Patrick Disney Describes The Day After the US Bombs Iran

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.

Disney writes:

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.

He continues:

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.

Disney concludes:

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.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. To my knowledge Patrick Disney possesses no particular expertise on military matters. It’s purely speculative on his part to say that a full-blown invasion and ocupation is the “only military option.” Nor is it easy to say just what would happen in the aftermath of a successful bombing of all the nuclear sites. Would Iran rebuild them? I’d say it depends on the cost. What if we destroyed the sites and announced that we would bomb them again at the first sign of new construction? The regime would just go ahead anyway? Who can say?

    Personally, I agree that a U.S. attack would set back the Iranian democracy movement. But do we know that with certainty? We don’t. The other side, which claims an attack would help the Greens, has a greater burden of proof (which they can’t meet) because their policy calls for killing people. Nevertheless, we can’t know for sure how Iran would be affected internally by an attack. I’m pretty sure it would unite the populace behind the regime, but even the experts can’t be certain.

    What I’m trying to say is that just because someone writes something that we agree with, it doesn’t necessarily advance the argument. The piece’s major points amount to little more than speculation.

    Before other commenters attack me just let me say that I am 100% against military action to destroy or hinder the Iranian nuclear program. I regard the program as no threat to America, even with the bad state of relations between the two countries. I believe in a U.S.-Iranian strategic partnership, and would be prepared to offer far-reaching enticements to achieve this. I have written to this effect many times here and elsewhere.

  2. There’s no reason to think that the US High command wouldn’t be perfectly happy to crush Iran with a massive bombing campaign and then just keep rebombing on a regular basis, as they did to Iraq, only more ruthlessly.

  3. Disney is correct. A full blown invasion is indeed the only military option – not if you want to just stop what the US knows is a NON-EXISTENT nuclear weapons program – but in fact if you want regime change, it IS necessary.

    The reality is that the entire Iranian “crisis” is full-blown out of nothing. Forty countries have nuclear energy programs which are in the exact same state Iran is – signatories to the NPT but no Additional Protocol and therefore no way for the IAEA to “verify” any “non-peaceful activities”. Iran adhered to the Additional Protocol for 2 years and got nothing but its file referred to the UN Security Council in violation of NPT regulations. Iran suspended enrichment for a long time and got nothing in return but more accusations.

    Just like Iraq, the US intent on first imposing sanctions, then ratcheting up the rhetoric, then going to war for the benefit of Israel and the US military-industrial complex and the oil companies.

    Even in the case of a limited attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran can just keep moving and hardening those facilities for years until eventually the US would need to use nuclear weapons – not just conventional or even nuclear “bunker busters” – to take them out. It’s merely delaying what would be an inevitable escalation to full scale war.

    And all this for an Iranian nuclear weapons program that all 16 US intelligence agencies said stopped – if it ever existed – in 2003 and according to the latest testimony by senior intelligence analysts has not been restarted as of 2009.

    It’s a tragic farce. It’s also inevitable because the US public both believes the US government spin on this issue, according to polls, and no longer has ANY control over the actions of its government, which is owned and operated by the most corrupt corporations in history.

    Until the military-industrial complex is dismantled, the US will remain in permanent war forever – or until its non-military economy completely collapses.

  4. Attack on Iran will motivate every Iranian living Inside Iran and abroad to react.
    a) Attacking Americans in Iraq and Afghan
    b) Oil fields in Saudi and Iraq
    c) Missiles to Israel
    d) Strait of Hurmuz passing ships,
    e) Suicide bombers only more sophisticated including overseas.
    f) For sure building nuclear bomb and strong enough to first strike when the times right.
    Theocratic Iran will be more and every Iranian will say good by to democracy.
    Iran is not Iraq and certainly not Afghanistan.
    Thousands year of pride and history Iran will not submit and most likely USA and Israel will learn hard way.
    I hope I am wrong on this.

  5. Everyone speaks on what is better to do:to bomb or to invade.But everyone have to begin that the first or the second will be a crime of great proportion.It is a crime event to speak about war and to speculate and looking for motives to make war.Already Iran is punished by sanctions,is demonized,her leader are not heard.the proposals they did and were concreted in a treat with Brazil and Turkey are disparaged and called tricks.Never in history an aggressor (Israel and US)didn’t show a such level of hubris ,insolence,irrationality and of course perfidy playing that they are the threaten part of this unbelievable campaign of lies.

Comments are closed.