One of the factors that could lead the United States to invade Iran is its close relationship with Israel, Wilkerson said. In his discussions with members of Congress and staff, few have been willing to have a realistic public discussion about the strategic situation with Iran because so little political room to maneuver exists on the issue.
That's a dangerous position for the U.S. to maintain, Wilkerson said. No matter how closely allied two countries may be, he said, their interests are never completely aligned.
When most discussions about American foreign policy in the Middle East center on Israel, it becomes difficult to adopt a realistic position toward Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat, he said.
“This is not a tenable position for the United States to be in,” he said.
If an all-out conflict ever erupted between Iran and Israel, the United States would be obligated to begin bombing Iran, Wilkerson said, and would likely follow up with a ground invasion.
At that point, he said, Iranian officials would likely throw International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors out of the country and begin building a nuclear weapon — something the international community hopes to avoid.
To avoid that outcome, Obama administration officials must engage in an open dialogue with all the leaders in the region — not just allies. It's critical that officials rebuild trust with Iran, and that begins by exercising a empathy.
“It's time we changed our whole approach,” he said.