Give sanctions against Iran more time to work

The consensus is clear: the Iranian regime must not possess nuclear weapons.

But is a unilateral military strike by Israel the only way to ensure that?

We think not, yet Israel, by many accounts, seems poised to strike soon against Iranian nuclear facilities. Once Israeli bombs fall on Iranian soil, there will be no going back.

We understand the rationale behind Israel’s eagerness to strike. Despite international sanctions, Iran has forged ahead in its quest for nuclear capability. It reportedly has no bomb yet, but could be mere months away from one.

Moreover, most likely no other nation, including the United States, would join any risky military action. Israel would have to go it alone. Having no one else to answer to may only bolster Israel’s determination to strike.

As journalist Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in the Atlantic Monthly recently, there are good reasons why Israel should resist the temptation to strike.

First, innocent people on both sides will surely die. Also, a strike would galvanize Arab and Muslim opinion, which today is split on Iran, fueling lock-step support for the ayatollahs of Tehran.

Finally, a military strike could fail, or perhaps only delay Iran’s nuclear program rather than destroying it. In that case, Israel would have utterly changed the game, losing much international support and perhaps sparking a war, all for nothing.

As for sanctions, observers offer mixed reviews. Some, including the Obama administration, say sanctions are working. Australia announced severe new trade sanctions this week. Locally, the state legislature this week passed AB 2160, which prohibits California-based insurance companies from investing in companies that do business with Iran.

Countries such as India, China and South Korea continue to import Iranian oil, though at reduced levels, which is further sapping the Iranian economy.

Is this enough to tip the scales, upend Iran’s nuclear schemes and obviate the need for an Israeli strike? We do not know. Nobody knows.

We do know this: A pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran will change everything, and most likely not for the better.

Proponents of a strike may interpret caution as Chamberlain-like cowardice in the face of evil. But if an Israeli attack ends up stoking Iran’s nuclear fires, we may find ourselves wishing to turn back the clock to the days when caution reigned.

Israel, the United States and other nations should give sanctions more time to work.