Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

What will happen with Iran?

This subject is gaining momentum as the time grows closer for another round of sanctions games in the UN, and it comes on the heels of the recent Israeli strike on Syria. This morning Newsweek is reporting that the wargaming continues:

In Gardiner's war games, the conduct of Iran's nemesis, Israel, is often the hardest to predict. Are Israeli intelligence officials exaggerating when they say Iran will have mastered the technology to make nuclear weapons by next year? Will Israel stage its own attack on Iran if Washington does not? Or is it posturing in order to goad America into military action? The simulations have led Gardiner to an ominous conclusion: though the United States is now emphasizing sanctions and diplomacy as the means of compelling Tehran to stop enriching uranium, an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could end up dragging Washington into a war. "Even if Israel goes it alone, we will be blamed," says Gardiner. "Hence, we would see retaliation against U.S. interests."

How far will Israel go to keep Iran from getting the bomb? The question gained new urgency this month when Israeli warplanes carried out a mysterious raid deep in Syria and then threw up a nearly impenetrable wall of silence around the operation. Last week opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu chipped away at that wall, saying Israel did in fact attack targets in Syrian territory. His top adviser, Mossad veteran Uzi Arad, told NEWSWEEK: "I do know what happened, and when it comes out it will stun everyone." ...

... In Washington, on the other hand, the consensus against a strike is firmer than most people realize. The Pentagon worries that another war will break America's already overstretched military, while the intelligence community believes Iran is not yet on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough. The latter assessment is expected to appear in a secret National Intelligence Estimate currently nearing completion, according to three intelligence officials who asked for anonymity when discussing nonpublic material. The report is expected to say Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb until at least 2010 and possibly 2015. One explanation for the lag: Iran is having trouble with its centrifuge-enrichment technology, according to U.S. and European officials.

First, Iran is behind on their centrifuge operations, but they are still continuing operations. Israeli intelligence has stated that Iran will be running at full capacity by year's end, most likely. If that happens, and if they obtain technology from North Korea via Syria, they could very well have a bomb by the end of 2008, and likely more than just one.

Second, while we'll admit that a third front in the war doesn't seem feasible, it actually is quite possible. The initial plans for attacking Iran call for massive airstrikes, not an invasion. We would take out their nuclear facilities, command and control facilities, and would target the centers of power in their government to decapitate it. Very little in the realm of ground forces would be committed to the attack, and would likely serve only as advisers and security for the dissidents to seize control of the government.

Lastly, I don't trust our own intelligence services. They have been wrong far too often in recent years, and it's possible they are way off on their assessment regarding how long it would take before Iran has the ability to make a nuke. Israeli agents are in Iran and they're close to the "peaceful" nuclear program that the Iranians boast about. Their agents say it's anything but peaceful, and that they're close. It would only take a couple key pieces of technology to give them what they're seeking.

But can the Israelis destroy Iran's nuclear program? Gardiner, the war-gamer, says they would not only need to hit a dozen nuclear sites and scores of antiaircraft batteries; to prevent a devastating retaliation, they would have to knock out possibly hundreds of long-range missiles that can carry chemical warheads. Just getting to distant Iran will be tricky for Israel's squadrons of American-made F-15s and F-16s. Danny Yatom, who headed Mossad in the 1990s, says the planes would have to operate over Iran for days or weeks. Giora Eiland, Israel's former national-security adviser, now with Tel Aviv's Institute of National Security Studies, ticked off the drawbacks: "Effectiveness, doubtful. Danger of regional war. Hizbullah will immediately attack [from Lebanon], maybe even Syria." Yet Israelis across the political spectrum, including Eiland and Yatom, believe the risk incurred by inaction is far greater. "The military option is not the worst option," Yatom says. "The worst option is a nuclear Iran."

If we work with the Israelis the airstrikes could be carried out effectively. We're already going to be targets of Iran regardless, so why not work together? Provided they obtain permission, they could use Turkish bases to refuel and rearm. Iraq might also be persuaded to lend logistical support to Israeli planes. Our planes have their bases in the region, in addition to approximately 130-plus US warships in the region, including the recently deployed Enterprise battle group. If the choice is to strike Iran, and we work in concert with the Israelis, we could do the deed and remove Iran as a threat.

We're not doing anything until we run the next phase of the sanctions game in the UN. Given the past actions and reluctance of China and Russia the likelihood of sanctions with serious teeth are slim and none. The military option may be the only thing we have left, and we may be left with no alternative but to assist the Israelis. Despite what some on the Left may say, this won't be a strike because we want war. It will be one to prevent a serious threat from being established in the region. A nuclear Iran has no benefits in the region, or in the world.

Publius II


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good analysis. The UN is useless. It's reported that Russia no longer commands the majority block. It is replaced with Muslim nations. I'm convinced Iran must be hit and hit hard. It cannot be the leader with nukes. Rawriter

September 23, 2007 at 9:36 PM  

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