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Dennis Ross: Blocking US strike against Syria would lead to an Israeli strike on Iran

February 4, 2014 at 9:48 am

Former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross wrote in an opinion article published by the Washington Post on 9 September that the price of cancelling the military strike against Syria will be high for two reasons: it will weaken moderate voices in Tehran and increase the likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iran.

In the article titled, “Blocking action on Syria makes an attack on Iran more likely,” Ross argues that cancelling the strike would weaken the moderate position of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, “who continues to send signals that he wants to make a deal on the nuclear program.”

The US and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, but the government in Tehran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

“The hard-liners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and around the Supreme Leader will be able to claim that there is only an economic cost to pursuing nuclear weapons but no military danger. Their argument will be: Once Iran has nuclear weapons, it will build its leverage in the region; its deterrent will be enhanced; and, most importantly, the rest of the world will see that sanctions have failed, and that it is time to come to terms with Iran,” Ross wrote.

On the other hand, Ross argues, Rouhani’s arguments about the high risk of pursuing nuclear weapons and the importance of maintaining the Iranian regime’s stability will be weakened if the US strike is cancelled: If the US president is “blocked from using force against Syria, it will be clear that all options are not on the table,” regardless of what the Americans say. Ultimately this will communicate that the US is “prepared to live with an Iran that has nuclear arms.”

On its part, Israel will not accept such an eventuality, Ross warns, which is why the cancellation of a US military strike against Syria would lead to a strike on Iran. “Israel will feel that it has no reason to wait, no reason to give diplomacy a chance and no reason to believe that the United States will take care of the problem.”

Netanyahu sees an Iran with nuclear weapons as an existential threat to Israel, but he is ready to comply with US requests regarding a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, as long as he has the confidence that President Obama is determined to deal with the Iranian threat. But this confidence will end if the strike against Syria is cancelled, and that will push Israel to strike Iran.

Therefore, Ross suggests that the US is facing a choice between a limited US strike against Syrian targets, considering that “the Syrian and Iranian interest in an escalation with the United States is also limited,” or an all out confrontation between Israel and Iran.

At the end of his article, Ross asks the opponents of a US military strike against Syria if they would still feel comfortable with their choice when it means that a diplomatic outcome on the Iranian nuclear issue is ruled out. He concludes, “Even in their eyes, the costs of inaction may then not appear so low.”