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Report: U.S. Strikes On Iran Would Risk Major War

The report says achieving more than a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear program could require a military operation that includes a land occupation – a more demanding prospect than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
The report says achieving more than a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear program could require a military operation that includes a land occupation – a more demanding prospect than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

WASHINGTON -- A new assessment of the costs and benefits of attacking Iran says U.S. military strikes probably carry the risk of igniting an all-out war in the Middle East.

The report, by more than 30 former U.S. government officials, national security experts, and retired military officers, says attacks would shake the Iranian regime's political control.

But it goes on to say that Tehran would likely retaliate, directly and through surrogates. The report says an attack could delay Tehran's development of an atomic bomb for a few years, but could also rally the Iranian public behind the clerical establishment and strengthen the regime’s hold on power.

The report, which was released on September 13 at a public think tank in Washington, doesn’t offer a conclusion or recommendations.

Iran says all its nuclear activities are peaceful, but Western countries accuse Tehran of pursuing a secret weapons program.

The report says achieving more than a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear program could require a military operation that includes a land occupation – a more demanding prospect than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

U.S. strikes could destroy Iran's most important nuclear facilities and damage its military forces, it says,  but would only delay  -- not stop  -- the Islamic republic's  pursuit of a nuclear bomb.

If the United States alone, or with Israel, carried out “extended military strikes,” Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb could be delayed by two to four years, it says.

The report estimates that a military strike by Israel alone could delay Iran’s nuclear program by up to two years.

"You can't kill intellectual power," said retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, who endorsed the report. He is a former deputy director at the National Counterterrorism Center and former deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Deterrent, Or Motivator?

One of the authors of the report, James Walsh, an expert in international security and research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Security Studies Program, said there could be nonproliferation benefits to a strike on Iran.

“You could, by taking military action, send a deterrent signal to other proliferators either in the Middle East or elsewhere saying: well, if you try this, this is going to happen to you. So that would be a nonproliferation benefit, a deterrent signal if it was interpreted that way," Walsh said

"Finally you reassure U.S. allies, the Saudi Arabias of the world, that no, we're not going to let adversaries develop nuclear weapons and threaten you," he added.

Yet any strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would also have important long-term regional and global consequences for the United States, said Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“There could be and probably would be a breakdown in the solidarity that the United States has achieved in the region and beyond, particularly over the use of sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program,” Pickering said.

He added that an attack on Iran would also increase Iran’s motivation to build a nuclear bomb because the Iranian regime would see it as an inhibitor against future attacks.

Written and reported by RFE/RL Washington correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari, with additional reporting by AP and "The Wall Street Journal"
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Comment Sorting
by: RD
September 14, 2012 14:33
How much more duplicitous can the U.S. and Israel get? Israel and the U.S. already have nuclear weapons and if Saudi Arabia, whose leadership would sell their own family for a dollar, did get nuclear weapons, they would not be undergoing the same scrutiny as Iran. After all, other U.S. allies such as Pakistan have nuclear weapons, but they do not have stiff sanctions applied against them. The message then is; "If you are a U.S. and Israel allie, go ahead and develop your nuclear weapons. If you are not a puppet U.S. and Israel regime, you can not develop nuclear weapons, regardless if you are under threat or not".
In Response

by: Chris from: US
September 15, 2012 14:37
Ahh yes, let the US-Israeli bashing begin. Well, since apparently its become "fashionable" to allow nations that support terrorists, and call for their people to "Rule the world again as we have done in the past," the ability to acquire nuclear weapons, than, what the hell, lets just give them out to everyone. If Saudi Arabia, which has no intention of further developing a nuclear weapons program other than basic research, UNLESS Iran acquires them, wants them, than OK. Perhaps we should allow Taiwan to develop nukes since mainland China has them? How about South Korea? The North has them, so, let them develop their own program. Hell, lets just give the Vatican the bomb as well.
There exists this incredibly misguided belief that in some way, MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction, will work just as well as it did during the Cold War. Hence, therein lies the problem. Using that era as an example, MAD is above all else based on the foundation & knowledge that while two large & powerful nations exist have nuclear weapons as well as two very different political systems, they did share one very important thing in common. They had rationale leaders who knew full well the consequences of what might happen if either side used said weapons. However, that is not the case today in regards to Iran who, as I type this, more than likely have aircraft, packed with weapons & ammunition and perhaps even forces of their own, en-route to Syria to better allow that nation to massacre its own people. I'm sorry, but anyone who claims that Iran is anything but irrational, simply is not living in the reality of the world that exists today. The Iranian government does not care if they lose 100 citizens or 100,000 in retaliation, in fact, Ahmadinejad appears to welcome it as it is a sign of the "12th Imam" returning to our world to reclaim his throne.
I could even go so far as to compare this to the right of people here, in the US to own firearms, not because its a Constitutional Right, but because,the "if I have a gun, than a I am less likely to be robbed or assaulted than if I didn't" becomes rationale and that's simply preposterous. How many "accidents" alone occurred just between the US & USSR that almost led to a nuclear war? 1983 and Able Archer? 1995 and Norway's launch of a scientific rocket, that was publicly made known to the Kremlin, they just apparently forgot to tell their Strategic Rocket Forces that. Also, there's the argument that Israel has them. OK. Maybe, maybe not. No one has ever come forward to confirm it. But in the years since its believed that they first acquired them, how many of its neighbors became scared to the point that they had to develop programs of there own? Iraq, which I think we can agree wasn't just intended to be used against Israel but other neighbors as well and than Syria who has never tried to make peace with Israel. Did Egypt start a program? Apparently they didn't scare the Saudis as they didn't develop a program nor did Jordan or any other Gulf States. And while Israel is often villanized for its strong arm tactics, I don't see how anyone can make a case that they themselves are not rational, at least when it comes to nuclear weapons and their use.
In Response

by: Chris from: US
September 15, 2012 15:01
No RD, I'm sorry, i don't see where using Pakistan as an example helps your case one bit. They're quickly becoming irrational in their own right.and if you have not seen the countless media reports regarding the safety of their arsenal in the event of an attempted Coup, than you're not "Blind by nature" Your blind because that's your intention. Open your eyes man, go out on your front lawn or wherever you can see your other neighbors going about their lives and try to picture them with a "Six Shooter" on their hip and ask yourself, do you really want to live there?
Call me crazy myself, but I am still of the belief that the world can larn from two totally opposite nations, who developed nuclear programs of their own and than, unilaterally, gave them up. South Africa and Sweden. I believe that there is still hope that the world can rid itself from the curse of these weapons altogether, without one more person having to die as a result, but with every nation that goes forth and acquires them, the chances of that happening become more and more remote.
In Response

by: Barry from: UK
September 15, 2012 21:07
Knowing that Iran would be able to retaliate I'd like to ask you whether sacrificing nation of Isreal and other people, US troops included, is rational to you, especially when longstanding results of such preemptive strike are very dubious. If it is not, what is the point of entire campaign against Iran, while again sanctions do not come to effect. Also I wouldn't be as sure as to call iranian goverment irrational, weren't they negotiating for last several years ? What about proposed agreement with Turkey - was it also for showing off or the deal could have been cut ? It's very tricky to portray someone as mad, but you see these guys overthrew their goverment three decades ago and its kind of naive to say they havent spotted their position yet. I am not talking about speeches and media propaganda, its just a surface.

by: Gregory Allen Leeds from: Lewes, Delaware, USA
September 14, 2012 16:16
The Chinese govenment annexed a large portion of the Iranian gas fields that they will now protect militarily till 2024. This free's up the Iranian military and their Revloutionary guards to prop up Syria's Assad, who's own military is unraveling in order to avoid prosecution for war crimes. This is the time to hold both Russia, China, Iran and Syria accountable fot their atrocities they commit own their own citizens and on the people they destroy with vassels like Hezbolla.
In Response

by: Chris from: US
September 15, 2012 15:03

Not so fast.

by: Chris from: US
September 15, 2012 14:50
Yeah, lets allow this "leader" and I use that term loosely, nuclear weapons. @_@

In Response

by: Ben
September 15, 2012 16:40
Some questons.What is the aim of the Obama sponsored report?
What do they offer?-nothing.So the answer on the first question is obvious - to delay the Israel`s strike before the polls.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 15, 2012 22:08
During a CBS interview on 9JAN12, United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta openly admitted on national television that Iran is not, in fact, developing nuclear weapons. “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? Uh, no,” Panetta said, adding, “but we know that they are trying to develop a nuclear capability.”

Your information on Iran is factually incorrect. First America was conned by GWB over Iraq's non-existent "weapons of mass destruction", and now once again over Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program. And yet many of you fall for it again and the US wonders why it has lost credibility in the world.

by: 63 Marine from: Washington
September 15, 2012 18:19
To deter these idiots from having "The Bomb", America needs to strike first and strike hard. Those idiots know only one thing, the use of force. The result of any war is to eliminate your enemy totally.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 16, 2012 23:00
And what do you think the world's reaction to that will be? What will happen next? Your leaders are - or should be - smart enough to realise that a long-term chess game for global influence is unfolding in order to access resources, that Iran is just a pawn in a much bigger game, and it is not a foregone conclusion that the US will win - the "other side" agrees that your last sentance above completely. Caveat actor (let the doer beware)

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