Iran Alleged Assassination Plot: Emboldened by Nuke Program?

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution is the author of the 2002 book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, which he’ll probably never live down. Weighing in on Iran’s alleged attempt on the life of the Saudi ambassador to the United States yesterday at the Daily Beast, Pollack wrote:

… while this plot—a mass casualty attack on U.S. soil—would go well beyond what Iran has attempted in the past, it would represent an extrapolation of another pattern, namely the emergence of a more aggressive, risk-tolerant Iranian regime over the past two years.

Be that as it may, part of the case those who are skeptical of the plot’s plausibility make is that Iran wouldn’t dare because it would be concerned with retribution even more crippling than the “crippling” sanctions we’ve already imposed on it. Pollack’s view is …

That the regime may no longer be concerned about a massive American conventional military retaliation. In the past, that fear has been an important restraint on Iranian action against the United States. Again, if true, this plot suggests that the Iranians may believe either that the United States is so consumed with its own internal problems and so determined to avoid another war in the Middle East that the American people would not countenance any action that might risk escalation with Iran. Alternatively, it may suggest that Iran believes its nuclear program is far enough along to deter conventional American military retaliation.

Hold on a minute — a program that’s at least a couple of years from producing nuclear weapons is capable of deterring an attack from another country, even if it’s not via nuclear weapons? Granted that might be true if Iran had reached the point where it wasn’t necessarily manufacturing nuclear weapons but was capable of building them (known as virtual deterrence).

But even Israel and the most rabid American hawks don’t believe Iran has either built any nuclear weapons, nor is capable of it. It’s gives Tehran little credit to infer that it was operating under the delusion that just the intention to develop nuclear weapons would deter an attack. Suggesting it only makes Pollack appear ignorant.