Monday, November 22, 2004

Next up: Iran

James Fallows has a timely and sobering piece discussing U.S. military options in Iran in the December issue of The Atlantic (subscription only). The article describes the process and outcome of a policy-level war game sponsored by the magazine. Participants, including Sam Gardiner, David Kay, Ken Pollack and Reuel Marc Gericht, spent three hours exploring the viability of various military interventions that the U.S. might pursue to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear state. The panelists were given two presumed conditions to guide their discussion: (1) Iran’s refusal to meet inspection demands and (2) the existence of tentative evidence indicating that Iran will have a deliverable nuclear device in roughly three years. As it turns out, the variables involved in making decisions about Iran make Iraq look like, well, a cakewalk.

Complications making a limited set of pre-emptive strike against nuclear sites in Iran difficult include (1) the multiplicity of known Irani facilities involved in the development of a nuclear weapon, (2) keeping Israel on the same page throughout the process, (3) Iran’s probable willingness to prevent another Osirak-type strike by launching a pre-emptive attack on Israel or by stirring up anti-American sentiment among Shiites in Iraq, (4) the certainty of retaliatory steps following an attack, and (5) an awareness that precision strikes would just slow down Iran’s progress toward becoming a nuclear state, and make them that much more willing to use nukes when the finally do develop them.

The principal complications undermining a regime-change strategy include (1) Iran’s size, both in terms of real estate and population, (2) the shortage of available troops to do the job (3) the enormous domestic and international objections that would follow, and (4) the likelihood that CENTCOM would present the President with a series of attack options that look eerily like the plans that worked so brilliantly in Iraq (turns out the military playbook is actually pretty thin, and they “don’t do stabilization”).

The panel concludes that there really aren’t any viable military options available to keep Iran from going nuclear. Of course, as one participant noted, “You can never assume that just because a government knows something is unviable, it won’t go ahead and do it.” Especially our government.

Worth a read.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

your posts are worth jack squat

3:36 PM  

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