Thursday, March 09, 2006

So How Do We Take Out Iran's Nukes?

It just feels as if a confrontation with Iran is looming even if we are uncertain as to when Iran gets a nuclear threat.

And I'm still unsure of how we go after Iran. Will it be regime change, blockade, siege (blockade with limited ground objectives), special forces, or air campaign (which I think would have to last weeks)? A lot depends on how good our intelligence is about where Iran's many facilties are, our confidence that we haven't missed much, how well the Iranians have built their underground facilities (remember the mythical Osama James Bond facilities he built in Afghanistan?), and how good our weapons are.

So a reader, Terrey C., asks what can our military do? Good question. I was actually contemplating that for a few days. Here are just some speculative answers:

--We can bomb, of course. Precision weapons mean anything above ground that we know about is toast. Our surface ships and subs have lots of cruise missiles and our bombers carry lots of bombs. Even targets in cities can be hit with small precision weapons that will limit civilian deaths.

--We can bomb some underground bunkers with penetrating precision weapons.

--For those targets too deep to reach with bombs, a combination of surface and penetrating explosions may shake and seal underground facilities.

--Special forces supported by AC-130 gunships and precision bombs may be able to go into hit some facilities by penetrating their security and knocking out the facilities from within. Thermobaric bombs for the deep facilities, perhaps?

--Ranger battalions could raid better defended sites to overcome resistance and let special operators in to do their work. Air power in support would be necessary before they are extracted following the mission.

--Electromagnetic pulse weapons may also serve to fry deep targets or targets in civilian areas to avoid killing civilians or even to nail a target when we aren't sure where in a large area the target is.

--A Marine brigade might seize Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Gulf to allow experts to shut it down safely and then remove the fuel. How long would this take? Don't know.

--Army brigades might storm into site close to Iraq's or Afghanistan's border to allow Army special troops to haul out material or equipment of use in building nuclear bombs.

--And we could leave behind sensors and agents to allow follow-up strikes against facilities undetected or being repaired/unearthed.

--Cyber-war may knock out computer files needed to complete a nuclear weapon.

--Key scientists could be targetted with snipers or precision weapons.

I have to add that I don't think we could just hit the nuclear facilities in isolation. It would have to be a comprehensive air campaign against nuke facilities, leadership, regime assets, military assets, and command and control assets. It would look an awful lot like a war.

And of course, once we go this far, a regime change is the only sure way to make sure that Iran's nuclear programs really are just for energy purposes.

I think we have learned our lesson from the long-telegraphed so-called "rush to war" in Iraq. I think we are being quiet not because we plan nothing but because we don't want to warn the Iranians about what we will do and give them time to prepare.