Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Success of Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Program Doubtful

(Inter Press Service) A military attack on Iran's major nuclear facilities by the United States or Israel would likely result only in a delay—and not a particularly...

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(Inter Press Service)

A military attack on Iran's major nuclear facilities by the United States or Israel would likely result only in a delay—and not a particularly significant one at that—in Tehran's ability to produce the fuel necessary to build a nuclear weapon, according to a report released on August 8 in Washington, DC by an influential think tank on nuclear proliferation issues.

The 15-page report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concludes that too much is unknown about Tehran's entire program for enriching uranium and how quickly it can be reconstituted if its major known facilities were destroyed in such an attack.

"Without such information, an attack is unlikely to significantly delay Iran's mastery of enrichment with gas centrifuges" that can eventually be used to produce a nuclear bomb, the report said. Iran has long denied that its nuclear program is designed for that purpose, insisting that it is aimed exclusively at producing nuclear power for civilian use.

"Iran's decision to disperse and keep secret several of its key sites further hinders the development of a full picture of its centrifuge complex," according to the report. "Considering the modular, replicable nature of centrifuge plants, we conclude that an attack on Iran's nuclear program is unlikely to significantly degrade Iran's ability to reconstitute its gas centrifuge program."

Moreover, according to the report, the downsides of such an attack—including the possibility that it would lead to a general war spilling beyond the borders of Iran itself—suggest that the military option should be taken off the table, particularly because the continuing threat of military action by the United States and Israel makes it less likely that Tehran will accept a more stringent inspection regime by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"An emphasis on military responses to this conflict … has the effect of discouraging Iran from allowing more effective IAEA inspections, something necessary for the successful conclusion of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program," according to the report. "Iran is understandably concerned that more transparency on its part could lead to the U.S. and Israeli militaries gaining better targeting information on its nuclear program."

"It is time to set aside the military option and concentrate instead on credible diplomatic approaches to end Iran's growing nuclear weapons capabilities," according to ISIS, which is headed by former IAEA weapons inspector David Albright, an influential authority on nuclear proliferation issues.

The report comes amid persistent speculation that the United States and Israel are considering attacking Iran's known nuclear sites—among them, the enrichment plants at Natanz and the Esfahan uranium conversion facility—before President George W. Bush leaves office next January.

The speculation has been largely driven by neoconservatives and hawks with close ties to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, along with a number of Israeli officials and opposition leaders who have publicly warned that if diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment program do not soon bear fruit, military action may be necessary to prevent Tehran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

These same voices cite Israel's strikes against Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and against an alleged clandestine nuclear reactor in Syria last September as precedents, although they concede that the challenge of destroying or at least significantly setting back Iran's nuclear program will be considerably more difficult.

On a late July visit to Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak left a White House meeting with senior U.S. officials insisting that Washington is still mulling a possible attack. His visit immediately followed that of Israel's military chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, who reportedly argued that preventive military action would be preferable to permitting Iran to advance much further in its enrichment program.

The Pentagon is known to be strongly opposed to an attack, which in its view would further destabilize a region in which already over-stretched U.S. military forces are fighting two wars. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, reportedly conveyed that message personally to Ashkenazi during a visit to Israel at the end of June and subsequently called publicly for Washington to engage in "dialogue" with Iran.

The Pentagon has been backed up by the State Department, which last month sent its number three official, Undersecretary for Policy William Burns, to take part in direct talks for the first time with Iran on a package of measures designed to induce Tehran to freeze its enrichment program. Burns was joined by his counterparts from the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—Britain, France, China, and Russia—plus Germany (the "Permanent Five Plus One," or P5+1).

The so-called "freeze for freeze" offer reportedly calls for Tehran to stop adding centrifuges to its enrichment operations in exchange for a commitment by the P5+1 not to pursue a new round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran pending additional talks on a possible deal regarding Iran's nuclear-energy program.

To date, however, Iran's response to the proposal has been ambiguous at best, leading hawks to press for stronger action. The State Department has begun consultations about a new sanctions resolution at the Security Council, even while it is reportedly pushing the White House to establish an Interests Section in Tehran.

The ISIS study stresses that the analogy drawn between Israel's previous preemptive attacks on its neighbors' nuclear facilities is "grossly misleading" and that any effort to destroy Iran's nuclear program would require multiple strikes against many sites.

Due to the program's widely dispersed, relatively advanced, and hardened facilities, not only would the attacker lack the confidence that it had set back the program by at least several years, but such strikes also "could prompt Iran to hasten its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons [by] embarking on a crash program," to expel IAEA inspectors, and to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Iran could then build a small centrifuge plant at a secret location capable of producing weapons-grade uranium for one or two nuclear weapons per year," the report noted, adding that gas centrifuge plants could be hidden very effectively.

The new study is likely to bolster those in the Bush administration who favor diplomatic engagement with Iran. Those outside the administration—including, most recently, former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski—urged the administration to take the military option off the table and drop preconditions for direct talks with Tehran.

The ISIS study also comes on the heels of a much longer study for the Air Force by the RAND Corporation that concluded that U.S. military action against Iran was "likely to have negative effects for the United States," including the strengthening of hardline, anti-Western, forces within Iran that would favor retaliation.

Moreover, such an attack "would be unlikely to stop the Iranian nuclear program," according to the 150-page RAND report. While it might set back the economy in certain ways, the resulting increase in oil prices would enable the government "to finance the reconstruction of the facility and continue the current program without major budgetary consequences," it concluded.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to PRA’s Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org).

 

Citations


Jim Lobe, "Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful" Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:

https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4942.html Production Information:

Author(s): Right Web

Editor(s): Right Web

Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org


Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share