However, it is also quite possible that lacking a large enough air force for a comprehensive campaign, the Israelis will launch a less ambitious set of strikes, in order to set the Iranian nuclear program back a few years while leaving Iran’s conventional naval and missile capabilities intact.Iran might retaliate proportionally with missile strikes against Israel and using its global network of proxies to launch terrorist attacks against Israeli and possibly American targets.Or Iran could go further, believing that the United States was complicit in the attack and respond conventionally against American naval assets and forces deployed on the Arabian Peninsula, forcing the United States to finish the job through a military campaign lasting weeks against Iran: something that would be worse for Iran than the United States, but that to say the least, we should all want to avoid.

A collapse in the talks could also lead to an escalation of the ongoing regional covert war between Iran and an undeclared coalition of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Mysterious assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and senior level Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders could increase. We could see more rocket launches from southern Lebanon into Israel or a spillover into Europe with attacks such as the Hezbollah bombing in Bulgaria in 2012.

The covert war could also move back into the cyber domain resulting in more cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear program – but also a resumption of Iranian attacks on U. S. companies, banks, and government institutions, as well as more attacks such as the one that caused major damage to Saudi Aramco in 2012. Such a rapidly deteriorating regional security situation could send oil prices back up towards $100 per barrel and also dramatically increase the possibility of unintended escalation that could draw the United States in.