The Coming Showdown with Iran

FLORENCE – US President Barack Obama’s administration has lost little time in announcing that it will seek direct talks with the Iranian government. This means, at the very least, a tough confrontation over Iran’s quest for a regional strategic advantage in the form of a nuclear weapon.

There is more at stake here than coming up with the right set of incentives and threats to change the Iranians’ minds. Rather, the time has come to approach the nuclear question in its full regional context rather than piecemeal and operationally.

The entire world knows the risk posed by a nuclear Iran: a drastically altered balance of power in the Middle East and Central Asia, with Iran able to exert far more regional leverage – both overt and implicit – than it now possesses in pursuit of its interests.

Moreover, nearby states are likely to launch or further their own nuclear programs in response, leading to a protracted nuclear arms race in one of world’s most volatile regions. It is not in the interest of the US or Europe for any of the states at the head of the list – Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Algeria – to have its own nuclear weapons capability.