Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are US and Israel preparing a surgical strike on Iran?

From Foreign Policy, 8 Oct 2012, by DAVID ROTHKOPF:

In Mitt Romney's "Hope Is Not a Strategy" speech at the Virginia Military Institute, the Republican challenger zeroed in on the current unrest in the Middle East as a sign that President Barack Obama's foreign policy is not working....
[Important] to the Republican critique of Obama is Romney's assessment that Obama's efforts to reverse Iran's course toward gaining nuclear weapons have been unsuccessful. ...hours before the speech was delivered, ... Romney foreign-policy advisor Dan Senor suggested ...that Obama effectively had to be dragged against his will toward tougher sanctions on Iran -- the same tough sanctions for which the administration is now regularly taking credit because they have started to work.
Senor noted that both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg pushed back against bipartisan congressional support for the sanctions out of concern that they would have unintended negative consequences for the U.S. and global economies.
A centerpiece of the Romney campaign's argument that Obama has not been tough enough on Iran is that the president has not offered a credible military threat against the Iranians. ...some of the president's supporters have told me privately they wonder about his commitment and that of the U.S. military to taking action against Iran.
.... the public bickering with the Israelis suggested that the United States was dragging its feet and that the Israelis might be forced to act alone precisely because they did not expect to get U.S. support.
Despite the public histrionics in the run-up to the U.N. General Assembly meetings, both White House and Israeli officials assert that the two sides behind the scenes have come closer together in their views in recent days. While there may not be exact agreement on what constitutes a "red line" -- a sign of Iranian progress toward the development of nuclear weapons that would trigger military action -- the military option being advocated by the Israelis is considerably more limited and lower risk than some of those that have been publicly debated.
Indeed, according to a source close to the discussions, the action that participants currently see as most likely is a joint U.S.-Israeli surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities. The strike might take only "a couple of hours" in the best case and only would involve a "day or two" overall, the source said, and would be conducted by air, using primarily bombers and drone support. Advocates for this approach argue that not only is it likely to be more politically palatable in the United States but, were it to be successful -- meaning knocking out enrichment facilities, setting the Iranian nuclear program back many years, and doing so without civilian casualties -- it would have regionwide benefits. One advocate asserts it would have a "transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come."
While this approach would limit the negative costs associated with more protracted interventions, it could not be conducted by the Israelis acting alone. To get to buried Iranian facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordow, would require bunker-busting munitions on a scale that no Israeli plane is capable of delivering. The mission, therefore, must involve the United States, whether acting alone or in concert with the Israelis and others....
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