David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy revives an issue I thought might at least temporarily dissipate after the official “dialing back” of Israeli leaders’ pressure for a US war on Iran. He says the Obama administration has discussed a US-Israeli “surgical strike” on Iran’s nuclear installations:
The strike might take only “a couple of hours” in the best case and only would involve a “day or two” overall, the source said, and would be conducted by air, using primarily bombers and drone support. Advocates for this approach argue that not only is it likely to be more politically palatable in the United States but, were it to be successful — meaning knocking out enrichment facilities, setting the Iranian nuclear program back many years, and doing so without civilian casualties — it would have regionwide benefits. One advocate asserts it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”
First of all, this changes nothing about the Obama administration’s resistance to Israel’s pressure for war, and in fact the dialing back of Israeli pressure, however temporary, is still occurring. Rothkopf is describing a contingency, which the US military always plans for.
But note Rothkopf’s and his mysterious source’s definition of a “successful” strike. It would have to “knock out enrichment facilities, set the Iranian nuclear program back many years, and do so without civilian casualties.” Unfortunately, none are these are the expected result of a US strike. As a recent report by former government officials, national security experts and retired military officers concluded last month, the Iranian nuclear program is too redundant for a simple surgical strike that takes “a couple of hours” to delay the program for any considerable way. The report also said that the attack would increase Iran’s motivation to build a bomb, in order to deter further military action and that “achieving more than a temporary setback in Iran’s nuclear program would require a military operation – including a land occupation – more taxing than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”
So that does away with the first two criteria. How about the third? Well, as a study from the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics recently found, an attack that tried to take out more than four of Iran’s main enrichment facilities would shoot the immediate casualties to an estimated “10,000 people.” And according to a 2009 study by the Center for International and Strategic Studies “any strike on the Bushehr nuclear reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.” Even civilians in neighboring countries would be effected: “Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be heavily affected by the radionuclides.” So much for that.
Also note what Rothkopf quotes his source, an advocate of the attack, as saying: it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.” Notice how none of that has anything to do with a nuclear weapons program – the supposed justification for a war. Instead, its all about maintaining geo-political dominance in the region. I’m always charmed when war planners are honest with themselves.