Empty threats?: A game-theoretic analysis of the credibility of Israel's threat to attack Iran's nuctear facilities
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The conflict over the looming threat of Iran’s alleged ongoing development of a nuclear bomb has been one of the more potent and discussed problems on the international arena since the nuclear program was discovered in 2002. After several unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to halt the development Israel has issued threats to militarily strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the credibility of these threats to create a better understanding of the current status of the conflict. By analyzing the preferences and the military strategies available I created a game theoretic model that shows that Israeli escalation will, even with a successful strike, end up weakening the Israeli power position, thereby rendering an Israeli attack irrational. This is due to the Iranian options of creating new theaters of war at Israel’s borders through Hezbollah and Hamas and the potential escalation of a new Intifada. The conclusion of this study is that the cost of the expected Iranian retaliation as well as significant operational hazard connected to a strike, with uncertain prospects for success as well as potential high costs, is the main reason why Israel has not acted on its threats. Adding to this is that the Israeli threats have been unclear as to where the line is drawn and what will effectuate that Israel carries through. These factors are the cause of a significant lack of credibility in the Israeli threats.