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Situation in Iran has changed

July 27, 2008|By ROBERT GARY

Some time back I wrote that the national intelligence estimate saying that Iran was several years away from being able to make a nuclear device was probably correct and should be trusted to guide us in our actions. The facts have changed. So, my mind has changed on that topic and here's why.

The freeze-for-freeze offer in which Iran stops enriching for six weeks and the West stops seeking new sanctions for six weeks is an offer that a nation seeking only civilian power plants would accept.

Another round of sanctions on Iran would truly isolate them and be punitive in its effect, not just on the people, but on the government as well. It might even put the government in jeopardy from the people's wrath or from the general disorder in the country.

Only a nation seeking to break out and pursue a nuclear weapon would feel that a six week delay in the enrichment process would be unacceptable. The reason is that in a breakout Iran is in a race against time, they have to actually get the nuclear device before outsiders can get clear and convincing proof that the Security Council will accept showing the intent of the Iranian nuclear program.

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There are dozens of Pakistani technicians, some of whom worked for the A.Q. Khan bomb building effort. These people also worked on a proliferation program, which included a reactor in Syria destroyed by the Israeli Air Force. So keeping the secret is really a race against time, and one in which six weeks could make the difference between winning and losing. By the time the Iranians are shown to be liars, they might have a nuclear device.

The behavior of the Iranians at the negotiating table indicates that our national intelligence estimate was incorrect - they are breaking out, that's why six weeks matters - that's why they won't stop enriching, no matter what we offer them. Gaseous diffusion plants are expensive and complicated to turn off and on, but centrifuges, like Iran has, are not. Those could be shut down for six weeks very easily, and started up again, if that became appropriate.

It is a common error to believe that we are stretched so thinly in Iraq and Afghanistan that we could not possibly afford to attack and destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. But we use very few B-2s in Iraq and Afghanistan. This mission would not require any new boots on the ground. Getting rid of Iran's nuclear capacity would be a 72-hour sortie involving eight aviators in two planes. They would most likely be able to do the job with minimal time in Iranian airspace. They would be invisible.

The job here is to take Iran back to about a 10 percent progress toward a bomb. This means taking out about two thirds of the facilities they now have - we don't have to take out every single one. Our 2,000 pound bunker-busters could put Iran at the 10 percent level in very short order. That's the mission.

But the military significance of the mission emerges only when we say that it is the policy of the U.S. that Iran is governed by an illegitimate regime of pirates who have been in a continuous state of war with the U.S. and Israel since 1979 and who shall not be permitted to acquire nuclear technology or nuclear materials for any reason, on any basis, to any substantial degree. Accordingly, whenever Iran's nuclear capacity exceeds 50 percent of the capacity required to make a nuclear device, it will be taken down to the 10 percent level by surgical airstrikes. We will do this as many times as necessary, whenever it is necessary, and without further warning.

We don't do it for legal reasons, we do it for reasons of state. We don't seek anybody's permission. We don't need to win a law case in order to implement our policy. If Iran wants to be free of our bombs from the air, it can simply cease and desist from its nuclear efforts. We have no territorial ambitions in Iran, we don't want anything from them. We recognize them as an area ruled by criminally insane persons, so they have no diplomatic status with the U.S. They deserve asylum and humane professional treatment, not a nuclear program.

Sometimes it's hard for Americans to remember that Dr. Ahmedinejad was personally involved in the hostage taking at the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Since then he has become the president of Iran, who has declared that the Holocaust never occurred and that Israel should be wiped off the map. He has run the Iran Revolutionary Kuds Force, which is a terrorist organization, that has supplied explosively formed penetrators to fighters in Iraq. These advanced roadside bombs have killed or maimed dozens of U.S. soldiers and Marines. He has provided technical knowledge and money to Hezbollah and Hamas, thus keeping the Lebanon and the Gaza in a continuous state of turmoil and homicidal activity against innocents. These are the behaviors of a criminally insane person who deserves an orange jumpsuit and a place of quiet asylum, not a visit from the third ranking diplomat at the U.S. State Department.

The sort of crude device the Iranians are probably seeking would not have to be smaller than a shipping container. In a busy U.S. harbor, it could kill half a million Americans in a single day. We don't need to win law cases in the U.N. to prevent that from happening. Excellent policy has but two criteria: (1) necessity and (2) sufficiency.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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