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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Risks of attacking Iran

Frequent coauthor Peter Dombrowski and I are thinking about writing a piece about various risks associated with "pre-empting" an Iran nuclear weapon. Each of us has been searching the literature to see what other analysts have already said about this question.

So far, my graduate assistant found a briefing paper written by Paul Rogers called "Iran: Consequences of a War" published by the Oxford Research Group in February 2006. This is from the abstract:
It outlines both the immediate consequences in terms of loss of human life, facilities and infrastructure, and also the likely Iranian responses, which would be extensive.

An attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would signal the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably grow to involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, as well as the USA and Iran. The report concludes that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further.
Another related piece is by W. Patrick Lang & Larry C. Johnson, "Contemplating the Ifs," The National Interest, Spring 2006, pp. 27-31. They make a point that Pete and I discussed:
But before we embark on another military operation, we must reckon the costs; we must ensure that we are willing to pay those costs; and we should ensure that neoconservative enthusiasts would not be tempted to say—if venturing into Iran becomes a misadventure—that it was impossible to foresee negative consequences. There are a lot of bad things that could happen if we launch a pre-emptive war with Iran.
If you search around, you can perhaps find a copy of this article online.

I also found this piece, by Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, "A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences." It is on the Center for Nonproliferation Studies webpage, September 9, 2004. They conclude:
An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in Bushehr, Arak, and Natanz, could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world.

Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran's international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. Such an event is more likely to embolden and expand Iran's nuclear aspirations and capabilities in the long term.
Also, see this: Jeffrey White, "Iranian Nuclear Weapons (Part III): How Might Iran Retaliate?" Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch #762, May 29, 2003.

Pete and I have considered and/or discussed some potential consequences that none of these authors address. More on that later.

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