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Out of options: Report says U.S. must prepare to strike Iran before 2013

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States must plan for a campaign to destroy
Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a leading think tank said.

The American Enterprise Institute stated that the United States is
unlikely to stop Iran’s nuclear program either through sanctions or
deterrence. As a result, the Washington-based institute said in a report
that the U.S. military must prepare attack options with coalition partners
before Iran turns into a nuclear power by 2013.

Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. /DigitalGlobe

“U.S. military planners must also consider the feasibility of
eliminating Iran’s nuclear retaliatory options in a single raid or
rapid-strike campaign given that Iran stands on the brink of developing not just a single weapon but a modest breakout capability for a more robust arsenal that would provide a survivable deterrent,” the report, titled “Questions For Strategy, Requirements For Military Forces,” said.

The report, released on Dec. 6, warned of the increasing diplomatic, strategic, and military cost to contain and deter Iran. AEI cited persistent U.S. counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency operations around Iran’s perimeter, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey.

“Such a deterrent posture is not only near or beyond the limits of
current U.S. forces — and we know of no substantial body of studies that
has analyzed in sufficient detail the requirements for a containment
posture — but also would certainly surpass the capabilities of the reduced
U.S. military that proposed budget cuts would produce,” the report said.

Authored by Thomas Donnelly, Danielle Pletka, and Maseh Zarif, the
report criticized the policy of President Barack Obama to focus on sanctions
and diplomacy against Iran. AEI determined that the embrace of “containment
and deterrence appears to be based primarily on an unwillingness to analyze
the risks and costs described.”

“Sound American strategy thus requires assuming that Iran will have a
weaponized nuclear capability when the next [U.S.] president takes office in
January 2013,” the report said. “The Iranians may not test a device before
then, depending, perhaps, on the rhetoric of the current president and his
possible successor, but we must assume that they will have at least one.”

AEI played down the effectiveness of any Israeli strike on Iran’s
nuclear facilities. The report said the biggest challenge for Israel was
whether it could destroy all of Iran’s underground and other secret nuclear
facilities.

“The Israeli Air Force can no doubt strike known facilities in Iran,
including the enrichment facility at Natanz,” the report said. “It can
likely destroy any above-ground structures and verify their
destruction. It may be able to destroy known buried structures, such as
those at Natanz, but verification may prove much more difficult.”

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