September 14, 2012

These Are the Facts

Today marked the release of the first in a series of reports from an impressive group of former US ambassadors, retired generals and policy experts dubbed The Iran Project. The primary purpose of the paper, titled “Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran”, is to answer the tough questions and ensure that Americans are as informed as possible before the nation hurriedly decides to strike Iranian nuclear facilities: Can military strikes stop Iran’s nuclear program? What are the immediate and long-term impacts? Are strikes even possible?
The report has already made a splash with its frank assessment of the significant costs of military strikes and what it says are the limited gains.
First to the plate, the Washington Post:

The assessment said extended U.S. strikes could destroy Iran’s most important nuclear facilities and damage its military forces but would only delay — not stop — the Islamic republic’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
[The report] says achieving more than a temporary setback in Iran’s nuclear program would require a military operation — including a land occupation — more taxing than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

From the Associated Press:

U.S. military strikes on Iran would shake the regime’s political control and damage its ability to launch counterstrikes, but the Iranians probably would manage to retaliate, directly and through surrogates, in ways that risked igniting all-out war in the Middle East, according to an assessment of an attack’s costs and benefits.
“We do not believe it would lead to regime change, regime collapse or capitulation,” it said, adding that such an attack would increase Iran’s motivation to build a bomb, in part because the Iranian leadership would see building a bomb as a way to inhibit future U.S. attacks “and redress the humiliation of being attacked.”

The article included a quip from Thomas Pickering, former ambassador to the UN, “The report is intended to have what we call an informing influence and hopefully something of a calming influence, but that’s something readers will have to answer for themselves.”
Let’s hear from one more, The Wall Street Journal:

The group argues that an attack could delay Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon for up to four years, but would have other consequences, such as rallying the Iranian people behind the current regime and solidifying the government’s hold on power.

The report does not make recommendations or draw conclusions on behalf of any political camp, but is instead backed up by a plethora of footnotes and based entirely on publicly available information including unclassified intelligence reports.  The report was released at an event today at the Wilson Center, where the report’s authors emphasized its unbiased focus on the facts–a rarity in DC these days.

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