US, Israeli Attacks Would Push Iran Toward Nukes

Filed under: Air Force |

While U.S. or Israeli air strikes may delay the building by Iran of a nuclear
weapon, they are unlikely to prevent it altogether and could well prove counter-productive,
according to a major new report signed by nearly three dozen former top U.S. foreign-policy
makers, military officers, and independent experts.

The 56-page report, “Weighing
Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran,” concluded that
a unilateral Israeli attack could delay Iran’s nuclear programme for up
to two years while a more massive U.S. assault could set it back by up to four

But either effort is also likely to provoke both direct and indirect retaliation
by Tehran – both in the region and beyond; destroy the U.S.-led international
coalition that has imposed harsh economic sanctions against Iran; and increase
the country’s determination to acquire a weapon.

“(A) military action involving aerial strikes, cyber attacks, covert operations,
and special operations forces would destroy or severely damage many of Iran’s
physical facilities and stockpiles,” according to the report, which was
signed by three former national security advisers and two former heads of the
U.S. Central Command, among others.

“But in our judgment, complete destruction of Iran’s nuclear program
is unlikely; and Iran would still retain the scientific capacity and the experience
to start its nuclear program again if it chose to do so.”

“…In fact, we believe that a U.S. attack on Iran would increase Iran’s
motivation to build a bomb, because 1) the Iranian leadership would become more
convinced than ever that regime change is the goal of U.S. policy, and 2) building
a bomb would be seen as a way to inhibit future attacks and redress the humiliation
of being attacked,” according to the report, which was unveiled at the
Wilson International Center for Scholars here Thursday.

Described by its authors as an effort to provide “a basis for open and
informed discussion of a matter of crucial importance to America’s national
security,” it was released amidst growing tensions between Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and the administration of President Barack Obama over the
Israeli leader’s demands that Washington lay out specific “red lines”
that, if crossed by Iran, would prompt U.S. military action against Iran.

After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected Netanyahu’s demands
last weekend, Netanyahu re-iterated warnings that, absent U.S. guarantees, Israel
would act unilaterally.

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before
Iran,” he declared Tuesday, “don’t have a moral right to place
a red light before Israel.”

The Obama administration has made little secret of its strong opposition to
a unilateral Israeli strike for many of the reasons listed in the new report.

If anything, the report will likely reinforce that opposition, particularly
given the prominence of many of its signers, among them, former national security
advisers Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Sandy Berger, and two former
chiefs of the U.S. Central Command (CentCom), Gen. Anthony Zinni and Adm. William
Fallon, as well as the former Deputy Commander of the U.S. Special Operations
Command (SOC), Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney.

Besides Scowcroft, a former Air Force general who served as national security
adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, other prominent Republicans
included former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, former Trade Representative Carla
Hills, and former Deputy Secretaries of State John Whitehead and Richard Armitage.

Others signers who served in top national-security positions under Republican
presidents included former U.N. Amb. Thomas Pickering, former Undersecretary
of State Nicholas Burns, former Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Edward
Djerejian, former National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia
Paul Pillar, and the former ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner.

The report itself stressed that it was “not an advocacy document”,
but rather an effort to “depoliticize discussion of a highly charged issue”
and provide a summary of “informed analysis and opinion” regarding
key questions that should be answered before any military action is undertaken.

Shared assumptions, it noted, included the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran
would “pose dangerous challenges to U.S. interests and security, as well
as to the security of Israel”; that Tehran has twice sought to secretly
expand its nuclear programme; and that military force should be used as a “last

The report, the product of six months of discussions, concluded that if Iran
decided to “dash” for a bomb – a decision that has not yet been
made and that, account to the report, U.S. intelligence agencies would likely
detect – Tehran would need one to four months to produce enough weapons-grade
material to produce one bomb and an additional two years to build a nuclear
warhead that could be reliably delivered by a missile.

“(E)xtended military strikes by the U.S. alone or in concert with Israel
could destroy or severely damage the six most important known nuclear facilities
in Iran, setting back Iran’s nuclear program for up to four years,”
it found. “Our informed estimate is that a military strike by Israel alone
could delay Iran’s ability to build a bomb for up to two years.”

If Washington’s aim was to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear bomb,
“the U.S. would need to conduct a significantly expanded air and sea war
over a prolonged period of time, likely several years,” it found.

“If the U.S. decided to seek a more ambitious objective, such as regime
change …or undermining Iran’s influence in the region, then an even
greater commitment of force would be required to occupy all or part of the country.”

Such a commitment, it warned, would require more than what Washington has already
“expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined”,
according to the report.

The more-limited campaign could produce benefits beyond damaging or destroying
Iran’s most important nuclear facilities and much of its military capabilities,
it said. It would also demonstrate U.S. “seriousness and credibility”
to U.S. allies in the region, and possibly disrupt the regime’s control,
“although we do not believe it would lead to regime change, regime collapse,
or capitulation.”

It may also help deter nuclear-weapons proliferation, particularly in the region,
it said.

But the costs of such an attack could be very high indeed. “While some
argue that that Iran might hold back using force in order to avoid provoking
a larger scale conflict, we believe that Iran would retaliate, costing American
lives; damaging U.S. facilities in the region; and affecting U.S. interests
in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and elsewhere,” the report noted, adding
that Iran would also “hold Israel partly responsible for any attacks, whether
or not Israeli forces participated in military action.”

Tehran would likely act against both the U.S. and Israel indirectly, as well,
using “well-armed proxies such as Hezbollah or Shiite militant groups in
Iraq” to retaliate.

International support for sanctions and isolating Iran would likely break down,
while an attack could also “introduce destabilizing political and economic
forces in a region already experiencing major transformations,” according
to the report.

It also warned that unilateral U.S. action “could further alienate Muslims
and others worldwide, reinforcing the view that the United States resorts too
often to military force,” and offering new recruitment opportunities to
radical Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda.

As for the possibility of an attack sparking regime change, “we conclude
that U.S. and/or Israeli strikes are more likely to unify the population behind
the government than to generate resistance,” the report said.

Inter Press Service

Read more by Jim Lobe

  • Libya, Egypt Embassy Attacks Fuel US Presidential Race – September 12th, 2012
  • US Public Satisfied With Less Militarized Global Role – September 10th, 2012
  • Rights Activists Call on US to Revise Bahrain Policy – September 6th, 2012
  • Rights Groups Denounce Dropping of CIA Torture Cases – September 2nd, 2012
  • Romney Offers Few Details in Major Foreign Policy Speech – July 25th, 2012

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