I have my doubts about whether anyone will be able to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions simply by negotiations. Still, these are some of the variables that might encourage such a scenario. The price of oil continues its long-term downward trajectory. The Iranian economy gets worse and worse. Maybe Barack Obama will be able to persuade Russia and China (and, for that matter, the industrial Goliaths of Western Europe) to back real and not just symbolic or squishy sanctions. The wealthy Sunni Arab states, which have much riding on Iran not having the bomb, become serious and wage some sort of economic warfare against the regime. The Iranians vote Dr. A'jad out of office. Any and all of these would help lift the prospect of Iranian nuclear terror from the world. None of these, however, has happened. At least, not yet.
But thinking strategically, it is clear that, with the Israeli offensive against Hamas, the next president has a huge material asset provided him by Jerusalem. Actually several material assets. The first one is that Hamas has suffered a cataclysmic collapse and, with that, goes the idea that religious frenzy can triumph over a motivated and disciplined military. The fall of this psychological threat to Israel in Gaza has already affected Hezbollah in Lebanon, where Hassan Nasrallah has been reduced to howling in the night for the Egyptian people to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. Nasrallah did nothing concrete to relieve Israeli pressure on Hamas. Even the pious Shi'a on Israel's northern frontier wouldn't countenance a repeat of 2006. What, are they really that mad?
Add to these the idea that Israeli intelligence is almost unbelievably deep and detailed. Yes, Iran is farther away from Israel than is Gaza. But still. The fact is that Israel's secret services have very long hands... and ears and eyes. Very long, indeed. Moreover, it has been planning for Iranian nuclear weapons for several years, actually riveting its scientific and technical genius on these armaments. Do not doubt Jerusalem's reach.
So what Obama or, more likely, his gifted surrogates might tell Iran is that Israel is, in fact, uncontrollable. Like it was at Osirak in 1981, admittedly a simpler operation than any future one aimed at Tehran would be. Israeli operations against the nukes of a country continuously threatening the obliteration of the Jewish state is not a far-fetched scenario. It is a matter of the life and death of the Zionist idea and the Zionist reality. The prospect of such operations may be the most plausible diplomatic argument the Obama administration can bring to the table.