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Attacking Iran not a credible option

Vahid Salemi | AP
Vahid Salemi | AP
Iranian students chant slogans and hold an anti-U.S. placard and a poster of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as they gather in front of the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in support of Iran's nuclear program, just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.


Some of the same war hawks who got into the long, needless, inconclusive but deadly war with Iraq are now clamoring for a military strike against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear bombs. This is a time for calm diplomatic and economic pressure, not war mongering.

Among the hot heads, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who opposes the scheduled U.S. withdrawal this year from Iraq, now wants an airstrike against Iran’s nuclear plants, military action to “neuter this regime,” destroy its air force, sink its navy and “go after the Revolutionary Guard and try to get people in the country to overthrow the regime.” Without it, “the world is going into darkness.”

The leading Republican presidential aspirants chimed in, usually with the threatening but essentially meaningless qualifiers “as a last resort” and “no option off the table.”

The Wall Street Journal posed a stark U.S. choice between military strikes and more of the same, while “more of the same means a nuclear Iran, possibly within a year.” Weighing that choice, the Journal’s editorial acknowledges the “dire consequences” of a preemptive strike but concludes that it would set back Iran’s nuclear progress by several years and would offer “the opportunity for Iran’s democratic forces to topple the regime without risking a wider conflagration.”

Have we really reached that point? The usual advice by the hawks is to just read the new report by the International Atomic Agency. Well, a close reading of the 14-page annex shows that it does express serious concerns about many details supplied by various intelligence sources about progress toward weapons production.

But the document is hardly the fire-eating warning that the war mongers describe. It is full of qualifiers like “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program and “strong indicators of possible weapon development.” It concludes mildly that it found the mass of intelligence reports to be “overall, credible.” It confirms that Iran halted its weaponization efforts in 2003 and says cautiously that “some activities may still be ongoing.” The report ventured no timetable and made no mention of the Journal’s “possibly within a year.”

Those who call for an airstrike by the U.S. or Israel seem oblivious to the facts of the matter. Iran is not Libya, which was hardly a pushover. Iran has 10 times the population of Libya, could react to an attack by closing the Persian Gulf to oil traffic and bring the global economy to its knees, as Gwynne Dyer put it in this newspaper. He noted, too, that “Iran is a partially democratic, technologically proficient state with no history of attacking its neighbors.” (He did not mention its various terrorist attacks.) Like the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, Israel, India and Pakistan, Iran wants the capability of building nuclear weapons.

The genie is long out of the bottle. Nukes are useless except as competitive safeguards. No nation would risk a nuclear World War III by firing a nuclear weapon.

War against Iran is no answer, any more than it was against the old Soviet Union. The best course is diplomacy and economic pressure, which has already shown results.

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