Not so very long ago, open discussions of a possible Israeli or American attacks on Iran’s nuclear military and civilian infrastructure would have seemed beyond the realm of reality. But in today’s super-heated climate of hysteria and fearmongering over Iran’s nuclear program, talk of launching a war that could engulf the region and create an ecological catastrophe is considered matter of fact.
There is still no hard proof that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to produce nuclear arms. Tehran claims its program, the proudest emblem of national modernization, is entirely designed for energy generation as oil reserves are beginning to decline.
U.S. intelligence and UN inspectors report that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. But given that its neighbors possess such weapons, why wouldn’t it? Even Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, wondered aloud why Iran would not seek such arms. The United States has recently aided India’s nuclear-weapons program.
Israeli Capabilities and Targets
Israel, according to former president Jimmy Carter, has some three hundred nuclear devices in its arsenal, capable of being delivered by medium-ranged ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles and aircraft with standoff missiles. Two of Israel’s three German-supplied “Dolphin-class” submarines carrying nuclear-armed missiles are reportedly stationed off Iran’s coast, providing an invulnerable second-strike capability for the Jewish state. Any Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would result in Iran being vaporized.
Still, Israel’s right-wing Likud Party may actually intend to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, just as Israel attacked Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities to preserve its Mideast nuclear monopoly. Whipping up a crisis over Iran also serves to deflect attention from the unresolved question of Palestine and from Israel’s growing social and economic problems.
Israel’s potential target list in Iran is clear. At least twelve major nuclear or nuclear-related sites would have to be struck to seriously damage Iran’s nuclear program, some of which is buried deep underground. Leading targets include the aboveground heavy-water/reactor facility at Arak; reactors at Bushehr (a civilian power reactor relying on Russian-supplied fuel), the new underground enrichment facility near Qum at Fordow, the ore conversion plants near Isfahan, and other facilities at Qazvin, Damghan, Tabriz, Lavizan, Chalus, Darkhovin and Parchin.
As threats of as Israeli attack have grown in recent years, Iran has dispersed, hardened and buried its newer nuclear facilities. The new plant at Fordow, for example, is believed to be buried 260 feet under granite. This may be too hard and too deep for even a brace of U.S. monster thirty-thousand-pound MOP bombs to penetrate or crush. Israel has no aircraft that can carry such a huge load, which was designed for the U.S. B-2 stealth bomber.
Curiously, as war fever grips the United States and Israel, few have raised the question of the enormous dangers involved in bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Repercussions of an Attack
Destroying Iran’s many reactors and processing facilities could release large amounts of radiation and create radioactive dust storms. Winds would carry this toxic miasma over Afghanistan and its large U.S. military garrison. Dangerous radiation would also extend to Pakistan, western India, Iraq, Kuwait and to the Gulf, where large numbers of U.S. military personnel are based. Equally ominous, radioactive dust could blanket oil fields in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. High-altitude winds would spread radioactivity around the globe, as occurred at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, but at a factor of twenty times or more.
Israeli attacks by air and commando units could damage or delay development of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but the Jewish state lacks the power to permanently destroy it. Israel also fears some of its pilots will be captured and put on show trial. So Israel is straining every sinew to get Washington to do the job. The Pentagon has estimated it will need to strike at least 3,200 targets in Iran, including nuclear facilities, air and naval bases, military production plants, headquarters, communications hubs, missile bases, Gulf ports, and that reliable catchall, “command-and-control facilities.” And this is just in the first wave of strikes.
Air and missile strikes as well as special forces raids would have to continue for weeks, perhaps months. Air wars generate their own “mission creep” as new targets are discovered or old ones moved around. Power stations and high voltage lines, civilian airports, truck plants, radio and TV stations, intelligence headquarters—all will be added to the hit list.
During the first Iraq war, U.S. forces even destroyed many of Iraq’s sewage-treatment and water-purification plants, leading to epidemics of water-borne diseases. Iran could expect the same punitive treatment.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was a war hero and highly decorated officer of Iran’s special forces during the Iran-Iraq War. He was credited with many successful missions deep behind Iraqi lines. Iran’s tough special forces will launch ground attacks on U.S. units and bases in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Kuwait and down the Gulf to Oman. Such raids may force the United States to send Marines, then regular ground troops into Iran to forestall attacks.