Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Iran Raid

Two RAND analysts have researched and written a fairly thorough and comprehensible report published in the International Security periodical on the feasibility of an Israeli strike against the nuclear infrastructure of Iran. It overtly avoids the issue of justification limiting itself to establishing whether it could be done.

Their answer is YES and at no greater mission risk than the fabled 1981 raid on Saddam's Osirak reactor. It's 27 pages but fairly straightforward and pleasantly unencumbered by jargon.

The key takeaways:

1. The key Iranian targets are, in order of importance:
- the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz
- the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan
- the heavy water and plutonium reactors under construction at Arak

2. The much more distributed and hardened targets in Iran vs. Osirak seems to be roughly counterbalanced by new bunker busting ordnance.

3. It is a much further distance to the key nuclear sites in Iran than it was to Iraq and each of three conceivable routes would involve in-flight refueling of the Israeli fighter-bombers.

Their conclusion:

"It does seem to indicate, however, that the IAF (Israeli Air Force), after years of modernization, now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence...The operation would appear to be no more risky than Israel's 1981 attack of Iraq's Osirak reactor, and it would provide at least as much benefit in terms of delaying Iranian development of nuclear weapons."

The political price of a strike is likely to be grievious though the United States would likely at least abstain from a Security Council condemnation. However the price of inaction may well be Tel Aviv. Or Washington. They are those who will make the argument that Israel cannot hope to hold back technology forever. Perhaps not, (though it worked quite well with Saddam) but the relevant question is whether preventing this militantly Islamist regime from possessing one for a significant period is worthwhile. The answer to that is a resounding yes.

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