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April 18, 2006
Lieberman: Iran Strikes A Possibility

Senator Joe Lieberman told the Jerusalem Post in an interview to be released on Friday that he considers military strikes on nuclear sites in Iran a possibility and an option that must remain on the table. David Horovitz reports that the sole member of the Scoop Jackson wing of the Senate says that Congress holds little hope that the UN will do anything to stop Iran's drive for nuclear weapons:

The US is probably incapable of completely destroying the Iranian nuclear program, but as a last resort it could attempt to knock out "some of the components" in order to "delay and deter it," Senator Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate and a serving member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has told The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking at a time of almost daily declarations from Teheran concerning both progress in the nuclear program and hostility to Israel, Lieberman said he knew of no "set war plans" being drawn up by the Bush Administration and, "I don't think anyone's yearning for military action against Iran."

Nonetheless, he said, there was skepticism in Congress about the likelihood of the UN Security Council taking "economic or diplomatic action." As a next step, that left the option of an "economic coalition of the willing," outside the UN framework, to try and deter the Iranians. And failing that, the only two remaining courses of action were intensified efforts "to encourage the reformist and opposition elements in Iran" to the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a resort to military force, he said.

Military action was "probably the last choice, but it has to be there," stressed Lieberman, who has been visiting Israel over the Pessah festival. He said there was now "active discussion" of the options for such action.

So far, Lieberman has expressed the most rational description of the options and their desirability yet expressed from Congress. The military option should be a last resort after all other choices have failed, but in order to put pressure on Iran, it does have to remain in play. Lieberman is also correct when he says that the US military cannot knock out the entire nuclear program pursued by Teheran, at least not short of an Iraq-style invasion. That would prove entirely impractical for the reasons listed by John Aravosis at Americablog: Iran covers an area three times the size of Iraq and has about 2 1/2 times Iraq's population.

However, the complete destruction of the program really isn't necessary, especially since Iran outsourced so much of its development. A strike on the site holding the centrifuge cascades would set their program back at least a decade, and without an AQ Khan to provide new models, perhaps even longer than that. It can't hide its development program as it did during the 1990s, not after the revelations of the past two years. The destruction of a few key sites might put an end to the issue.

Do I really want to attack Iran? No, for two reasons. One, I would prefer we consolidate the situation in Iraq before pursuing any further military ventures. Our presence there puts significant pressure on Teheran anyway, and we can always maneuver our troops in a manner which underscores our ability to exploit their borders. Second, military attacks would most likely alienate the moderate Iranians that would much prefer to see the mullahcracy fade into history. We can't afford to throw the goodwill of everyday Iranians away lightly. Lastly, the action would probably fatally damage the political fortunes of key allies in Britain and possibly Australia as well, which could wind up doing as much damage to our military posture as anything that Iran could do in the short run.

The best of all possible outcomes would have the world come together to isolate Iran diplomatically and economically until they buckled under the pressure and disarmed in the same manner as Libya. Unfortunately, that won't happen while Russia and China insist on the carrot-and-carrot approach. Both nations have not just opposed military action but also have said they will not support economic sanctions at all. That means that the UN offers no deterrent to Iranian nuclear ambitions other than a wagging finger and a strongly worded memo. Without any assistance from Britain and no diplomatic initiative from the UN, the Iranians know that any military effort on our part would likely never materialize. I find Lieberman's revelation of Turtle Bay skepticism in Congress the most optimistic development in the entire story.

Does that mean we have no options? Not really; like Lieberman says, if no other strategy can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we may have to go it alone -- truly, this time -- and protect our interests. However, a better option would be to increase the funding and support for pro-democracy dissidents in Iran, including the Pejak regardless of our agreements with Turkey regarding their association with the PKK. In truth, the most reliable manner of stopping nuclear proliferation and the funding of terrorists by Teheran will be the removal by popular revolt against the mullahcracy and their messianic puppet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It also will play into the yearning that Iranians have for better relations with the US and the West, rather than damage or kill that impulse.

Lieberman's interview shows that the US remains resolute in its intent to stop the Iranian nuclear program. We must communicate that resolve in order to make the mullahcracy -- and their subjects -- understand that we are serious. Hopefully, with our help, the Iranians themselves can resolve the nuclear standoff without a shot being fired or a bunker buster ever getting dropped.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 18, 2006 6:42 PM

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