The Difficulty of Launching a Successful Iran Strike

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Over at The Atlantic's debate site, on which various worthies are arguing over my article on Iran, Gary Milhollin, one of the country's most prominent non-proliferation experts, raises important questions about the efficacy of any sort of military action against Iran:

Would it be possible to find out, after the bombing, what was really hit? The answer is no -- not unless Iran were invaded. Short of which, after exhibiting the inevitable civilian casualties, Iran would likely slam the door on UN inspectors and take its nuclear work underground. Popular nationalist pride will only enable this reaction, if not push hard for it. Iran could claim, with justification, that the data on its nuclear sites gathered by the present UN inspection teams has simply made it easier to target these sites. Why should Iran provide more targeting data by allowing more inspections? Even the limited knowledge we now have about Iran's nuclear status could disappear -- a casualty of military action.

I would argue against one point here: It would not take an invasion of Iran in order to learn about the damage done to the country's nuclear sites following an air raid. Israel, and the U.S., both have specialized commando units that could penetrate these sites quickly and quietly, do their assessments, and try to destroy facilities not destroyed in the air attack. The Israelis have already factored this in to their plans, I've been told. And they have a conveniently-located jumping-off point in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/08/the-difficulty-of-launching-a-successful-iran-strike/61680/