There is some utility in the constructive ambiguity about whether Iran faces attack or not from Israel, the US or both. Iran cannot depend on any flawed perception of American “weakness” or Israeli “recklessness” as guides to what to expect. Tehran hears many theories rattling around the world from politicians, analysts, journalists and bloggers. Any could be right – but what is certain is that the threat of military attack is real, and will be an unavoidable consequence of unilaterally choosing to develop a nuclear weapon. Such ambiguities actually improve Iran’s ability on its own to make the right strategic choice for itself, or accept the horrific consequences if it does not.
The same utility applies, however, to Iran’s own use of constructive ambiguity: there is great debate as to whether the Iranian government will actually take steps required to build a nuclear weapon– beyond its current drive for independent enrichment capability and the separate, but critical, delivery capability. Iran – like Iraq before it – finds merit in keeping its adversaries guessing, perhaps in the hopes of provoking an unwise move that redounds to Iran’s advantage.
There are many likely undesirable consequences of a strike on one or more Iranian nuclear facilities, if it occurs in the absence of demonstrable evidence that a weapons program is underway. Most of these consequences are being discussed in blogs, chat rooms, TV interviews and op-ed articles. One of those consequences could be to push Iran definitively – and perhaps openly – into a weapons program “in self defense” from unwarranted Israeli and/or US “unprovoked aggression.” The UNSC could very well vote to condemn such aggression, throwing into serious question all of our successful efforts to isolate and squeeze Iran. Iran could very well exercise its right to withdraw from the NPT under Article X, and argue (hypocritically of course) that it now has every reason to require a nuclear weapon since it has been attacked without cause or provocation by nuclear powers.
We want the Iranians to choose on their own to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons for their own interests. We do not want to give them the ability to pursue such weapons, openly or clandestinely, unfettered by international pressure and isolation. We should give our constructive ambiguity time to work