LONDON - Western powers are already planning use of the military option in
the face of Iran's insistence that it will go ahead with what it calls its nuclear
research program, a leading expert says.
''The military option is being considered already, they are just not talking
about it because it would be deeply unpopular,'' Dr. Ali Ansari a leading Iran
expert at The Royal Institute for International Affairs in London told IPS.
''Certainly, what they are considering is air strikes, I don't think they will
carry out an invasion,'' Dr. Ansari said. After the Iraq experience that is not
likely, he said.
But air strikes will not win international support, and will not be an option
that could be domestically popular either, Dr. Ansari said.
''I think it would be a mistake,'' he said. ''It will not achieve what they
want to achieve, and I think it will make matters a whole lot worse in the Middle
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the military option is not
being ruled out. He said the referral of the matter to the United Nations Security
Council was only a first step. ''Then we have to decide what measures to take,
and we obviously don't rule out any measures at all,'' he said.
Holding out such options puts Britain and the United States back in a position
similar in many ways to that before the invasion of Iraq. If the Security Council
fails to deliver what some Western governments want, they have held open the
right to act on their own.
Any decision in the Security Council could be vetoed by China and Russia. Russia
is in fact proposing delivery of nuclear fuel to the Iranian nuclear plant in
The chief diplomatic difference in the planning of an assault on Iran now is
the stronger possibility that France and Germany which opposed the invasion
of Iraq could back limited military action against Iran. Britain, France and
Germany have come together as the "EU3" to restrain Iran's nuclear
program over the past two years.
The military option is believed to have strong backing against Israel, which
carried out an air strike on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq in 1981. Some
reports suggest that Israel on its own may carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear
facilities, with tacit backing from the United States and Britain.
But an air assault is not likely to be a simple repeat of the Osiraq attack.
Iran has at least 25 or so nuclear facilities that all would be potential targets.
And in anticipation of an attack, Iran would be expected to have taken due precautions.
''But any military strike would be a disaster because it would only strengthen
the conservatives within Iran and put an end to the reformist movement,'' Dr..
Zhand Shakibi from the London School of Economics and Political Science told
There is a real danger that such an attack will be carried out, he said. ''There
are people in U.S. circles that will want to attack,'' he said. Sanctions may
not be considered as an option because ''sanctions are not effective,'' he said.
The fundamental problem within Iran is a lack of trust in the United States
''because the U.S. has refused to guarantee the security of Iran,'' he said.
The United States had made it clear last month that there can be no such guarantees,
''Sitting in Tehran if you see the US going to war in Iraq, in Afghanistan,
there are people who will think in Iran that you might want to build a nuclear
defense,'' Shakibi said.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked alarm as much with his statements
as his actions in ordering a resumption of Iran's nuclear program in defiance
of conditions laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He
has called for Israel ''to be wiped from the face of the Earth.''
Iranian scientists have broken the seals at three nuclear installations that
had been closed down in 2004 under an international agreement.
There are signs of political consensus in Iran over the decision. Former leader
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in a statement: ''Even if the Westerners destroy
our scientists, their successors would continue to do the job. If they cause
any disturbance they will ultimately regret it.''
But any military option is likely to be preceded by a phase of economic sanctions
that could develop into sanctions as serious as those slapped on Iraq at the
end of the first Gulf war in 1991.
But with some fears that Iran could develop nuclear weapons within as little
as six months, the sanctions route may not be an available option.