Would Obama Bomb Iran? – Matthew Kroenig (Spectator-UK)
(dailyalert.org, May 16, 2014)
What is worse: Iran with the Bomb or bombing Iran? Of course, we all hope that the negotiations will result in a lasting diplomatic accord that resolves the Iranian nuclear challenge once and for all. Yet we must also be realistic. Obama himself has estimated that the odds of a comprehensive deal are “no better than 50/50.” And his former weapons of mass destruction coordinator, Gary Samore, puts the chances closer to zero.
Moreover, the final settlement as currently envisioned would leave Iran only six months away from a nuclear breakout capability, severely tempting Tehran’s leaders to tear up the agreement (overtly or in secret) at a later date. In other words, it is still more likely than not that diplomacy will not work.
In a series of statements, beginning in March 2012, President Obama has declared that a nuclear-armed Iran “cannot be contained” and he is prepared to do “everything required,” including using military force, to keep Tehran from the Bomb. Make no mistake about it, the Pentagon has the capability to devastate Iran’s nuclear program. America’s newest bunker-busting bomb would make short work of even Iran’s most deeply buried and hardened nuclear facilities.
A U.S. strike would set Iran’s nuclear program back by a number of years at minimum and create a significant possibility that Iran could never acquire nuclear weapons. Of course, there are serious risks to a strike, but foreign policy often involves choosing between bad options and these risks must be compared with those of acquiescing to a nuclear-armed Iran.
As a special adviser on Iran policy in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2010 to 2011, I systematically compared these options (deterring and containing a nuclear-armed Iran or conducting a limited military strike on Iran’s key nuclear facilities). I showed how the two outcomes under consideration would affect about a dozen key U.S. national security interests.
The risks of a strike paled in comparison to the threats posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. At the end of a briefing to top political appointees and military brass at the Pentagon, the most senior official in the room looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, if you are right, this is a no-brainer.”
Some question whether President Obama is really willing to use force. Yet the President’s closest advisers insist that Iran is different. Obama is determined to make worldwide nuclear reductions a central part of his foreign policy legacy, and he understands that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is deeply antithetical to that vision.
The writer is associate professor of government at Georgetown.