US, Israel and the Iran question

By Gong Shaopeng
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 10, 2010
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Speculation has been rife for some time now over a possible US and/or Israel attack on Iran to stop its nuclear program. But an attack on Iran will certainly not be a simple mission.

For one, too many targets in Iran have to be attacked to stop its nuclear program. An Oxford Research Group (ORG) report, issued in July, classifies the targets into six categories: uranium enrichment plants, the Esfahan uranium conversion facility, nuclear research and development sites, factories making supportive equipment, military bases with missiles, and physics, engineering and related university departments and their employees.

Since the targets are spread over Teheran, Natanz, Tabriz and Esfahan, it would be very difficult to carry out military strikes on them simultaneously. And even if attacks are carried out simultaneously, the US or Isarel cannot avoid deaths and injuries to a huge number of civilians.

ORG has also said that if attacked, Iran would respond in every which way it could, including withdrawing from the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty under the provisions of Article X, that is, "extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty that have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country". It could make Iran accord greater priority to nuclear weapons' development, too, to deter future attacks.

Among other options, ORG says, Iran could launch counterattacks on Israel and the US forces in Iraq, block the Straits of Hormuz to disrupt oil shipments which would shoot up oil prices, egg Lebanon's Hezbollah to attack Israel and provide help to Iraqi and Afghan resistance fighters.

ORG concludes that such an attack would lead to a sustained conflict and regional instability. Hence, military action against Iran should be ruled out as a means of dashing its nuclear ambitions, if any.

The fact, however, is that even though the parties in the current Israeli coalition government differ on many major domestic and international issues, they are unanimous over launching an attack on Iran, especially its nuclear facilities.

Israel destroyed Iraq's experimental Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, preventing it from taking the "plutonium route to nuclear weapons". Hawkish Israeli leaders may use this example as a precedent for "denuclearizing" Iran by force. And though Israeli planes have to cross Iraq to reach Iran, Tel-Aviv can use F-15I Ra'am (Thunder), F-16I Sufa (Storm) strike aircraft and KC-707 Re'em refueling planes to attack all the Iranian nuclear facilities.

But even if Israel chooses to attack Iran, its planes have to cross the airspace over northeast Iraq, which is controlled by the US.

True, the Barack Obama administration reportedly has no plans to use military force against Iran and has stopped Israel from doing so, its policy has been challenged recently. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Aug 1 that the US had drawn up a plan to prevent Iran from making or acquiring nuclear weapons. The military options have been on the table and will remain on the table, he asserted.

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