On Jan. 20, a U.S. naval carrier battle group left the West Coast of the United States. Once this battle force arrives in the Persian Gulfregion in February, the United States will have the largest concentration of naval power projection in that region since the start of the Persian Gulf war in 2003. It could then conduct round-the-clock air bombardment of Iran.
Frustrated that the late December U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran for not suspending its nuclear program is too weak, the Bush administration is trying to increase pressure by compelling governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iran. But sanctions and isolation can help Tehran’s hard-liners. They welcome the confrontation withAmerica, “the Great Satan,” building support for themselves by rallying Iranians around the flag.
Ratcheting up pressure could lead the United Statesinto an unnecessary war. A counterintuitive approach could win over Iranian pragmatists and reduce leverage for Iranian hard-liners. To free itself from an impending trap, the United States should try a new strategy that addresses the two main reasons for seeking nuclear weapons: prestige and security.