The New York Times runs a surprising op-ed column today, “There’s Only One Way To Stop Iran,” by Alan J. Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Kuperman spends the first two-thirds of the piece explaining why negotiations aren’t working, and why economic sanctions won’t ultimately stop Iran from building and deploying nuclear weapons either. He concludes by arguing the only way forward now are U.S.-led airstrikes.
- “Since peaceful carrots and sticks cannot work, and an invasion would be foolhardy, the United States faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
- “The risks of acquiescence are obvious. Iran supplies Islamist terrorist groups in violation of international embargoes. Even President Ahmadinejad’s domestic opponents support this weapons traffic. If Iran acquired a nuclear arsenal, the risks would simply be too great that it could become a neighborhood bully or provide terrorists with the ultimate weapon, an atomic bomb.
- As for knocking out its nuclear plants, admittedly, aerial bombing might not work. Some Iranian facilities are buried too deeply to destroy from the air. There may also be sites that American intelligence is unaware of. And military action could backfire in various ways….
- “But history suggests that military strikes could work. Israel’s 1981 attack on the nearly finished Osirak reactor prevented Iraq’s rapid acquisition of a plutonium-based nuclear weapon and compelled it to pursue a more gradual, uranium-based bomb program. A decade later, the Persian Gulf war uncovered and enabled the destruction of that uranium initiative, which finally deterred Saddam Hussein from further pursuit of nuclear weapons (a fact that eluded American intelligence until after the 2003 invasion). Analogously, Iran’s atomic sites might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
- “As for the risk of military strikes undermining Iran’s opposition, history suggests that the effect would be temporary. For example, NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia briefly bolstered support for President Slobodan Milosevic, but a democratic opposition ousted him the next year.
- “Yes, Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway. Iran’s leaders are discouraged from taking more aggressive action against United States forces — and should continue to be — by the fear of provoking a stronger American counter-escalation. If nothing else, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the United States military can oust regimes in weeks if it wants to.
- “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate.
- “The final question is, who should launch the air strikes? Israel has shown an eagerness to do so if Iran does not stop enriching uranium….
- “But there are three compelling reasons that the United States itself should carry out the bombings. First, the Pentagon’s weapons are better than Israel’s at destroying buried facilities. Second, unlike Israel’s relatively small air force, the United States military can discourage Iranian retaliation by threatening to expand the bombing campaign. (Yes, Israel could implicitly threaten nuclear counter-retaliation, but Iran might not perceive that as credible.) Finally, because the American military has global reach, air strikes against Iran would be a strong warning to other would-be proliferators.”
HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- Netanyahu woos Livni — Prime minister invites Kadima chairwoman to join government in light of current security situation. ‘I made a serious offer and I expect a serious answer,’ he says. Livni: “If offer’s genuine than it’s something to consider’
- Livni’s Kadima party faces breakup as at least 6 MKs vow to leave and join Netanyahu’s Likud
- Netanyahu likens his offer to Livni to join his government in the run-up to possible war with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to Menachem Begin’s decision to join the Labor government in 1967 — “She’ll come in as minister without portfolio,” he told Haaretz, “like [Menachem] Begin in 1967,” in the run-up to the Six-Day War.
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