Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have become convinced that the Israelis, with American complicity, will attack the Iranian nuclear program within 2 years. Without American complicity it is impossible because it seems highly unlikely that Turkey would allow Israel to use its airspace to target Iran. Once American complicity is assured though, the strike becomes much easier. First of all Iraq's airspace can be used securely since its partrolled by the USAF. Refuelling or emergency landings can take place in Iraq.

Question is what happens next. How bananas do the Iranians go?

First the obvious stuff. Hezbollah will shell all of northern Israel. This will followed by an Israeli offensive into Lebanon to clear out the Hezbollah artillery and missiles. Iran will probably also launch some long-range missiles at Israeli targets. I doubt there will be a serious reply to this. Iran will provide additional support to groups that target Israelis, both in Israel and abroad. It will probably also launch some major terrorist attacks on Israeli embassies and Jewish centers, as it did in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994.

Next, the Iranians will probably blame the Americans for this attack. This is where it gets interesting. A direct attack on US troops in Iraq would be suicidal since the Iranians are outclassed. However, American troops in Iraq are Iranian hostages. The Iranians will supply explosives, training and safe haven to Iraqi Shiites to launch attacks against US forces in Iraq.

Iran is also rolling in dough, so the destruction of a couple of labs and reactors would probably not be enough to dissuade them from pursuing nuclear capability. This means that until Iran decides to abandon its nuke program it will either need to be bombed every once in a while or that it would have to be invaded and the government replaced. Neither bombing alone or an invasion is very good. An invasion would require significantly more firepower than the invasion of Iraq. The Israelis can't do it (don't have the troops, can't afford it, and would be the least welcome invaders of all time), leaving the Americans and the Brits. Iran is roughly the size of Alaska - 4 times the size of Iraq. Its population is more than double that of Iraq. Iran hasn't been in a war since 1988 and its armed forces are significant, though partially outdated. Opposition to the regime is minimal and there are no major ethnic groups that can be counted upon to support the invasion. The government is religious fundamentalist and who knows what it would do when pushed into a corner. To defeat the regime you would probably need triple the invasion force for Iraq. It would take much longer [than major combat operations lasted in Iraq] and there would be a long-term insurgency problem. To occupy the country would require more forces than were required for the invasion. The forces simply do not exist. The second option - of intermittent bombng - is also bad. Each time you bomb you have to start looking for the next target and each will be better hidden and better defended. Again the Israelis probably don't have the resources for maintaining the bombing and responding to the threats generated from Lebanon and from the WB&G. The Brits and the Americans would have to do this as well...

The most reasonable option would be some sort of combined bombing-clandestine campaign. The US would have to start organizing and training Iranian ethnic groups (Kurds, Azeris) to fight against the government. The CIA would then bring together all opposition to the Iranian theocracy into one organization (something like it did with the INC in Iraq). Money would also be contributed to sectarian and anti-governmental organizations. Training can be done in Iraq and in Afghanistan. At the same time a sustained bombing campaign against the Iranian nuclear program would commence. The initial objective would be to force the Iranian government into unpopular measures such as cracking down heavily on protests and opposition. Over time more serious opposition and possibly the government will be replaced by more friendly elements. In any case, the replacement of the government should not be the objective, but pressuring Iran into stopping its nuke program. Spending $5-10 billion a year on bombing and clandestine activities for the next 5-10 years would be cheaper than fighting a full scale war and occupation. If this strategy is chosen then the main thing would be not to get carried away. If regime-change became the objective rather than an end to the Iranian nuclear program, then it will harden the resolve of the clerics and their supporters and eliminate the chance for a compromise.


Blogger E$ said...

Does Iran have the in-house expertise and industrial capacity to produce nuclear reactors? One thing is destroying a lab. That can be replaced by paying a few more scientists to come over. Destroying the reactor is a very different issue.

If Iran's Bushehr reactor was destroyed, it could take billions of dollars to replace, and might take a very long time, since the original was constructed by Russians, with Russian technology, and fueled with Russian nuclear fuel assemblies.

The important first step before any sort of intervention is securing the cooperation of existing nuclear powers to not help Iran rebuild.

Here is an interesting link:

9:58 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Bushehr would be useful to the Iranians to get nuclear expertise. They could also divert the nuclear fuel to a weapons program.

In either case, the Bushehr reactor is not the full extent of the Iranian nuclear program. Under the Iranian program for 'nuclear self-sufficiency' they are basically building every facility necessary for the production of nukes - uranium enrichment facilities, heavy water production facilities, heavy water reactors capable of producing weapons grade plutonium. They are also proceeding in their plans to build additional nuclear reactors.

A strike just on Bushehr would not be anywhere near enough in stopping their program.

11:28 AM  

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