The cover of the latest Economist reads “Iran” in ominous black letters peppered with nuclear emblems, most of which, like Iran’s nuclear facilities, are depicted deep underground. Being dropped from above are two bombs, one emblazoned with Old Glory and the other with the Star of David. The imagery suggesting an American or Israeli pre-emptive strike could not be clearer. Neither could The Economist’s take on such prospects: “Why an attack will not eradicate the nuclear threat”.

The magazine sums up the views of many, particularly in Europe, who agree that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted but not through military means. While this is a reasonable stance, it must also be supported as such. And here The Economist falls short, relying on weak assumptions and citing evidence that belies their own conclusions.

“If Iran is intent on getting a bomb…” starts one paragraph. If? Let’s consider, in November of last year the IAEA released a report asserting that Iran is carrying out “activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” including “the acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network.” Does The Economist believe that Iran is willing to withstand ever crippling sanctions and international isolation for a theoretical research project, an academic exercise?

Even the Iranians have dropped this pretense. A high level strategic analysis published by the Iranian Defense Ministry in 2010 contends that in the event of an unconventional attack, “Iran needs to respond with a nuclear strategy.” In other words, it’s not if they want the bomb, it’s if they can attain one.

Even so, warns the Economist, military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be ill advised because “using Western bombs as a tool to prevent nuclear proliferation risks making Iran only more determined to build a weapon.” Essentially, don’t try to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, otherwise Iran will want to develop nuclear weapons.

An attack will also prompt Iran to stop cooperating with the IAEA and move its nuclear production underground, warns the magazine. Except, this is already happening, and the authors acknowledge as much in the same issue. “In 2006 [Iran] restarted its centrifuge programme, ended compliance with the additional protocol and turned a deaf ear to the IAEA’s questions about weaponisation. It continues to allow inspectors in, but, as this week, refuses them access to the things they demand to see.”

The suggested solution? Ratchet up sanctions and hope for a new government to forswear the bomb. But which government is The Economist waiting for? Nuclear development started under the pro-Western and secular shah of Iran, continued under the mullahs since 1979, supported by the former reformist President Rafsanjani, paraded by President Ahmadinejad, and duly blessed by his opponent from the Green Movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Iranians of all backgrounds see nuclear development as a matter of national pride and every major political leader has reflected this sentiment.

All this is not to say that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities is the right move.  The magazine does raise important considerations as well, such as the probability of a success strike and the pace at which Iran can rebuild their program.

The potential costs may very well outweigh the benefits.  But in making this analysis, let’s be frank about what we are dealing with. Iran wants the bomb, they’re actively developing one, and sanctions are unlikely to stop them.

David Bratslavsky analyzes US foreign policy and the Middle East. He studied politics, language and religion in Washington, D.C., Tel Aviv, Cairo and Jerusalem.  Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • I think part of the problem is that this has been and is being assessed to death. Every major publication has already had a number of articles about this subject and reporters and editors are bound to be looking for new angles and ways of looking at the situation. This has played to Iran’s advantage because as long as there is uncertainty or confusion about their goals, there will be many voices advising restraint and patience. Of course, time is the most important element of their nuclear program, so restraint and patience help the Iranians, not necessarily those who will be facing them in the future.

  • many ask ; If we attack Iran , they will rebuild and have nukes again…and this is true. However, targeted air strikes/ covert operations for bunkers will put them out of business for some time. At the same time cowards from Gaza and other local regions will try to hit Israel. When it comes down to it the only security is to trust in God for the protection of Israel, since 1948 God has protected Israel and He always will.

  • The same was said of Iraq but it realized the price of restarting the effort was too high. We definitely must put our faith and security in Hashem, but we also know that Hashem commands us to הבא להורגך השכם להורגו the same way Israel attack the latest terrorist to go visit his 70 virgins before he could attack us.

  • If Iran wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth well that is a act of war. Im not Jewish but I stand behind them (the Israeal people). Everyone on this Earth deserves to live in peace. My only question is why is everyone wanting to go to war and start skirmishish.around the world. I for one would enjoy a peacefull life, I would like to go to Isreal and other places abroad. People are people no matter what color, releigon or whatever. If our eyes saw blac and white I bet things would be different. If a war starts, Iran should be wiped off the face of the planet.