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That Iran's nuclear challenge poses the most urgent threat to peace and security today is widely agreed across the national security community, and many argue that 2013 will be the decisive year for this issue. As former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy notes, Israel "has long believed that mid-2013 would be an hour of decision in its dealings with Iran." Henry Kissinger has recently warned that "we are in the last year where you can say a negotiation can conceivably succeed.... If nothing happens, the president will have to make some really tough decisions." There can be no question whatsoever that in 2013 Iran could get a bomb; there is also no question that Iran could be bombed. But my best judgement is that in 2013 Iran will not get a bomb, and Iran will not be bombed. To be precise, I am prepared to bet $51 of my money against $49 of those who want to bet that by December 31, 2013, Iran will either have a nuclear weapon or have been the target of a major bombing attack. My conclusion is not meant as a counsel of complacency. Anyone who believes that there is a 20 percent chance that Iran could either get a bomb or be bombed within the next year should recognize that the consequences of either outcome drive this issue to the top of the foreign policy agenda, not only for Israel but for the United States. Assessing Iran's nuclear challenge requires confronting an array of complex technical issues. Advocates who find these details too demanding elevate their arguments to higher level abstractions. On the other hand, too many specialists take a deep dive into the technicalities in a way that produces fog, only to emerge in the end with recommendations that they claim follow from unfathomable analysis. This essay seeks to walk a fine line between technical realities, on the one hand, and policy debate, on the other.


Allison, Graham. "Will Iran Get a Bomb—or Be Bombed Itself—This Year?" Atlantic Monthly. August 1, 2013.