Bloomberg News

Iran Attack Would Halt Nuclear Bid for Four Years, Report Says

September 12, 2012

Admiral Michael Mullen

The report reiterates conclusions previously outlined by U.S. officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, about the limited effectiveness of a military attack on Iran. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

A U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would derail the Islamic Republic’s suspected weapons program for four years at most while uniting its citizens and alienating the Muslim world, according to a report.

The report to be released today by the “Iran Project,” a bipartisan group of former national-security officials and foreign-policy specialists, discusses the military pros and cons of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and outlines the less- discussed political fallout of any such attack.

Air raids, commando assaults and computer network attacks “would destroy or severely damage many of Iran’s physical facilities and stockpiles,” according to the report. “But, in our judgment, complete destruction of Iran’s nuclear program is unlikely and Iran would still retain the scientific capacity and the experience to start its nuclear program again.”

Military effectiveness notwithstanding, the New York-based group’s report concluded that “one of the most serious but difficult to quantify costs of military action against Iran could be damage to U.S. reputation and standing.”

“If Iran’s nuclear program is attacked by the U.S. or Israel in the absence of an international mandate or a multinational coalition, support for maintaining sanctions against Iran could be substantially weakened,” the report said.

Iran may retaliate by attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz, an action that would “rattle global markets and cause a significant spike in oil prices,” according to the report.

‘Destabilizing Forces’

An assault would “introduce destabilizing political and economic forces in a region already experiencing major transformations,” the report said. A U.S. strike may provoke worldwide anger among Muslims and enhance al-Qaeda’s ability to recruit new members, it said.

The report reiterates conclusions previously outlined by U.S. officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, about the limited effectiveness of a military attack on Iran.

A U.S. air strike involving Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC:US) stealth B-2 bombers dropping 30,000-pound precision-guided penetrating bombs “carried out to near perfection” could delay Iran’s program by up to four years, according to the report.

A unilateral strike by Israel “with its more limited capabilities, could delay Iran’s ability to build a bomb by up to two years,” the report said. An Israeli airstrike “is unlikely to succeed in destroying or even seriously damaging” the deeply buried Fordo enrichment facility and the stockpile of near-weapons- grade enriched uranium there.

Noteworthy Signers

The “lack of a high-confidence military option against Fordo is a key reason why Israeli government officials believe they must take action to destroy Iran’s supply of low-enriched uranium and damage Iran’s ability to produce more centrifuges before Fordo becomes fully operational,” the report said.

The report may be more noteworthy for the former U.S. officials listed among its signatories, including former Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Paul Pillar; former U.S. Central Command commanders Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and Admiral William Fallon.

Other signers of the report include former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia; retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering; George W. Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net


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