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In fact, the IAEA report has now brought the Iranian problem to a crisis level. CNN quotes one expert, Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst with The Century Foundation, who believes that a “dangerous turning point” has been reached:
“I think the only move is to have some sort of dialogue with Iran. Whether over Afghanistan or over its nuclear program, the parties have to come back to the negotiating table,” she said. “Because the silence is very dangerous. Also, the Iranians, I believe, really believe that there could be an attack now, and they feel completely under siege.”
“Historically, the way Iran reacts to pressure is more aggression,” and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made clear he reacts that way as well, Abdo said.
The US would lead the effort for an additional round of sanctions at the UN, but most diplomats hold out little hope that they would alter Iran’s path. Instead, the Obama administration may go it alone or engage its friends and allies in imposing their own, tougher sanctions on Iran. But the same problems present themselves in such a multi-lateral effort; Russia and China would ignore the restrictions and continue to trade with Tehran. One possible target might be the Iranian central bank that deals with other international banks around the world. Restricting Iran’s access to foreign capital would cause the regime some difficulty in the import-export sector.
Despite clear evidence that sanctions won’t stop Tehran from developing a weapon, they will be tried because the alternative — military action — would only delay Iran’s drive for a bomb for three years at most. That’s been a consistent assessment from the Pentagon and CIA for three years now. And an invasion coupled with regime change would have very little support in the US, as well as giving no guarantee that the next Iranian regime wouldn’t pursue nuclear weapons as well. Also, the sites that would be targeted are spread out all over the country and many are underground and hidden.
The Israeli air force would have a difficult mission if it were tasked with bombing Iranian nuclear sites. Difficult – but not impossible. The flights would necessarily be long, with some of the flight path over the territory of states not likely to grant overflight permission. Would the US assist the Israelis by taking out Iranian air defenses, or perhaps even join in a strike on the nuclear sites? If the Israelis is going to go ahead and bomb Iran, there are some who believe we may as well assist them because Iran is going to blame us anyway. More likely, any US administration will do all in its power to dissuade the Israelis from striking. The consequences from skyrocketing oil prices, to probable proxy attacks on our troops and bases in the region would not be worth the small gain in time — if any time is to be gained at this point — in delaying the Iranian quest for a bomb.
The options are all unacceptable — but so is Iran getting the bomb.
This suggests the nearly unthinkable: would Israel use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities? The idea has been examined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) who said in a report that “some believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels.” Israel, which denies it possesses nuclear weapons, would almost certainly refrain from using them — unless it felt it had no choice and that Iran was preparing a strike against the country.
Whatever Israel decides, it will be soon. The IAEA report clearly shows that time has run out and the world is faced with a stark choice: try to delay or destroy the Iranian nuclear program or learn to live with a nuclear Iran.
Both options carry with them great risk and little or no reward.
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