It doesn’t really matter who you ask, the answer always seems to be the same: an attack on Iran would be messy, to say the least.
Yesterday, I attended the last of four in the Arms Control Association’s series of briefings on Iran, Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle. The briefing covered “The Military Option” and featured Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Jeffrey White with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Alireza Nader from RAND. While all three spoke frankly, none painted a particularly sunny picture of a potential war with Iran.
White noted, as we’ve heard before, that since it is not possible to destroy knowledge or basic technology, any setback would likely be measured in years. The idea of complete destruction of any program is just “not a fair argument to make.”
Further, White noted that, “The attack itself is a complicated thing. It’s not something you can easily gloss over the complexity of.” If we assume an air campaign of days-weeks (which White says would be necessary) then operations would need to be phased, allowing the Iranians to react and the US to respond in kind. The US and its allies would need air defense for ships, intelligence, a plan to counter Iranian missiles – altogether a lot of assets and phases would be required, all with their own complications.
On top of all this, Pickering offered his view that any attack has the very real potential to reinforce Tehran’s drive toward building a nuclear weapon.
Thankfully, Pickering also noted that, right now, the possibility of a US attack on Iran “seems to be as close to zero as one can get it, for which I’m deeply happy.”
Across town, Admiral William Fallon, former US CENTCOM Commander, also said that there is probably “little chance” of a US or Israeli strike on Iran, adding “we ought to be working pretty hard to focus on other things that would have us in a different place.”
“Improvement in relations, in my opinion, will likely occur with the realization that the interests of both people are better addressed with engagement and cooperation rather than antagonism and hostility,” said Fallon.