Unstoppable Iran: Is Military Action The Answer?

January 10, 2007
Liam Bailey

Nobody who knows anything about the current relationship between Iran and the West believes that the latest UN Resolution, imposing minor sanctions against the Islamic theocracy, will have the desired effect of ending Iran's nuclear aspirations. UN Resolution 1737, which prohibits the sale of any materials to Iran that could be used in their "enrichment related, reprocessing or heavy water related activities," was passed unanimously by the 15 member Security Council. It also imposes restrictions on the movements of twenty-two people or entities involved in the nuclear program, the Ballistic missile program or both, as well as freezing their "funds, other financial assets and economic resources."

The resolution was passed, in a nutshell, because of "serious concern that the IAEA Director General's report of 27 February 2006 (GOV/2006/15) lists a number of outstanding issues and concerns on Iran's nuclear programme, including topics which could have a military nuclear dimension," and that after three years of intense efforts "the IAEA is unable to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran" (which means Iran is guilty until proven innocent). Also because Iran has failed to stop its nuclear activities in line with Resolution 1696, which gave them till Aug 31 to stop all enrichment and other nuclear activities.

The sanctions may yet be increased in frequency, functionality and severity, but Iran will carry on regardless. Many analysts believe that the West's actions to stop Iran's enrichment puts Iran's theocratic back further up and in fact reduces the chances of them terminating the program.

This is supported by the reaction to the resolution from Iranian leadership - since the resolution was passed Rafsanjani has said it will backfire, Ahmadinejad called it invalid, and said that Iran will humiliate the West, and in the event of a military strike, deal them a "historic slap" on the face. He also vowed to accelerate the program.

So, accepting that resolutions, sanctions and other externally applied pressure will not effect an Iranian enrichment freeze, what will?

According to the old saying, "everybody has a price". Perhaps Iran could be persuaded to reconsider their decision on the six-nation incentives package, which included assisting Iran's efforts in civilian nuclear energy and removing resistance to their entry into the World Trade Organization. Iran rejected the package on the grounds that further negotiation was needed on some of the points. The rejection was followed by intense but futile efforts on the part of the EU to iron out any difficulties Iran had with the package.

The E.U's efforts were futile because Iran's problems required direct negotiations with the U.S, who refused, demanding Iran stop enriching Uranium first. This was an obstructive, bloody minded and pig-headed policy. Bush still refuses to accept that Iran holds all the cards in the negotiations. Iran is already enriching Uranium without the E.U's help and Russia is building them a nuclear power plant at Busheur, despite the current stand-off.

A signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is entitled to enrich Uranium for civilian purposes, there is as yet no evidence to suggest Iran's enrichment is not for civilian purposes, only concerns. Nuclear powers Russia and China are Iran's biggest defenders. So why would Iran stop what it claims is enrichment for civilian purposes, to gain talks with the U.S about Western help with a civilian nuclear power program, when Russia is already assisting them? There is no incentive to accept the incentives package, other than the threat of Israeli, U.S or both using military force, including the threat of a nuclear attack, making it clear why Bush refuses to remove the latter option from the table.

It doesn't, however, make clear why Russia finally agreed with the U.S. and U.K. that sanctions should be imposed on Iran. Russia has recently called for a joint approach on the issue, but previous to their agreeing to sanctions Russia with China had actively impeded every effort to end Iran's enrichment, accepting only when they had sufficiently watered down the wording and the impact. China is of course heavily dependent on Iranian oil and gas to fuel its booming economy. The U.S has been calling for this resolution since shortly after the deadline of Resolution 1696 was ignored, the long delay was caused by the reluctance of Russia and China.

The actions of Russia in particular make me wonder whether they can really be trusted as a partner in ending Iranian enrichment. For a start Iran was invited as an observer to the last meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a trade, military and strategic alliance set up by Russia and China. At the meeting a pledge was made to defend the sovereignty of member states, if you like a verbal military agreement.

Since then the SCO and Collective Security Treaty Organization have held unilateral and bilateral military exercises, both coinciding with massive Iranian war-games. Russia has sold twenty-nine TOR M1 advanced missile Defense systems to Iran. Half of the systems, which are capable of targeting and shooting down the west's Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, have been delivered.

We can't expect the threat of a military or even a nuclear strike to pressure Iran into accepting the incentives package, while China and Russia are giving Iran every reason to believe it would have their support in the event of such a strike. Nor can we continue to allow Russia and China to take key roles in both sides of the debate. In civilian life a judge would not be allowed to rule on a case involving a party he had dealings with --like the Russia/Iran arms deal-- so Russia should be given the choice: stop selling arms to Iran or be removed from UNSC meetings on ending Iranian enrichment. The U.S has courted controversy and heavy criticism from Russia for imposing sanctions on Russia for its arms deals with Iran.

That isn't going to happen, the U.S. isn't going to lift its precondition for talks and Iran isn't going to meet the precondition. So, the incentives package is dead in the water. With such firm support from two of the world's super-powers and Iran's desire to develop their own nuclear knowledge it is doubtful whether any offer would be sufficient incentive to freeze Iranian enrichment anyway. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini confirmed this Monday, saying that Iran will never stop its nuclear work.

So, we're running out of options fast, perhaps military action is the only way to stop Iran from enriching Uranium...

Such an attack, if mounted by the U.S would likely come under immense pressure from Israel mounted on the most heavily pro-Israel President for decades; Israel is likely pushing for the regime change option. The consequences of such an operation would be, at the least a catastrophic conflict liable to engulf the entire region. If any or all of the SCO members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) were dragged into the conflict in allegiance to Iran, in turn bringing possible involvement from U.S. allies (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, Israel and the U.K., although the latter two would quite possibly be involved in some capacity from the beginning), a catastrophic global conflict could become World War III.

Israel may not manage to pressure the U.S into regime change but a pre-emptive strike against the nuclear facilities only. If conventional weapons are used Iran is likely to retaliate against Israel with missiles and may block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil channel. They had threatened this as a consequence of sanctions, now sanctions have been imposed it seems Iran have realized that blocking the Strait would only tighten the noose. Iran could also re-evaluate the consequences of a failed state in Iraq against a bloody defeat for the U.S in its neighboring country if Israel goes it alone, which would undoubtedly need a green light from the U.S in any case. It would be a definite if the U.S were involved in the strike. Such a strike also carries the risk of drawing countries from the opposing strategic alliances.

The Sunday Times reported that Israel is planning an independent strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, many of which are underground, using nuclear bunker busting bombs. Israel has denied the report that brought retaliatory threats from Iran. If such a pre-emptive strike were mounted by Israel, the U.S. or both using tactical nuclear weapons, the world's fate will be in the hands of Russian and Chinese leaders and whether or not they decide to honor the SCO verbal military agreement and unleash any of their nuclear arsenals to retaliate on Iran's behalf.

Given such a possible chain reaction of unintended, but foreseeable consequences, I ask:

Wouldn't it be better to allow Iran to continue enriching and instead apply the current amount of pressure on them to allow IAEA inspectors to roam freely around Iran in search of the covert weapons program the U.S is so sure exists?

In the first part of this article I looked at ways of stopping Iran from enriching Uranium. Concluding that military action may well be the only way to do so, and therefore that the worst case scenario of stopping Iran's nuclear program could well be nuclear World War III. I asked if, given the possible consequences...

Wouldn't it be better to allow Iran to continue enriching and instead apply the current amount of pressure on them to allow IAEA inspectors to roam freely around Iran in search of the covert weapons program the U.S is so sure exists?

My answer is yes, because...

The worst case scenario of that course of action would be the inspectors missing something and Iran enriching Uranium to weapons grade, possibly even diverting some and making a few warheads. Now, if you listen to Israeli military advisers, ex generals, think-tanks, lobbyists, and you get the idea, if Iran got nuclear weapons, in a fit of un-bridled, religion induced madness Ahmadinejad would make good on his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. You have to ask the question, what would Iran gain from wiping Israel off the map?

Below I will briefly cover the possible consequences of several nuclear attack scenarios, the Physicians for Social Responsibility [PDF Chapter 5 p77] paint a more complete picture.

Some people may think Iran would attempt to wipe Israel off the map to give the Palestinians independence.

The only thing it would give the Palestinians is a slow and painful death from the radiation sickness spread by the toxic dust cloud engulfing everything. In the miracle that some of the Palestinians and/or Israelis survived the attack and by some miracle didn't catch radiation sickness, the land would be infertile and anything that did grow would be full of radiation. They would also stand a much higher chance of catching Leukaemia and It wouldn't be a gamble whether any children born would be deformed only on the degree of the deformity. That is assuming the Iranian weapons are close to the yield of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Pacific leg of WWII, which is highly unlikely.

A more likely scenario is Iran attacks Israel with whatever they have thrown together as nuclear missiles; thousands of people die and the above consequences are inflicted, but only on a minute fraction of the scale of Israel's retaliation. The Israeli reaction to such an attack would leave Iran in total devastation, hundreds of thousands maybe even millions killed by the original attack alone, the aftermath as I detailed above would leave hardly anyone in Iran alive and again, with radiation in the ground, all the crops and the water system, they couldn't survive. Any miraculous survivors of the blasts and their immediate aftermath would have to be airlifted straight into quarantine to be monitored. Iran as we know it would cease to exist.

Even if the Iranian weapon is on a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki or better and Israel was wiped off the map, Iran would still cease to exist after the U.S retaliated on Israel's behalf. Either way Iran would be no more and the world would hang in the balance of a Russian and Chinese decision.

If anything comes through from Ahmadinejad's supercharged speeches, apart from strong religious beliefs and utter commitment to continue enrichment, it is unrelenting patriotism. The very patriotism that gives such fervour to his continued defiance, in that he is determined that the state he is so proud to be a part of enjoys the right it is entitled to under International Law.

If it strikes me as slightly hypocritical that the biggest nuclear proliferators in the world should be telling Iran that their signature to the Non-Proliferation Treaty isn't worth the paper it is written on and they are guilty until proven innocent of breaking it, you can't blame Ahmadinejad and other patriotic Iranians for their reaction. Ahmadinejad's patriotism would also surely prevent him from doing anything to risk the total obliteration of his country, which would mean he wouldn't attack another country with nuclear weapons, especially not Israel.

Unfortunately it looks like Israel will attack Iran, either themselves or using the their U.S lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) widely thought to be the most powerful lobby in America to convince Bush Iran needs to be stopped.

The forecasts I have made in this article could well mean the end of the world and yet I am not running out to build a fall out shelter. Though it may not seem like it from my writing I am ever the optimist. I have written this article in the hope that the U.S will vote for President, the candidate they feel is the least likely to be influenced by the Neocons, AIPAC and Israel. In other words, NOT BUSH, who could well wipe out the whole map trying to keep Israel on it.

*Liam Bailey writes regularly for the Palestine Chronicle and Arabic Media Internet Network. He is an advanced blogger on the Washington Post's Post Global and runs the War Pages blog. You can contact him by E-mail.
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January 10, 2007
06:56 AM

Goooooo ahead and seeeeeeeee what will happen to you. North korea is the remedy of USA that every body knows. Iran can show the rest of USA the right way straight to sea bed. MF.

January 10, 2007
09:51 AM


tonight (it is morning here) dubya would announce a 'troop surge'...taken in with the second aircraft carrier group in the gulf now equipped with strategic nuclear war heads and minesweepers... and the link you gave suggesting olmert and company is opting for a limited nuke hit on iranian installations...iran's untested ability to block the gulf....(not its ability to wipe out israel as you suggested -- not realistic -- just ahmadinejad posturing not backed by ability)...the prognosis is ...ready?

the neoconzix have still to learn any lessons from the iraqi quagmire


will go for iran

-getting US more embroiled
-making it more difficult for the next administration to pull out

dark and damning no matter how we look at it


let us pray for a miracle - that sense (ever in short supply) overwhelms everyone

Ruvy in Jerusalem
January 10, 2007
10:03 AM

Afghan puts his finger on the very issue at hand. North Korea is the tool by which the Chinese and Russians can arm Iran to be a deadly threat to America.

It is known that the North Koreans have missiles and missile crews manning about 1,000 missiles in Syria. These, according to Israeli intelligence, are not nuclear missiles, but there is no real reason that these missiles cannot be fitted with nuclear warheads.

Paid enough money, the North Korean government would probably be very happy to arrange for the annihilation of Israel, and with time, parts of the United States.

Liam Bailey
January 10, 2007
11:54 AM

"It is known that the North Koreans have missiles and missile crews manning about 1,000 missiles in Syria. These, according to Israeli intelligence, are not nuclear missiles, but there is no real reason that these missiles cannot be fitted with nuclear warheads."

There is one reason. The North Korean missiles are a joke. They are not capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, because of its weight and large size. The North Korean missiles are hardly capable of carrying a conventional warhead.

The North Korean's nuclear knowledge is primitive, when they were planning the test, to achieve the same 20 KT yield, 7.5 KT more than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki they had to build a bomb weighing four tons and ten feet long, definitely too long and heavy for any of Kim Jong Il's missiles to carry. They would kill everything within 5 square miles of the bomb, but unless they can get it into Israel or Israel moves to within 5 square miles of Syria it will be safe. And that is if the bomb explodes properly or if such a thing even exists. The nuclear explosion was either a massive failure, or a hoax. South Korea measured the blast at only 550 tons, not even a Kiloton, and only minor traces of radioactivity have been picked up around the test site.

You haven't been very clear Ruvy, you say:

"Afghan puts his finger on the very issue at hand. North Korea is the tool by which the Chinese and Russians can arm Iran to be a deadly threat to America."


It is known that the North Koreans have missiles and missile crews manning about 1,000 missiles in Syria. These, according to Israeli intelligence, are not nuclear missiles, but there is no real reason that these missiles cannot be fitted with nuclear warheads.

Who's warheads, Russian, Chinese, Iranian? If Russian warheads it is still doubtful that the North Korean missiles could carry them, although the Russian or Chinese probably have the expertise to adapt their warhead design, obviously scaling down the yield and potential devastation, but why would they do that?

You say:

"Paid enough money, the North Korean government would probably be very happy to arrange for the annihilation of Israel, and with time, parts of the United States." If you know about the NK missiles in Syria, don't you think Israeli and U.S intelligence probably do as well. So if such an event happened North Korea would be anihalated in retaliation, would KIm Jong Il risk that? Lets say he would... who does the paying, again Russia and China have no motive for the destruction of Israel, they too are fighting Muslim extremists fighting for an independant state so if anything they probably sympathize with Israel's situation.

That leaves us with: Iran pays the North Koreans to annihilate Israel, but with what, don't forget, we still need either a Russian or Chinese adapted warhead. No, no matter what way you look at it its ludicrous and just another way to keep the world feeling sorry for Israel, which is almost always on either the brink of a second holocaust or complete destruction. Neither of which is an excuse for their treatment of the Palestinians and lack of commitment to peace.

U.S and Israeli intelligence will also know far better than I what type of nuclear warhead the North Korean's are capable of building, if any at all. SO, if the scenario you speak of (nuclear attack, annihilating Israel) was attempted in the only way it possibly could be, from above, they would obviously know that either Russia or China had took part. Whatever measly motive you can come up with for them providing the warheads for Israel's annihilation would it be worth sparking nuclear World War III over, I don't think so. Ludicrous.

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