beres does not believe that Iranian Twelvers are committed to their faith to actually do what they believe in. He does not believe what Bernard Lewis says: