The Buzz

Hard Truths on Tehran

The Economist of London knows how to speak with bluntness when bluntness is needed. That’s what the magazine did in its latest issue, dated February 25. The cover “leader” opens with the headline and subhead: “Bombing Iran: Nobody should welcome the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. But bombing the place is not the answer.”

Here are some declarations from the piece:

· “If Iran is intent on getting a bomb, an attack would delay but not stop it.”

· “[The] costs of a strike [in terms of Iranian retaliatory action] are easy to overstate, but even supposing they were high they might be worth paying if a strike looked like working. It does not.”

· “Even if all its sites are hit, Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be bombed out of existence.”

· “Perhaps, if limited bombing is not enough, America should be aiming for an all-out aerial war, or even regime change. Yet a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated where that leads.”

· “The regime in Tehran is divided and it has lost the faith of its people. Eventually, popular resistance will spring up as it did in 2009.”

· “Is there a danger that Iran will get a nuclear weapon before that happens? Yes, but bombing might only increase the risk.”

· “Short of occupation, the world cannot eliminate Iran’s capacity to gain the bomb.”

The Economist leader acknowledges with clear-headed realism that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a real menace, and the civilized world should do everything it can, within the context of a fair chance of success, to prevent that. But, if the world can’t prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it can only change its will to possess one. “Just now,” says the magazine, “that is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.”

With all the war talk swirling around Washington these days, this analytical counterargument is a welcome antidote. It’s a smart piece of writing.