Bomb Tehran Today or Be Bombed Tomorrow?

[San Francisco Chronicle] Bennett Ramberg - History records applications of military force to thwart nuclear proliferation. To beat Hitler, the U.S. and Britain not only bombed a nuclear-related heavy-water plant in German-occupied Norway, but determined to destroy or capture all elements of the atomic enterprise in the defeat of the Third Reich. Nearly four decades later, Iran's air force attacked Iraq's Osirak reactor in September 1980. The following year, Israel finished the job, setting back Baghdad's nuclear program by a decade. Washington's 2003 foray into Iraq put a stake into a nuclear cadaver that had succumbed years earlier, the result of the search-and-destroy activities of international inspectors following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The risks of thwarting Iran's nuclear ambition pale by comparison to what could occur were the revolutionary regime to get The Bomb. While Israel could inflict second-strike devastation on Iran, its survival instinct will never leave its fate in the hands of a nation that calls for its extinction and has the capacity to launch an atomic first strike. This portent leaves the U.S., the most capable country to contest Iran, with its own stark choice in the event it or others cannot resurrect effective diplomacy: destroy Tehran's nuclear capacity today with conventional air strikes, accepting the probability of significant oil market and terrorist disruption, or assume the risk of a regional nuclear holocaust resulting in far more dramatic energy and Middle East political turmoil tomorrow. The writer served in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the administration of George H. W. Bush.

2006-09-07 01:00:00

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