Commentary

Dropping the DIME on Iran: A Unified Approach to Prevention Strategy

in Program

By Todd Copeland – The art of balancing diplomatic, information, military and
economic (DIME) efforts to create a synergistic effect toward a clearly defined
objective is not a new concept.  In the
last few years, such efforts have slowed Iran’s
progress toward acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will need a renewed effort to
significantly delay or even halt Iran from crossing the nuclear
weapons threshold. For now the preponderance of effort should be on the
diplomatic and economic fronts with information playing its always critical
supporting role.  The possibility of military
action, while not in the forefront at this time remains a large contributor. 

Activities by a variety of U.S. Government agencies and many
additional nations, must be integrated in order to dissuade Iran from advancing its nuclear capabilities, to
reassure regional partners and allies, and to affirm the United States’ resolve.  This integrated approach must be closely
coordinated, much like the Department of Defense’s Unified Command approach to
theater military operations, which, in the early phases, deterrence and
information actions dominate.  These
stability operations mold perceptions and influence behaviors of both
adversaries and allies and, if accomplished properly, such activities can
prevent the need for conducting offensive and defensive strikes, or what most
people think of as actual warfare.

While the State Department leads the diplomatic efforts –
both those with other nations directly and those accomplished through the
United Nations – the coordination of these efforts with other interagency
partners, such as the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Treasury, to say
nothing of the intelligence community, must be strengthened to maintain a
unified approach. 

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, has stated that plans are already on the shelf for military strikes
aimed at disrupting and delaying Iran’s nuclear capabilities.  If direct military action is necessary, one
has to ask, “Then what?”  While the US
currently possesses the capability to strike a wide range of targets in Iran,
the second and third order effects of such an attack must be analyzed, and a
detailed strategy developed to deal with the consequences; no doubt this is close
to the top of U.S. Central Command’s current “to do” list. 

A pin-point strike aimed only at Iran’s
known nuclear facilities might be an attractive option on the surface, but could
lead to a protracted conflict and, in that case, would not be in the best
interest of U.S. regional
partners in the Gulf, or of the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain.  In view of this possibility, if a strike were
determined to be necessary, it must be a massive disarming strike, not only against
Iran’s nuclear facilities, but
also against Iran’s means of
retaliating against U.S.
forces and American assets in the region, as well as against regional allies
and partners.  Unless the U.S. is
prepared to conduct such a wide-ranging strike, “poking the hornets’ nest,” by
just hitting nuclear facilities, is not the best option.  However, if the options are striking a
non-nuclear Iran or striking
a nuclear Iran,
the former is obviously much preferred. 

The most effective components of a prevention strategy at
this time are the economic and financial penalties and sanctions that are being
imposed upon Iran by the
United Nations, the U.S., the
European Union, Japan,
and other nations.  Iran does not
currently possess a self-sustaining capability to produce weapons-grade fissile
material.  Its current gas-centrifuge
based approach to uranium enrichment relies on foreign suppliers for critical
components, as does its limited organic manufacturing capabilities to build
centrifuges. 

Sanctions compound these problems, making it more and more
difficult for Iran
to acquire such equipment, except on the black market.  Additional economic sanctions, such as
prohibitions on insuring Iranian-flagged merchant ships, force Iran to utilize
foreign-flagged transportation, making it easier to inspect and interdict
illicit shipments.  Conceivably, this
latter step could have the unintended consequence of causing Iran to inspect U.S. or allied ships in the Gulf in
retaliation, thereby escalating the situation. 

Financial sanctions are beginning to show their effects as
well.  Entities all over the world are
becoming increasingly unwilling to invest in Iran,
especially in its oil and gas sector, either because they are prohibited
expressly from doing so by their national government, or because they risk
losing access to U.S.
and European financial markets.  Iranian
oil production is declining and plans to develop new oil and gas fields, or to
exploit existing fields, have been put on hold. 
Iran has mitigated
these effects to an extent via front companies, and other subterfuges, and by
dealing with a few countries still willing to accommodate their needs, such as Turkey, which
brokered a $30 billion deal covering the next five years.  China also continues to invest in
Iranian oil and gas development, but it does not have the technology that could
be supplied by Western oil companies and the Chinese projects have
stalled. 

The actions described above all could be undertaken unilaterally
by the U.S.;
however, DIME techniques, to be most effective, should be integrated, sometimes
covertly, with other nations in order to achieve the desired results.  That, however, is a discussion reserved for
another article. 

 

Photo Credit: “Pakistan
Dust.” SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE. (2001) http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=2228

 

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