Monday, February 13, 2006

Iran is a threat that cannot wait

The Telegraph is reporting on US contingency plans to take out Iran's nuclear capabilities, and the Boston Globe is talking about how Iran could react to a strike:
Iran is prepared to launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units, and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for any strike on the country's nuclear facilities, according to new U.S. intelligence assessments. Obtained with the assistance of North Korea, Shahab 3 long-range missiles could be tipped with chemical warheads and strike Israel and U.S. military bases in the region. Iran is believed to have at least 20 launchers that are frequently moved around the country to avoid detection.
Iran purchased at least a dozen X-55 cruise missiles from Ukraine in 2001 that are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as Italy. Intelligence officials also point out that Iran controls a small island at the mouth the Strait of Hormuz and could use missiles and gunboats to temporarily shut off access to the economically vital Persian Gulf, sparking an oil crisis.

Plus a US strike to Iran would not be surgical but could lead to a much longer engagement:
A report, "Iran: Consequences of a War," written by Professor Paul Rogers and published Monday by the Oxford Research Group, says attacks on Iranian facilities, most of which are in densely populated areas, would be surprise ones, allowing no time for evacuations or other precautions. Rogers, of the University of Bradford's peace studies department, says: "A military operation against Iran would not...be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation.

It seems clear that fears of Iranian retaliation now should not enter into the equation of deciding when to attack, because their capabilities will only increase over time, heading towards nukes (anyone who believes that their nuclear program is peaceful is a fool.)

I think that any US attack on Iran will result in a full scale ground-war retaliation - against Israel. Just like Saddam Hussein sent his Scuds to Israel trying to escalate the war into an Arab/Israeli war, Ahmadinejad will do the same thing in his attempt to be the undisputed leader of the Muslim world. Unlike Saddam, he really will send chemical warheads and dirty bombs to Israel. Any military option will be very, very ugly.

But waiting for UN Security Council resolutions will make the ultimate war even worse. A nuclear Iran is far worse than a nuclear North Korea.

The US should immediately enforce a total embargo against Iran of all goods. It should tell every trading partner that if they trade with Iran, they lose their business with the US. Iran is getting stronger by the week but it cannot survive for more than a few months without trade with Russia and other countries. The main non-military option to avoid the deaths of thousands of people cannot wait. And it is time for the US to use its economic might as a non-lethal weapon, exactly the way that Arabs and Muslims always threaten to use theirs.

It would start an economic crisis, but that is far better than the alternative.