U.S. to Bomb Iran to Keep Israel From Attacking It?

At Foreign Affairs, three members of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, including the president, Andrew Krepinevich (the author, incidentally, of an eye-opening book: 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century), present rationales for a U.S. attack on Iran. In an essay titled Why Obama Should Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Program (and subheaded “The Case for Striking Before It’s Too Late”), they mention the obvious:

If Iran became a nuclear power and the United States reacted with a policy of containment, nuclear weapons would only be more appealing as the ultimate deterrent to outside intervention. … Iran’s rivals for regional dominance, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, might seek their own nuclear devices to counterbalance Tehran.

But first they write that

… the Obama administration has downplayed the findings of the new IAEA report, suggesting that a change in U.S. policy [towards Iran] is unlikely. Yet this view underestimates the challenges that the United States would confront once Iran acquired nuclear weapons.

By “acquired,” one assumes the authors mean that Iran has gone beyond developing the capability to actually building nuclear weapons. In which case

… the nuclear balance between these two antagonists would be unstable. Because of the significant disparity in the sizes of their respective arsenals (Iran would have a handful of warheads compared to Israel’s estimated 100-200), both sides would have huge incentives to strike first in the event of a crisis. Israel would likely believe that it had only a short period during which it could launch a nuclear attack that would wipe out most, if not all, of Iran’s weapons and much of its nuclear infrastructure without Tehran being able to retaliate. … Decision-makers would be under tremendous pressure to act quickly.

In fact, the article isn’t as hawkish as the title and subhead suggest. The authors conclude not with an exhortation but with a warning.

… the United States faces the difficult decision of using military force soon to prevent Iran from going nuclear, or living with a nuclear Iran and the regional fallout.

Still, they suggest that the United States should consider bombing Iran not only to keep it from mounting a nuclear attack on Israel, but to keep Israel from attacking Iran. As a non-signatory to the nuclear non-Proliferation Act, Israel possesses a nuclear program that’s at least as much outside international law as Iran’s. Applying the concept of a preemptive or preventive attack equally, shouldn’t the United States attack Israel as well?