This consensus is emerging, here’s a summary.
1. The Mullah’s Can’t Be Allowed To Go Nuclear
This is taken for granted by the Israelis, and John Bolton has just articulated the logic, possibly for the administration.
The EU pols who gave the Mullahs time to manufacture their Uranium Hexafluoride did not reflect Euro-sentiment – the recent poll on antisemitism showed Euros are overwhelmingly concerned at Iran’s development of nukes.
2. But We Should Wait A Bit
There are three interacting justifications for this – “Iran wants to be bombed”, “Sanctions can work”, and “Wait for a bigger target”.
Iran wants to be bombed:
All the blather from some circles in the U.S. about an imminent attack on Iran only plays into the hands of the Islamic radicals who control the government there.
It works like this. If we don’t attack, they’ll cite their readiness to defend themselves as having successfully deterred the “Great Satan.” If we do attack, the Iranian radicals can cry about being beaten up by the Great Satan, and rally the country (which generally despises their clerical rulers).
This is why most of the talk about the U.S. attacking Iran is coming from Iran.
Sanctions can work:
The hope is to trigger a popular revolution that deposes the Mullahs. That’s improbable (this is a Fear State), but not impossible – in spite of its oil revenues, Iran gets ever more awful for its citizens.
Wait for a bigger target:
This involves waiting until they’ve spent all their money on a weapons-grade centrifuge farm, then destroying it. The (untrustworthy) UN and NYT say the the farm at Natanz just reached 1,300, but the Mullahs need 5,000 to 10,000 to get multiple bombs
The Israelis, who care a lot about this detail, will know best how big it is and how big it can get before it needs to be hit.
Destroying it (and two other key plants) is technically easy but operationally hard.
The easy bit is the centrifuges, which are incredibly delicate – they spin so fast that even a spot of grease causes them to disintegrate. So just one kinetic or HE weapon hitting the farm will wreck the lot. And they cost a lot and use precious materials, so will take many years to replace.
The US Could Do The Job, But Probably Won’t
This suggests the US will strike before the end of the president’s term.
But that ignores Congress (Dems and RINOs), which has been carefully stripping missile defense and kinetic weapons out of the Pentagon budget.
That’s because the last thing they want is the hated Bush to go out on an achievement even the Europeans will applaud.
The Israelis Will Do It
There’s a paper on their airstrike options here. It suggests a package of 25 F15Is and 25 F16Is using sequenced bombing for penetration.
In the latter, one bomb quickly is followed by another in the same spot to break into bunkers. Even for laser guided bombs, the debris plume from the first hit wouldn’t deflect the second bomb, since once its laser seeker sees the target it locks on.
The Israelis could also use submarine-launched cruise missiles.
Even with heavy losses, the Israelis can be pretty certain of taking out the Mullahs’ 3 big facilities – their Isfahan Uranium Hexafluoride plant, their Natanz centrifuge farms, and their Arak heavy water reactor site.
But What Then?
There’s no consensus yet, but I suspect the damage will be limited.
Iran would probably never be able to rebuild its program – as the world rushes away from oil, they’ll just get poorer.
The Mullahs heave threatened retaliation, but there’s not much more to hurt us that they aren’t already doing
Of course there would be an oil price spike, but since a sustained hike would just accelerate the world’s move away from oil, the other suppliers would do everything they could to bring prices down.
They could maybe gas Tel Aviv, but that would justify an Israeli nuclear strike against Tehran, which would be bad news for the Mullahs:
“a nation like Iran–with so much of its economy, culture, and government concentrated in Tehran and a few other cities, might prove to be far more vulnerable to the forces Israel could develop than Israel would be to the forces Iran could hope to deploy”
And they could get Hezbollah and Hamas to attack again – but this time, the Israelis will be waiting.
If they invade Iraq with conventional forces, the US will destroy them.
They’re already full throttle on terror attacks, though they would probably try to surge them. But that will expose their terror networks to our security forces.
In summary, provided the tiny state of Israel does the dirty work, it’s likely the Mullahs will never get to threaten the world with nukes.