Is Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran a Real Alternative?

If the US strikes Iran, the anti-Iran coalition will collapse

permanent five unsc

Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 negotiating group responsible for Iran talks (from left): British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, American Secretary of State John Kerry, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

8850-Munch-The-ScreamAirstrikes could destroy what has been a key constraint on Iran’s nuclear program: the system of international inspections and sanctions that are currently in place.

European and particularly Asian countries have given the US strategy much of its force by helping to isolate and sanction Iran; that is what compelled Iran to negotiate and agree to make concessions in the first place. If the US attacked Iran, the international community would surely be appalled and abandon its support for sanctioning and isolating Iran, leaving the country wealthier and in a stronger diplomatic position. And that’s just the start.

“U.S. relations with Russia have gone sufficiently south, and the U.S. attack against Iran itself would be sufficiently destabilizing, that we can almost surely expect Russia to militarily support Iran in the form of aircraft and air defense systems,” Farley writes.

aca4“Moreover, if Russia opens up the Iranian defense market, we can expect China to follow. The sanctions regime cannot survive a U.S. attack on Iran.”

That would cripple any serious attempt to prevent Iran from rebuilding its nuclear program. “To prevent Iran from reconstituting its nuclear program after a strike, the United States would have to be prepared to encircle an even more hostile adversary with a costly containment regime — much like the 12-year effort to bottle up Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War — and be prepared to re-attack at a moment’s notice,” Georgetown University‘s Colin Kahl told Congress in 2012 testimony.

aca5“In the absence of clear evidence that Iran was dashing for a bomb,” Kahl testified, “a US strike risks shattering international consensus, making postwar containment more difficult to implement. And with inspectors gone, it would be much harder to detect and prevent Iran’s clandestine rebuilding efforts.”

Striking Iran, then, wouldn’t be Tom Cotton’s “several-day” endeavor. It wouldn’t stop Iran’s nuclear program unless the United States committed to more or less permanent war with Iran, if it even did it then. And it would likely have devastating consequences for the US and its allies.

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