03/30/2012 01:02 EDT | Updated 05/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Iran: How to Behead the Threat

There are two possible ways to persuade Iran to bend to world pressure and abandon efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Neither solution is guaranteed, but each in different ways has a chance of restoring sanity to that country whose leadership seems hell-bent on provoking Israel to attack its already extensive nuclear capabilities.

As things stand at the moment, an Israeli air attack on Iran's known nuclear sites seems inevitable. Two things mitigate against success for Israel.

It doesn't have the huge bunker-buster bombs the Americans have, nor the means to deliver the bombs. Apparently, the Israeli bombs on its strike aircraft can only penetrate 20 feet underground, while Iran's nuclear facilities are capable of going 200 feet underground. Or so we are told.

So an Israeli air attack would have limited effect.

As well, a nuclear war with Israel doesn't much intimidate Iran. It is a large country and could survive an Israeli nuclear attack, while tiny Israel could not easily survive an Iranian nuclear attack.

Even so, if Iran developed nuclear weapons, it likely wouldn't be Iran that used them against Israel, but a terrorist group like Hamas or Hezbollah. Regardless, Israel simply cannot let matters drift and hope for the best.

The first of two ways to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions might be for the U.S. to give Israel the wherewithal to knock out Iran's deeply embedded nuclear facilities. That would mean giving Israel the bombers and the bunker-busting bombs.

Iran might gamble that the U.S. wouldn't launch an attack, but it knows the Israelis would -- and will -- if it's a matter of survival.

A threat that's more a certain might dissuade Iran's leadership from pursuing the course it's now on. Again, no guarantee, but it increases the stakes and the risk to Iran.

Another solution might be more feasible -- and effective: Assassinate Iran's leadership. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the symbol of Iran's nuclear intentions, yet his status seems somewhat undermined these days by criticism from the ruling mullahs, about whom we hear little.

The big boss of theocratic Iran is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Israeli (and Western) intelligence agencies surely know which leader wields the greatest influence. And intelligence agencies know -- or should know -- that an abrupt change of leadership (like death of the incumbent leader) automatically changes the dynamics of a country run as a dictatorship.

Look at Iraq. It once was fairly stable under a king. When an army coup killed the king, the dynamics of Iraq changed instantly. Then when the leader of the coup was in turn assassinated -- another army colonel took over and again the country changed.

And when that colonel was killed, Saddam Hussein took over, and again the county changed directions. The Americans forgot this when they deposed Saddam, and instead of leaving Iraq, stayed too long.

The principle of removing tyrannical leaders instead of waging war has worked elsewhere. Removing Idi Amin changed Uganda. Ousting Hosni Mubarak changed Egypt (not necessarily for the better). Retiring the colonels changed Greece. Mao's death changed China. Bouncing Milosevic changed Serbia. Hoxha's death changed Albania. And so it goes.

If the Iranian leadership were to vanish -- not just deposed, but eliminated -- it's likely the goals of the replacement regime would be different, as Iran "changed" when the shah was deposed.

No guarantees, but a possibility. And better than launching another war.