Philip Sherwell of The Telegraph reports that the Pentagon is planning a military blitz of Iran.
Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.
Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt. …
… “This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”
The Telegraph also provides a brief history of Iran’s nuclear program, here.
You all remember the “axis of evil” line from the 2002 SOTU speech, I’m sure. The “axis” of dangerous nations was North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Of the three, Iraq was the weakest and least dangerous; naturally, we squandered our military and spoiled diplomatic resources by invading Iraq, leaving the problems in Iran and North Korea to fester.
(For an account of Bush’s serial screwups regarding North Korea see “Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes.” Note that you have to scroll past a bunch of junk after the February 10 post to read the rest of it. I don’t have any way to edit the junk out, sorry.)
James Fallows, whose articles on Iraq for the Atlantic Monthly are indispensable reading, wrote in December 2004:
The decisions that a President will have to make about Iran are like those that involve Iraqâ€”but harder. A regime at odds with the United States, and suspected of encouraging Islamic terrorists, is believed to be developing very destructive weapons. In Iran’s case, however, the governmental hostility to the United States is longer-standing (the United States implicitly backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s), the ties to terrorist groups are clearer, and the evidence of an ongoing nuclear-weapons program is stronger. Iran is bigger, more powerful, and richer than Iraq, and it enjoys more international legitimacy than Iraq ever did under Saddam Hussein. The motives and goals of Iran’s mullah government have been even harder for U.S. intelligence agencies to understand and predict than Saddam Hussein’s were.
And, most critically, the Shiite clerics in charge of Iraq have developed close ties to the majority Shiite government in Iraq. Indeed, there is a very real danger that Iraq is becoming a puppet of Iran, in spite of Bushie attempts to make it a puppet of the U.S. It is likely a U.S. strike on Iran would set the Iraqi insurgency on fire; even the U.S.-powered Iraqi government would turn against the U.S.
Further, unlike Iraq, Iran really does have weapons of mass destruction. Fallows wrote that “the Iranian regime would conclude that America was bent on its destruction, and it would have no reason to hold back on any tool of retaliation it could find.” Among other near certainties, Israel would be drawn into all-out war before you could say “ayatollah.” Also,
Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a threatened Iran would have many ways to harm America and its interests. Apart from cross-border disruptions in Iraq, it might form an outright alliance with al-Qaeda to support major new attacks within the United States. It could work with other oil producers to punish America economically. It could, as Hammes warned, apply the logic of “asymmetric,” or “fourth-generation,” warfare, in which a superficially weak adversary avoids a direct challenge to U.S. military power and instead strikes the most vulnerable points in American civilian society, as al-Qaeda did on 9/11. If it thought that the U.S. goal was to install a wholly new regime rather than to change the current regime’s behavior, it would have no incentive for restraint.
And the Pessimist at The Left Coaster warns that other nations — notably China and Russia — are making noises about siding with Iran against us.
In other words, a strike on Iran carries terrible risks, much greater risks than did a strike on Iraq. And we know how that turned out.
There is a possibility that the Pentagon is just saber-rattling to encourage Iran to be more compliant with IAEA weapons inspectors and with the UN Security Council. That would be a sensible thing to do. But the Bushies hate the UN Security Council, and they hate the IAEA even more. You’ll remember that in the buildup to the Iraq invasion, IAEA president Mohamed ElBaradei was telling everyone who would listen that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons capability; was not even close. And he was right. Thus did ElBaradei become Public Enemy #2 to the Bushies, behind Saddam Hussein himself. They hated him so much they had the NSA tap his phone to find evidence against him, as part of an effort to have him replaced at IAEA. As evidence of the high regard in which the Bushies are held, the rest of the world supported ElBaradei, who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Bushies, for whom every frustration becomes a personal vendetta, would pot-roast their own babies before they’d do anything to help the IAEA and ElBaradei.
On the other hand, Karl may figure he could use Iran to do to the 2006 elections what he accomplished with Iraq in the 2002 elections. The Republican Noise machine will spew out visions of mushroom clouds hovering over American cities, and the Dems will fail to put up a cohesive challenge. Hmmm. Sounds like a plan.
World War III, anyone?