A follow up: The Dangers of Launching a War on Iraq

After some comments and thoughts from a few colleagues and friends, I felt I should add a few more points to my original article on Iran’s nuclear program titled ” The Dangers of Launching a War on Iraq”.

What’s most concerning at this stage is that Israel is putting serious pressure on Washington to launch such a war, or at the very least, to support a war against Iran. To date, the Obama administration has shown some restraint in the war mongering department but it may have no choice but to support a limited military air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the near future. Another point my colleague pointed out on which I thought I should address; is whether Israel would unilaterally strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. On this point, it is important to remember that Israeli air force capability is no where nearly as proficient as that of the Pentagon, and it is more likely than not that following such an operation, Iran would aggressively move to building a nuclear weapon; moving its operations further beneath ground and into more secret locations.

Perhaps this is the only place Washington has some leverage at this stage, especially given its possession of the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, capable of penetrating up to 200 feet of reinforced concrete and therefore the only military tool capable of destroying the Natanz facility and potentially even the less active nuclear site in Qom.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insists that Iran is an existential threat to its survival as a state; and on the other,  Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme leader of Iran who continues to maintain unequivocally that his country is NOT pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

A chance of such a strike in numbers? When I asked Joseph Cirincione, an advisor to the State Dept and President of Plough Shares Fund, a nuclear security group in Washington, he gave it a 50/50 chance that Israel will launch such a strike in the next few months, before Iran supposedly enters the “Zone of Immunity”.

What would such a strike look like? I recommend this article by Ehud Eiran ” What Happens After Israel Attacks Iran”.

For those who are curious as to whether containment is possible if Washington or Israel strike Iran’s facilities, I would also recommend the article above.

Containment strategies would be unlikely to work given Iran’s strong ties to proxy networks that would disproportionately harm U.S and Israeli interests in the region, given the decentralized nature of the regime’s affilitations with Hezbollah for example. A conventional war is unlikely, and though Washington would “win” such a war, it would come at an enormous cost to both American and Israeli interests in the region. Iran is a sovereign country that is still a party to the NPT and since 2004, there has been little material evidence to suggest that it is pursuing such a program.

Don’t forget they’re legally entitled to enriching their uranium upto 20% under the treaty. Some argue that Iran is following a Japan strategy, that is developing a strong nuclear capability and thereby reducing the break out period, if a decision were ever made to build an actual weapon. Perhaps this is true, even then, Iran as a sovereign country is not partaking in any illegal activity. Israel and Washington’s policies may further drive Iranian leader’s over the edge with their constant war threats. Every possible pressure must be applied on both countries to restrain from such a result.

Other articles to look out for: Matthew Kroenig’s article: “Best Time to Attack Iran” and Colin H. Kahl “Not Time to Attack Iran”.

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About amalvarghese
Amal Varghese is a Contemporary Debate Columnist for Access at the Australian Institute of International Affairs

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