Israel and Iran A Dangerous Rivalry

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-01-16
  • Publisher: RAND Corporation
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Israel and Iran have come to view each other as direct regional rivals over the past decade, with Iran viewing Israel as being bent on undermining Iran's revolutionary system and Israel viewing Iran as posing grave strategic and ideological challenges to the Jewish state. But the two countries have not always been rivals. Both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution, shared geopolitical interests led to years of pragmatic policies and, at times, extensive cooperation. But the growing rivalry between them has intensified in recent years, particularly with the rise of principlist (fundamentalist) leaders in Iran and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Israeli leaders now view every regional threat through the prism of Iran, even if their strategic community is divided about how to address this challenge and particularly the utility of a military strike option. Iran, which currently views Israel in more ideological and less pragmatic terms, may be emboldened to further challenge Israel if it has a nuclear weapons capability. The United States can help manage this rivalry by focusing on policies aimed at prevention and preparation. This means discouraging an Israeli military strike while bolstering Israeli capabilities in preparation for a future where Iran has managed to acquire nuclear weapons. For Iran, this means dissuading that regime from weaponizing its nuclear program and, if that fails, making preparations to deter it from brandishing or using its weapons. Book jacket.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. iii
Summaryp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Israel and Iran Increasingly View Each Other as Regional Rivalsp. 1
The Rivalry Can Further Destabilize the Region, Particularly as Iranian Nuclear Efforts Move Forwardp. 4
Study Organization and Approachp. 7
A Brief History of Israeli-Iranian Cooperation and Confrontationp. 9
The Periphery Doctrine: The Enemies of My Enemy Are My Friendsp. 10
Military and Economic Cooperation During the Shah's Rulep. 12
Israeli-Iranian Cooperation After the 1979 Revolutionp. 13
A Growing Rivalryp. 16
Conclusionp. 17
Israeli Perceptions of and Policies Toward Iranp. 19
Geostrategic Concerns Are Driving Israeli Threat Perceptions of Iran, but So Is Iranian Ideologyp. 20
Iranian Military Capabilities, Particularly Its Missile Program, Elevated the Iranian Threat in the 1990sp. 20
Israeli Concerns About Iran Extend Beyond Military Capabilities to Balance of Power Considerationsp. 25
Israelis Are Concerned About the Influence a Nuclear Weapon Would Give Iranp. 27
Israelis Nonetheless Take Iranian Ideology and Potential Nuclear Use Seriouslyp. 30
Domestic Differences Emerge over How to Discuss and Respond to the Iranian Challengep. 35
Some Debate Has Emerged About the Use of the "Existential Threat" Languagep. 36
The Greatest Fissures Within the Security Establishment Emerge over Differing Cost-Benefit Assessments of a Military Strike Optionp. 38
Views of the Effectiveness of Sanctions and Sabotage Efforts Such as Stuxnet, as Well as the U.S. Position, Could Affect the Israeli Debate on the Military Optionp. 43
Israel and Iran in the Futurep. 47
Military Doctrine and Policy Are Shifting in Ways That Suggest Some Preparation for a Nuclear Future with Iranp. 47
Israel's Own Nuclear Posture Could Also Shift with a Nuclear-Armed Iranp. 48
Conclusionp. 53
Iranian Perceptions of and Policies Toward Israelp. 55
Regime Ideology and Geostrategic Factors Shape Iranian Threat Perceptions of Israelp. 57
Iran Views U.S. and Israeli Interests as Nearly Identicalp. 57
The Regime Views Israel as Undermining Its Stabilityp. 60
The U.S. "Threat" Determines Iran's Military Posture Against Israelp. 63
Iran Increasingly Views Israel as a Direct Geopolitical Threatp. 65
Domestic Politics Are a Strong Driver of Iranian Policies Toward Israelp. 70
Different Factions Have Varying Views of Israelp. 70
The Ascent of the Principlists Has Led to Greater Rivalryp. 73
A Future Regime May View Israel Differentlyp. 77
Conclusionp. 79
fconclusion and Recommendationsp. 81
U.S. Policies Toward Israelp. 83
U.S. Polices Toward Iranp. 86
Managing the Rivalryp. 87
Bibliographyp. 89
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