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February 12, 2006
Getting Serious With Iran?

According to the London Telegraph, the United States has begun serious planning for a military strike on Iran that will incapacitate its nuclear program. This game-planning appears more serious than just a normal update of security options, and the revelation of the planning will most likely create a further polarization of the mullahcracy from the rest of the diplomatic world:

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic's nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."

The prospect of military action could put Washington at odds with Britain which fears that an attack would spark violence across the Middle East, reprisals in the West and may not cripple Teheran's nuclear programme. But the steady flow of disclosures about Iran's secret nuclear operations and the virulent anti-Israeli threats of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has prompted the fresh assessment of military options by Washington. The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refuelling.

The Democrats have recently taken up the argument that Iran poses the worst national-security threat in the world at the moment, and that has allowed the White House much more room to consider military options. Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton both have called for immediate action to keep Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, although the latter has been more vague about the action requested. Politically, it would appear that George Bush has enough bipartisan clearance -- I wouldn't call it support -- to launch a limited strike on Iran that targeted known nuclear facilities, at least domestically.

What would the international reaction be? Had Ahmedinejad not gone public with his genocidal rants about Israel, Bush would have immediately isolated himself. Even Britain would probably have declined to openly support such an attack, no matter what the pre-emptive value might be. However, with the Iranian leadership regularly issuing such hostile and irrational statements, along with its long history of supporting Islamofascist terrorism, that may no longer be the case. Certainly we would damage our relationship with Russia and China, but since they have proven rather useless in the war on terror (especially China), the loss may not be terribly significant. Western Europe can be counted on to object, but Eastern Europe will understand that they live within easy range of the Shahab-3 rockets at the mullah's command. They may not cheer the decision, but they will understand it.

All of that aside, will that bring us closer to our goal of democracy throughout Southwest Asia? It's doubtful. Iran has a large population that wants closer ties to America and more openness and freedom in Iran. They do not want America to invade Iran to bring it to them, but they want the support and assistance needed to overthrow the mullahcracy. Bombing their nation will do more to inflame anti-American sentiment than to bolster the democrats. I'm afraid, and we may lose a golden opportunity to inspire yet another velvet revolution.

The bombing plans may serve to push the Iranian democrats into action; if so, then they will have served their best purpose. The US may be signalling the activists that the time has come to rise up and topple the regime -- and if they can't, we will take the steps necessary to ensure that the mullahs' evil remains within Iranian borders from now on.

As our good friend Michael Ledeen often pleads .... faster, please.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 12, 2006 2:44 PM

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