Monday, November 15, 2004

Condi War Games Iran

Condoleeza Rice has her work cut out for her.

Not only does she have to preside over the stabilization of Iraq, jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian Road Map for Peace (sic), prevent North Korea from obtaining more nukes, and insure that China and Taiwan don't lob missiles at each other, she's going to have to deal with European car envy.

But one issue needs to take priority. And the options aren't reassuring.

Iran is embarked in a effort to enrich 37 tons of uranium, and it is resisting IAEA efforts to regulate their efforts. In addition, the Iranians announced that it had missiles capable of hitting targets 1,250 miles away, reaching well past Israel into Europe as well as to India. The image of the crazy mullahs with intercontinental, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles is enough to make you rush out to see this.

James Fallows, editor of the Atlantic magazine, anticipated this geopolitical minefield and assembled a team of political and military experts to war game a scenario in which U.S. intelligence determines that Iran nuclear capabilities are imminent.

The war game panel reached some tentative conclusions: 1) An Israeli pre-emptive strike was likely to fail and the political and military costs would be too high, 2) A U.S.-led pre-emptive air strike to take out Iran's nuclear facilities was also likely to, at best, only delay Iran's eventual nuclear capabilities, and 3) a full-scale invasion for regime-change, while technically feasible, would likely result in a U.S. military presence stretched too thin given the span of its responsibilities in the Mid East. A "lite" option of punitively striking Iranian Revolutionary Guard units was deemed feasible, but not of itself able to turn back their march to nuclear capability.

Fallows, a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter (not a career-enhancing item on one's resume) doesn't address other options: 1) full-scale covert operation to de-stabilize the regime and assist the bubbling pro-western, counter-revolutionary movement, and 2) holding a nuclear-capable Iran to account for any future nuclear terror attack on the U.S., whereby we, in advance, would assume that Iran was responsible for instigating any such attack and would therefore be our first (nuclear) counterstrike.

The mullahs are desperately holding on to their state power, and a U.S. policy of nuclear retaliation could provide a deterrent effect with respect to their terrorist-supporting activities. It might also enlist them to police the dissemination of their weapons and materials. This approach would have to be accompanied by total sanctions (including a blockade) to insure that their capabilities do not grow.

Short of these options, we're back to building a missile defense shield and aggressive diplomacy. Given France's opposition to Security Council sanctions on Iran, Condi has a monumental task in front of her. Maybe she could accidentally roll over Jacques Chirac with an SUV.