The sabre rattling continues. How dare Iran have a nuclear program and disclose an additional plant to the IAEA. Now, who wants to wipe whom off the map? Days after giving lip service to disarmament, the US is now seriously floating the idea of using nuclear weapons against Iran. Nuclear attack? ‘Yes we can’.
Flashback: Iran to allow nuclear site inspection | Iran plays into Obama’s hands with disclosure of nuclear facility | UN approves nuclear ‘disarmament’ resolution | Obama scales back missile defence shield in Europe | Israel ‘will attack Iran this year’ if West does not cripple Tehran with sanctions | Brookings Publication mentions possibility of ‘Horrific Provocation’ to Trigger Iran Invasion | Netanyahu: We may be forced to attack Iran | Proposed Missile Shield seen as Provocation by Russia | Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack | Russia threatens to ’strike’ Poland in wake of U.S. missile plan | Cheney Considered False Flag Operation to Justify War with Iran | US scales up covert destabilization efforts in Iran, continues funding ‘al-Qaeda’ | Israelis ‘rehearse Iran attack’ | Israeli official says attack on Iran ‘unavoidable’ | Bush ‘plans Iran air strike by August’ | U.S. Navy starts exercises in Gulf waters | U.S. National Intelligence Estimate: Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in 2003 | Cheney Orders Media To Sell Attack On Iran | U.S. sending third aircraft carrier to the Middle East | US aircraft carriers in Persian Gulf | Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh: US Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Linked Sunni Groups in Move to Counter Iran | Former CIA Officer – US Plans Nuclear Attack On Iran
September 30, 2009
The United States has refused to rule out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails but analysts and officials say bombing nuclear sites would carry high risks while setting back Tehran’s program by only a few years.
Military options often floated in Washington range from naval blockades, pre-emptive air strikes against nuclear-related targets or even full-scale ground assaults designed to topple the regime.
The most frequently cited scenario would involve an air attack that could damage Iran’s nuclear network while raising the danger of retaliation against US forces in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan as well as targets elsewhere.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates last week downplayed the possibility of military action, saying on Friday such a move would only “buy time” by delaying Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons by one to three years.
Instead, Gates has spoken of bolstering missile defence systems in the region and offering military assistance to Arab allies to convey to Iran that its nuclear project is backfiring.
But more hawkish voices say world opinion has shifted against Iran in the past year, and that Tehran might win little sympathy if it was attacked after rebuffing diplomatic initiatives.
“Every week something happens to make the Iranians look more unreasonable,” Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said.
Most scenarios for US or Israeli military action focus on several main targets, including crucial underground centrifuge facilities in Natanz, a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, a heavy water reactor in Arak and a light-water nuclear plant in Bushehr.
Another potential target is a second uranium enrichment plant under construction near Qom, which Iran admitted to last week.
Using fighter jets, stealth bombers and cruise missiles as well as special forces, an air attack would require first hitting Iran’s air defence radar and air force as well as deploying Navy warships to the Persian Gulf to safeguard oil shipping lanes.
Knocking out the underground site at Natanz could pose a challenge and would require earth-penetrating bombs, and possibly even a nuclear version of the “bunker buster” weapon.
A wider air campaign could include Iran’s missile program and possibly a broader list of targets, including military and intelligence command posts.
US military planners would have to take into account an Iranian “shell game” in which uranium enrichment sites, reactors and related research and industrial centres have been scattered across a wide area, with some targets fortified and buried underground, according to Anthony Cordesman, a fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Even a large-scale air assault might only represent a first step, as the Iranians would likely redouble their efforts and the US military would have to consider striking again to keep the nuclear program in check.
Such a campaign of follow-up strikes would probably require access to bases in Arab states instead of solely relying on aircraft carriers and the Diego Garcia island base in the Indian Ocean, Cordesman wrote in a commentary last week in the Wall Street Journal.
“It is far from clear that friendly Arab Gulf states would allow the US to use bases on their soil for the kind of massive strike and follow-on restrikes that the US would need to suppress Iran’s efforts on a lasting basis,” he said.
Even if the operation was deemed a military success, the attack might bolster the regime’s political standing at home, causing some Iranians to “rally around the flag.”
Nicholas Burns, the former senior US diplomat who was the point man on Iran under former president George W. Bush, has warned that military action would carry untenable risks.
Burns told a senate hearing in May that “there is no convincing scenario where such use of military force would work effectively to end the Iranian nuclear program.
“Even worse, air strikes would undoubtedly lead Iran to hit back asymmetrically against us in Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider region, especially through its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Still, Burns said the threat of military action was crucial in backing up diplomatic efforts that would otherwise be ignored by Tehran.
Short of a wave of air raids, President Barack Obama could choose to flex US military muscle by deploying carriers and minesweepers off the coast of Iran or order the Navy to impose a blockade, cutting off vital petrol imports, analysts said.
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