A Red Line Iran Would Take Seriously -Michael Singh
- While red lines have been mischaracterized as automatic triggers or even deadlines for war, their purpose is to facilitate diplomacy. Red lines set by the U.S. are crucial for determining the "rules of the game" in geopolitics. Red lines create predictability and can also foster stability by heading off avoidable conflicts and forming the context for diplomacy.
- Red lines must possess enforceability and credibility. The U.S. red line on Iran - that Iran simply cannot have a nuclear weapon - falls short on both counts.
- It is not enforceable because once Tehran gets sufficiently close to possessing a nuclear weapon, the final steps can probably be done relatively quickly and in secret - and thus are not detectable.
- The U.S. red line also, regrettably, lacks credibility. Washington did not move to halt the North Korean or Syrian nuclear programs; we did so in Iraq but at so high a price that "avoiding another Iraq" has practically become a mantra of U.S. foreign policy. Other states are understandably skeptical that we would move to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if and when the moment finally comes.
- And when it comes to credibility, the U.S. has undermined itself on multiple fronts - by rewarding Iranian defiance with better offers at the negotiating table, by enforcing sanctions reluctantly, and by allowing senior officials to speak out publicly against the military option that the president insists remains "on the table."