By William Tucker
“The agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” – IAEA report
The media is buzzing once again over the possibility of Israel striking Iran over its nuclear program. Adding to the rehashing of this discussion is the impending release of a report from the IAEA that is purported to show Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear weapon capability. Furthering the speculation are remarks from Israeli President Shimon Peres stating that, “The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option. I don’t think that any decision has already been made, but there is an impression that Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons.” Although politicians may debate the wisdom and utility of striking Iran, the mechanics of carrying out a strike are far more daunting. Israel has a small air force and navy that could, at least on paper, launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but the chance of successfully destroying the program is low and the risk is high.
As I’ve stated before, the only military on the planet capable of launching a sustained attack on Iran’s nuclear sites is the United States. Even under this scenario it becomes difficult to imagine the utility of doing so. Facilities can be rebuilt and intelligence on the precise targets can be hard to come by. Iran has already successfully managed to fabricate the components of a nuclear device and only needs to further enrich its stockpile of uranium to complete the process. A strike against the nuclear facilities would not erase this knowledge, nor would it be free of retaliation. Any military action against Iran at this point must include the removal of those who ordered the program to begin with. That is, Iran is far too along in its nuclear program for a strike to be useful so regime change becomes the more likely avenue to reliably removing the threat.
Regime change in a nation as large as Iran would not be an easy undertaking. The religious establishment is well protected by a proficient military force that would have to be neutralized before any political change could be implemented. Further complicating matters is a viable political alternative to the current regime just doesn’t exist. It is possible that one could be cobbled together, but that takes time and a population of 80 million would have to be pacified while this took place. Doing so would require a massive occupation force coupled with some semblance of local support. This force is not available and the local level of support is unknown. As of now there is really no good option of dealing with Iran. This is why Tehran has become more aggressive – they just don’t see a threat of military action as viable. As the U.S. withdraws its forces from Iraq this paradigm may shift, but for now Iran is free to pursue a nuclear weapon.