Neoconservatives have consistently portrayed bombing Iran as the solution to the problem of its nuclear program. While this was always fantasy, the inanity of such an attack has become even clearer. In an extensive piece today, the New York Times details the Iranian regime’s construction of a vast network of tunnels that can be used to shield their nuclear facilities from a potential air strike.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of big tunnels in Iran, according to American government and private experts, and the lines separating their uses can be fuzzy. Companies owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, for example, build civilian as well as military tunnels.
The Times story has lots of interesting tidbits, noting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a tunnel expert from his previous work as a transportation engineer. He even helped found the “Iranian Tunneling Association” in 1998. But the rub of the story is that any attempted military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is basically futile. The New York Times explains:
American war planners see Iran’s tunnels — whatever their exact number and contents — as a serious test of military abilities. Most say there is no easy way to wipe out a nuclear program that has been well hidden, widely dispersed and deeply buried. Among the difficulties, military experts say, are decoy tunnels and false entrances, the identification of which requires good intelligence. The experts add that Iran’s announcement about new enrichment plants may simply produce a blur of activity meant to confuse Western war planners.
Not only is it highly uncertain whether a military strike could penetrate these facilities, but with the lack of intelligence it is impossible to know what entry points to target. Furthermore, if a strike were conducted we would have no idea if any attack was even successful. Any bombing effort would essentially be throwing a punch in the dark.
Even the Israelis concede that solid rock can render bombs useless. Late last month, the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, told Parliament that the Qum plant was “located in bunkers that cannot be destroyed through a conventional attack.” … Some analysts say that Israel, which has taken the hardest line on Iran, may be especially hampered, given its less formidable military and intelligence abilities.
So to be clear neoconservatives are advocating a military strike that won’t work, and will have dire consequences for the reform movement within Iran and for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only thing an attack would seemingly achieve is fulfilling – in the words of the President – “the satisfying purity of indignation” that so aptly characterizes the neoconservative movement.
US officials will never really take the military option “off the table” but it seems pretty clear that an effort to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites would be pretty futile.