An online forum in Harper’s kicks off today, with the title: War with Iran?
The chance of military action certainly seems to be growing. Some in the administration, led by the vice president, seem to want a confrontation with Iran before George W. Bush’s term expires. A few days ago, I spoke with a person who is intimately familiar with the official debate on Iran. This person told me that the Pentagon has completed its targeting of hundreds of Iranian sites; and although he did not believe that a strike is imminent or inevitable, he does believe that the White House considers itself to have addressed and overcome all significant obstacles to a military strike.
So is a military confrontation with Iran coming?
Over the past few days, I’ve contacted a number of academics, think-tank analysts, and former government officials and asked them whether they think military action against Iran is or is not likely. I also asked them about the probable consequences of a military confrontation.
This is essential reading. Here are a few snippets from those interviewed today:
The idea that the U.S. could bomb Iran “surgically,” gain Iranian compliance, and then bolster the American position in the Middle East is risky in the extreme. A U.S. attack would undermine pragmatic voices in Iran, revive Iranian nationalism, provide incentives for Iran to make life extremely difficult for the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere, and probably impede the international trade in petroleum. Support for the United States is already weak among Iraq’s Shiite community. The idea that America could align with a majority-Shiite government in Baghdad and simultaneously attack Iran is delusional. If America loses mass support among Iraqi Shiite, then the movie is over.
Surveying U.S. history, one is hard-pressed to find presidential decisions as monumentally ill-informed and counterproductive as the decision to invade and occupy Iraq; however, a decision to go to war against Iran would arguably surpass the Iraq war as the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.
— Richard Norton, Boston University
I am extremely wary of a military campaign against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. If military action is taken against that infrastructure, there would be nothing “surgical” about the proceedings. The airstrikes associated with contingency planning suggest that such maneuvers, in addition to hitting a number of widely dispersed atomic-development targets, would have to take out much of Iran’s air defenses in order to clear paths to the targets. It would be a very large operation, probably spanning many days.
— Wayne White, Middle East Institute