The University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and the NGO Omid for Iran has concluded in a new report that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities in an attempt to delay its nuclear progress would kill thousands of Iranians and severely injure tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands more.
The study assumed a “conservative” estimation that any attack would likely occur at four main Iranian nuclear sites — Isfahan, Natanz, Arak and Bushehr — and based on discussions with Iranian and Western experts, the report concludes:
[W]e have estimated the total number of people — scientists, workers, soldiers and support staff — at Iran’s four nuclear facilities to be between 7,000 and 11,000. It is highly likely that the casualty rate at the physical sites will be close to 100 percent. Assuming an average two-shift operation, between 3,500 and 5,500 people would be present at the time of the strikes, most of whom would be killed or injured as a result of the physical and thermal impact of the blasts. If one were to include casualties at other targets, one could extrapolate to other facilities, in which case the total number of people killed and injured could exceed 10,000.
The report, titled The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble, added that “[t]ens, and quite possibly, hundreds of thousands of civilians could be exposed to highly toxic chemical plumes and, in the case of operational reactors, radioactive fallout.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Golnaz Esfandiari reports that while several experts said that the Bushehr site is not likely to be attacked (because it’s not of critical concern to the International Atomic Energy Agency) some say the report has filled a vacuum in the public discussion on whether war is necessary to delay Iran’s nuclear program.
“People talk very callously about the prospect of military strikes, and they frame it in the geopolitical fallout, the geo-economic fallout, what will happen to the oil price and all of these issues. But nobody has ever talked about the humanitarian consequences of a military strike on Iran,” said Afshin Molavi, an Iran expert at the New America Foundation.
The humanitarian fallout is just one of the many potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran. At the same type, the Obama administration has said that it takes the threat of an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon seriously and has said it leaves no options off the table in preventing the Islamic Republican from acquiring one. These factors, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.