Would Iran Be Attacked Before the Year Is Over?

Fathi El-Shihibi

Every time Iranian officials and military commanders engage in another round of saber-rattling to unnerve the United States and Israel I get nervous just thinking about what would happen if a war does indeed break out in the region. By vowing to keep a captured US drone the Iranian government is once again thumping its nose at the United States of America. Even before the drone incident Iranian officials including President Ahmadinejad and the minister of defense general Ahmad Wahidi have been launching barrages of threats against Israel and Western states in anticipation of either strong reaction or worse air strikes before this year is over. To exasperate the situation even more American and Israel officials have also been mulling over the pros and cons of surgical missile or airstrikes to take out Iranian facilities such as the one in Peshawar which is long suspected of being the center of activities to produce high grade enriched uranium. Along with numerous veiled threats by US Republican presidential candidates and Israeli government officials including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and several of his top brass to launch preemptive air strikes targeting such facilities, statements such as the one by John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, in which he advised the Israeli government that the time to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities is now otherwise they would risk the dangers of a major humanitarian catastrophe due to widespread radioactive fallout, made the Iranians more jittery than ever. Because of these and other developments in this volatile region I decided to try my hand at the subject particularly concerning what might happen if the nuclear facilities in Iran are bombed by the United States or Israel and possibly involving other Western states such as France, England and Germany.
On one hand we all know that the West and particularly the United States, England France and Germany have enough warheads to wipe out many Iranian facilities suspected of being incubators for enriching uranium not only once but many times over. On the other hand nobody knows for sure whether the Iranians are actually trying to produce weapon grade uranium and if so how far are they from doing so and eventually mounting nuclear war heads atop of their short and long range rockets with names appropriated from the Islamic Holy Quran such as “shihab” or comet and “sijjil” meaning red hot clay-stones so as to send shivers down their adversaries’ spines particularly those in the neighborhood. Even though the idea of surgical nuclear strikes is already on the table as far the Pentagon is concerned, let us for the sake of sounding reasonable assume that the two sides trusted each other enough to slug it out using conventional weapons which means throw every heavy weapon that can cause maximum damage including the famed bunker busters by team USA, at each other in the hope of avoiding a nuclear holocaust or worse the long awaited and anticipated Armageddon. Let’s not forget that Iran as a Shi’a nation has its own version of an Armageddon except in their scenario they are the good guys who are doomed to suffer but eventually come up on top.
Now let us look at the two Scenarios just to see the pros and cons of either conventional or nuclear confrontations. In the event that either the United States or Israel or both launch pre-emptive air strikes on Iran and successfully destroy all or most of the nuclear facilities I would think that a hostile act of that nature would naturally irritate the Iranians and put a damper on the United Nations’ efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Even the job description of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would change from presiding over negotiations between the adversaries to shuttling between the combatants in the hope of breaking up the fight before it spirals out of control. However, based on my modest knowledge of human nature I would think that if the Iranians are able to hunker down and withstand the initial massive air strikes, they would start thinking about revenge for the slight that was dealt their country and their macho image among foe and friend. Having given their word not to use nuclear weapons whether they actually have them or they are simply bluffing, they would, never the less start lobbing their missiles with conventional war heads or worse at every perceived enemy in the vicinity including but not limited to Israel, the coalition forces in Iraq, the Gulf States hosting American and European military and naval forces and airbases including but not limited to Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. The Iranian propaganda machine has been telling everybody that would listen about having long and short range missiles trained on targets in their cross hair including military and civilian installations, naval vessels and oil tankers crisscrossing the Persian Gulf not to mention oil wells and oil facilities.
The above Scenario would look like child play when compared to the second scenario in which the United States, Israel and possibly Iran end up using nuclear weapons so as not to prolong an unwanted and an unpopular war at home and abroad. If so the Middle East which is talked about as being the cradle of civilization and the birth place of world religions could become the stage upon which a world calamity of immeasurable devastation and suffering would take place. A nuclear exchange in that part of the world especially if it is not contained immediately would force other nations including those with nuclear capabilities to take sides and a so called limited war becomes truly “the war that ends all wars” thus taking the title away from WW I. I am sure I am not alone in hoping that the stalemate in the negotiations between the West and Iran over its nuclear program would end and that both sides would resort to reason and their common humanity thereby avoiding the devastation of either scenario. Fathi El-Shihibi is a professor at Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway Boston, MA 02115 USA.