I never thought I would write these words, but Barry Rubin over at Pajamas Media is wrong in his effort to reassure us that Israel will not attack Iran’s nuclear program. Rubin is a perceptive and courageous analyst of the Middle East and its problems. But this piece is merely a rehash of “realist” pap about how Iran is so well protected that an Israeli or US attack “will not stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.” There is also the usual stuff about how Iran’s leaders can’t really be as crazy as they sound, and how deterrence just might work on these 12th-Imam fanatics.
Now, we’ve been hearing about Iran’s invulnerability for years. Yes, we know that some of Iran’s facilities are deep underground. We’ve been hearing that for years from those urging inaction.
Fact: In May of 2006, James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic: “Now that Iran unquestionably intends to build a nuclear bomb, the international community has few options to stop it—and the worst option would be a military strike.”
Fact: In 2009, Defense Secretary Gates, obviously speaking at the president’s direction, has announced that the US has no military ability to destroy the fast-developing Iranian nuclear program. All we would do would be “send it further underground.”
Fact: In May of 2011, The AP reports that “Iran has moved some of its centrifuge machines to an underground enrichment site that offers better protection from possible airstrikes, the country’s vice president said Monday.”
Questions: If they’ve been so bloody invulnerable for so long, why are the Iranians suddenly burying them?
Is it really that easy to build a nuclear weapons program while your weapons facilities are being bombed? Has anyone ever done so?
It seems as if the bar is set a bit high here. Must a single attack take out all weapons development capacity forever? Can’t the prospect of the next in a series of strikes be a serious deterrent?
Yes, we know that some of Iran’s facilities are deep underground. We’ve been hearing that for years from those urging inaction.
The indestructability of the Iranian facilities seems always to be the default assumption of those who want to pull the teeth from our rhetoric about how “all options remain on the table.”
But even underground, reinforced, bunkered arsenals must rely on massive above-ground support facilities.
So why is a staunch friend of Israel like Mr. Rubin joining this long-running effort to reassure Iran that it has nothing to worry about?