Patrick Disney, the former Assistant Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council, has written a great piece responding to Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon’s Washington Post op-ed, which Tony Karon described as “a ‘how-to-bomb Iran’ manual.”
(Ali discussed the increasingly hawkish rhetoric coming out of the Council on Foreign Relations in his blog post Monday.)
Disney’s critical analysis of Takeyh and Simon’s article concludes that a bombing campaign of the type proposed by the CFR scholars would have disastrous effects.
First, there is no military option short of a full-blown invasion and occupation. Even if all of Iran’s nuclear facilities can be located, and even if they can all be destroyed with surgical air strikes, the ruling hardliners will just rebuild them — only this time without the contraints of the IAEA.
Indeed, no proposed air strike would permanently destroy Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions and would probably exacerbate already tense U.S.-Iran and Iran-Israel relations.
Secondly, and most disappointingly, Takeyh and Simon’s analysis totally ignores the devastating impact an attack would have on the long-term prospect of democracy in Iran. Iranians last summer took to the streets in the most passionate outbreak of popular dissatisfaction since the 1979 revolution. Those who know their history viewed the events of last year as the latest step in Iran’s democratic evolution — a process that began over 100 years ago with the constitutional revolution of 1906. Although the street protests have died down and the democracy movement is in some disarray, it is clearly still a factor in Iran. Unfortunately, dropping bombs on Iran now is the surest way to uproot any hope for peaceful democratic change in the country. The hardliners will most likely use an act of foreign aggression as justification for a brutal crackdown, and the focus of political discourse will shift away from questions of internal reforms and regime legitimacy toward external threats and the need to rally the nation’s defenses.
While Takeyh and Simon may have the luxury of discussing their hypothetical best-case scenarios for bombing Iran, Disney draws a believably dismal picture of what a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities might bring.
An Iranian regime which has quit the IAEA, crushed its domestic opposition and turned its nuclear program into a symbol of avenging the countless deaths from an Israeli or American air strike is a frightening thought, but one which — no thanks to alarmists such as Takeyh and Simon — could become a reality.
With the anti-Iran rhetoric at a fever pitch in Washington, it’s easy to forget sometimes just how remote of a threat Iran’s nuclear program actually is. According to numerous unclassified assessments by the U.S. Intelligence Community, Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear bomb, and the US and international community still has time to convince them not to. The three to five years an attack would gain now will most certainly not be worth the cost it would incur: a non-democratic Iran with an overt nuclear weapons program and a vendetta against Western powers who attacked it.