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Policy Analysis

Policy Notes 14

Israeli or U.S. Action Against Iran Who Will Do It If It Must Be Done?

James Cartwright and Amos Yadlin

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May 2013

It is late 2013 and Israel's prime minister has just received a phone call from the White House relaying the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence assessment: neither international sanctions nor negotiations have persuaded Iran to halt its nuclear program. What should they do?

This scenario is the launching point for a case study by distinguished military experts James Cartwright and Amos Yadlin. The authors analyze the most important questions that each leader and his advisors would have to answer in order to determine whether strikes against Iran's nuclear program are needed, who should carry them out, and what repercussions might emerge as a result. Although force should only be employed as a last resort, they argue that the military option must still be credible -- and ready to use if other options fail.


Gen. James Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), is the Harold Brown chair in defense policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, IDF (Ret.), is director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, former chief of defense intelligence, and one of the eight Israeli fighter pilots to strike the Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981.

An abridged version of this paper was published on May 28, 2013, by the Atlantic.