The Obama administration's strategy as it devises sanctions for Iran is to build a sticky trap -- so that the harder the Iranians try to wriggle out of the sanctions, the more tightly they will be caught in the snare. It's a clever idea. But even if it works with mousetrap precision, it's unlikely to stop the Iranian nuclear program...
For policymakers, the discussion is beginning to shift to the sensitive area suggested by Gates's memo -- the space between sanctions and outright military action. What options would the United States and its allies have, short of war, to raise the cost to Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program? Are there means of subverting, sabotaging or containing such a program without actually bombing Iranian facilities?
We won't be hearing a lot of public discussion about this gray area. But that's where senior officials will focus more of their energy in coming months, as they prepare for the possibility that Levey's clever trap won't work.
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