Daily Archives: February 29, 2012

The Case for Bombing Iran: Tell Me What You Think

What do you think? Should Israel or the United States bomb Iran in order to prevent the development of nuclear weapons? Weigh in with your opinions by responding in the comment section. Here’s the case for stopping Iran:

Frederick Kagan and Maseh Zarif writing in The Wall Street Journal claim that America is being played for a fool. That we are naïve and there is no other case to be made other than Iran is preparing for nuclear weapons. Iran is doing nothing that would not lead one to conclude anything other than their nuclear program is moving forward and looking toward the day they are a nuclear power. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran continues to accelerate its enrichment program, and they are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. And there is no evidence that Iran would stop its nuclear program simply if we lift sanctions.

But the US goes about its business with nothing but confused and superficial discussion. Some governmental leaders claim the Iranians are ready to talk and others are blind to what is right in front of them. The thought of war with Iran and the implications for Israel and the United States is so unpleasant that we are misinterpreting intelligence data. We are desperately, according to the authors of the Wall Street Journal article, trying to convince ourselves that there are no problems and Iran is a “rational actor.” The IAEA found that Iran’s collection of centrifuges is growing and their uranium is enriched to the point of weapons grade quality. They also reported that Iran has a hidden enrichment facility with installed air defense systems and new centrifuges can be brought online at that facility.

Iran also has facilities that the UN investigators expect is being used to prepare weapons grade uranium but the investigators have been denied access to this facility. The sanctions against Iran have been harsh but the Iranian leadership seems to be willing to sell out its economy for nuclear weapons. Iran claims that their interests are peaceful but the international community has offered Iran enriched uranium for peaceful use but Iran has refused.

Iran is also preparing wartime messages. They have threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz, attack ships passing through, and preemptively attack any nation that threatens Iran. Still, the US listens quietly and patiently. Only Iran is aggressive and one has to wonder why a state interested in peace would be working so hard to fan the fires of war. The Iranians are pursuing a weaponization program and any attempt on their part to negotiate with the IAEA is essentially designed to buy time. Soon they will reach what the Israelis call the “zone of immunity” after which military options will be more dangerous.

During the Bush administration it was easy to assume that the Bush-Cheney war mongers were just looking for more weapons to label as a threat. But now the pendulum has swung the other way. The Obama administration has been far more accommodating and taken a hands-off approach. But it seems as if we are trying to play catch-up by instituting tough sanctions, lobbying United Nations, and freezing Iranian assets. Perhaps diplomacy has not yet run its course but it’s nearing the finish line. Israel simply can’t wait any longer if they’re going to do something, and if Israel preemptively bombs Iran then the world is going to be an unstable place.

There are also plenty of good reasons for Israel to avoid a military confrontation with Iran. First, the Israeli bombers cannot attack with surgical precision. They might hit facilities but cannot eliminate them completely. Secondly, even after all the damages are tallied you cannot eliminate Iran’s nuclear knowledge and the military attack will only slow the process down. Third, an attack on Iran would justify retaliation. Iran would feel genuinely threatened and their arguments for defending themselves would be defensible. Israel is already a pariah nation in much of the Arab world and this would seal their fate. Israel would have to go to war perhaps with Lebanon, Gaza, and perhaps even Syria. Hezbollah has many rockets aimed at Israel and they would rain down on the country by the time Israel’s bombers returned to base.

The decision to attack Iran is one of those 1% decision problems. The probability of Iran actually using a nuclear weapon is small (1%) and a nation could assume that it is very unlikely. Sanctions and diplomacy continue with no plans for military action. But the consequences of being wrong are catastrophic. If that 1% possibility does occur, it’s a disaster.

So what kind of a decision do you make? Do you let sanctions play out and perhaps allow Iran to complete their nuclear program? Or, do you conclude that a nuclear Iran is simply unacceptable and stop it now?

I’m interested in your opinions. Weigh in on the debate in the comments section below.

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