by Austin Bay
November 8, 2011
In 1981, Israeli fighter-bombers attacked and destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. That airstrike, widely condemned by the so-called civilized world, kept the truly barbaric Saddam Hussein from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
In 2011, three decades later, Iran's clerical dictatorship is moving ever closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, and the Israelis are threatening military action. Israel perceives an Iranian nuke as an existential threat, and with good reason. The apocalyptic kooks running Iran casually refer to Israel as a "one bomb state."
The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran's nuclear program, issued Tuesday, merely reconfirms what clear thinkers determined years ago: The Iranian regime knows how to hide a nuclear weapons development program in plain sight. So once again we are hearing demands for harsher anti-nuclear sanctions. Sanctions, however, will not deter Iran's nuclear quest.
In 2010, when he was CIA director, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta acknowledged that sanctions likely have limited effects on the Iran's program. Why? Because the ruling thugs want a bomb, desperately. Panetta didn't come right out and say it, but the Bush administration, correctly, reached that conclusion in 2003.
Regime change -- ideally, replacing the clerical dictatorship with a democracy -- would end the threat an Iranian nuclear weapons pose to Persian Gulf Arab states, Iraq, Turkey, Israel and Europe. Regime change is not impossible, and the ayatollahs know it. Iranian dissidents are the mullahs' biggest problem, not Israel. Encouraging Iranian dissidents and helping them, by covert means if necessary, must be U.S. policy.
It is a sad historical fact that when Iranian dissidents began demonstrating in the wake of the fraudulent June 2009 elections, the Obama administration failed to support them and missed an opportunity. Recall at the time that President Barack Obama was naively touting personal negotiations with the Tehran regime as the solution to Iran's nuclear threat. Toppling the regime internally, however, will take time. Meanwhile, the centrifuges spin, enriching Iran's uranium stockpile, Iranian scientists design warheads, and Armageddon draws one day closer.
A military strike on Iranian nuclear development and production facilities might set the program back several years, but Iranian strategists learned from Osirak. One decisive bombing strike on one central facility will not stop the mullahs' quest. Iran's nuclear facilities have been hardened (bunkered) and dispersed over a wide geographic area.
Israel does not have the conventional military assets to conduct multiple, sustained attacks on dispersed, hardened facilities, the kinds of attacks it would require to seriously damage Iran's program. The ballistic missile Israel tested last week could conceivably carry a deep-penetrating conventional warhead, but it looks like it is designed to deliver nuclear weapons.
A pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike is a terrible thought.
This terrible thought is one reason the Israelis have used covert means to disrupt Iran's nuclear quest. Most security analysts credit Israeli computer scientists with creating Stuxnet, the computer virus that attacked computers and digital control devices used by Iranian nuclear scientists. The Stuxnet infection hindered Iran's nuclear program but has not destroyed it.
The prospect of an Israeli pre-emptive nuclear strike is another reason a U.S.-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities may ultimately be the least-worst option. Let me repeat that: U.S.-led. The U.S. is the only nation that has the conventional military assets to destroy the Iranian nuclear threat, so forget cutesy notions of leading from behind.
Over the last decade, numerous plans for attacking Iranian nuclear facilities have appeared in the press. A "simultaneous strategic bombing strike" (described by StrategyPage.com in 2003) is one U.S. attack option. In a short time frame, aircraft, cruise missiles and perhaps ballistic missiles with conventional warheads would deliver hundreds of precision weapons, hitting nuclear targets and air defense sites. Follow-up raids on surviving facilities could continue for weeks.
A risky option? Of course, risky politically and militarily. However, a nuclear-armed Iranian Islamic revolutionary government is also a political and military risk.