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«CONTINGENCY PLANNING MEMORANDUM NO. 5 An Israeli Strike on Iran Steven Simon November 2009 The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, ...»

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 ramp up air defenses and force protection in the Gulf and Iraq;

 discuss the possibility of Iranian retaliation and responses with Iraqi president Nuri al-Maliki and senior Iraqi security officials;

 approach Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait with requests to increase oil production should Iran attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz, attack shipping, or damage transloading facilities or offshore installations;

 ensure the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve is sufficient to offset shortages if necessary;

 use diplomatic and intelligence channels to urge increased readiness levels in friendly countries where there is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard or a Hezbollah presence; and  provide additional ballistic missile defense capabilities to Israel to defend against potential Iranian retaliation.


Israeli leaders have stated repeatedly that the problem posed by Iran’s pursuit of mastery over the nuclear fuel cycle was the responsibility of the international community. For straightforward diplomatic reasons, Israel has not wanted the problem to be seen as Israel’s alone. Such a perception would essentially permit important players to abandon the field, leaving Israel to cope with a threat that many believe to be existential. While the historical record shows Israel will act in the face of such a threat, there is a keen awareness among Israelis that the use of force would carry profound risks and, potentially, be open-ended. Room exists, therefore, for the United States to persuade Israel to exercise restraint. This goal will require a delicate balance of caution and reassurance.

As a first step, the United States and Israel should establish a high-level back channel to explore the issues raised by Iran’s behavior and share views about managing them. Diplomacy, even secret diplomacy, does not necessarily entail total self-disclosure. But the situation demands frank discussion. As close allies exposed unequally to a consequential threat, conducting it will not be easy. There will be contentious issues, including definition of red lines and the comprehensiveness of U.S. assurances necessary to win the cooperation of a close ally boxed in by an indispensable patron and an implacable enemy. Above all, Israel must not be left to feel alone. Accordingly, the second step will be to maintain the cohesion of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany (the 5 + 1) that have taken the lead in diplomatic efforts, and to keep up the pressure on Iran. Simultaneously, the United States must hedge against the failure of a war-avoidance policy, and begin preparing for an Israeli attack on Iran and Iranian retaliation. This will be a thorny process insofar as defensive measures the United States takes in the region, or urges its allies to take, could be read in Tehran as preparation for an attack and thus cast as justification for further destabilizing Iranian action.

Israel is not eager for war with Iran, or to disrupt its special relationship with the United States.

But the fact remains that it considers the Iranian threat an existential one and its bilateral relationship with the United States a durable one, and will act if it perceives momentous jeopardy to the Israeli people or state. Thus, while Israel may be amenable to American arguments for restraint, those arguments must be backed predominantly by concrete measures to contain the threat and reaffirmations of the special relationship, and only secondarily by warnings of the deterioration of the relationship, to be persuasive.

Mission Statement of theCenter for Preventive Action

The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. It does so by creating a forum in which representatives of governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and civil society can gather to develop operational and timely strategies for promoting peace in specific conflict situations. The center focuses on conflicts in countries or regions that affect U.S. interests, but may be otherwise overlooked; where prevention appears possible; and when the resources of the Council on Foreign Relations can make a difference. The center does this by  Issuing Council Special Reports to evaluate and respond rapidly to developing conflict situations and formulate timely, concrete policy recommendations that the U.S. government, international community, and local actors can use to limit the potential for deadly violence.

 Engaging the U.S. government and news media in conflict prevention efforts. CPA staff members meet with administration officials and members of Congress to brief on CPA’s findings and recommendations;

facilitate contacts between U.S. officials and important local and external actors; and raise awareness among journalists of potential flashpoints around the globe.

 Building networks with international organizations and institutions to complement and leverage the Council’s established influence in the U.S. policy arena and increase the impact of CPA’s recommendations.

 Providing a source of expertise on conflict prevention to include research, case studies, and lessons learned from past conflicts that policymakers and private citizens can use to prevent or mitigate future

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