Monday, April 10, 2006

A Nuclear Strike on Iran

This excellent article by Seymour Hersh in the current issue of The New Yorker makes a strong case that a nuclear strike against Iran is currently being discussed as an option by the Bush Administration.

Here's a handful of key (and troubling) quotes from the article:

"There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change."

"A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was 'absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb' if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do 'what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,' and 'that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.' "

" 'This is much more than a nuclear issue,' one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. 'That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.' "

"One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that 'a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.' "

"The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [a former high-level Defense Department official] added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said."

"The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that 'ninety-nine per cent of them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are people who believe it’s the way to operate'—that the Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been supported by neoconservatives."

" 'Force protection is the new buzzword,' the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the Pentagon’s position that clandestine activities that can be broadly classified as preparing the battlefield or protecting troops are military, not intelligence, operations, and are therefore not subject to congressional oversight."

"Other European officials expressed similar skepticism about the value of an American bombing campaign. 'The Iranian economy is in bad shape, and Ahmadinejad is in bad shape politically,' the European intelligence official told me. 'He will benefit politically from American bombing. You can do it, but the results will be worse.' An American attack, he said, would alienate ordinary Iranians, including those who might be sympathetic to the U.S."

"The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon also said he believed that the oil problem could be managed, pointing out that the U.S. has enough in its strategic reserves to keep America running for sixty days. However, those in the oil business I spoke to were less optimistic; one industry expert estimated that the price per barrel would immediately spike, to anywhere from ninety to a hundred dollars per barrel, and could go higher, depending on the duration and scope of the conflict."

"Iran could also initiate a wave of terror attacks in Iraq and elsewhere, with the help of Hezbollah. ... The adviser went on, 'If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle.' The American, British, and other coalition forces in Iraq would be at greater risk of attack from Iranian troops or from Shiite militias operating on instructions from Iran. (Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, has close ties to the leading Shiite parties in Iraq.) A retired four-star general told me that, despite the eight thousand British troops in the region, 'the Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck.' "

The whole article is long, but well-worth the read.

UPDATE: I also want to note a Washington Post article from yesterday that similarly argues the White House is making plans for a possible military strike against Iran. It doesn't have quite the detail or nuance of Hersh's piece, but it provides a solid overview of the situation.

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