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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bipartisan report: U.S. Iran strike feasible

WASHINGTON — The United States could destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, a report said.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has concluded that the United States, despite its preference for diplomacy, must not abandon its military option against Iran. The center said the U.S. military's ability to damage Iran was greater than that realized by the Teheran leadership.

"A military strike is a feasible option and must remain a last resort to retard Iran's nuclear development," the report said.

The report, prepared under the guidance of former Senators Daniel Coats, a Republican, and Democrat Charles Robb, said the next U.S. president must update plans to attack Iran. The report by an 11-member task force, released on Sept. 19, said such a U.S. strike could significantly hamper any Iranian nuclear weapons program.

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"However, unless sustained by repeated strikes against rebuilt or newly discovered sites over a period of years, military action alone is likely only to delay Iranian nuclear development, while entailing risks of retaliation, which could quickly escalate to full-scale war," the report said.

The task force said Iran could retaliate with massive Hamas and Hizbullah rocket attacks against Israel. On the other hand, the report said Iran's nuclear weapons program could turn the Middle East state into a global threat.

"Should the Iranian leadership feel itself secure behind a nuclear shield, they may increase both their overt and covert aggression," the report said. "The repercussions of such Iranian assertion would be felt not only throughout the Middle East, but also — because of Iran's position on the Strait of Hormuz — on the world energy markets. Iran would then become not just a regional threat, but an international one."

Titled "Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development," the report said a U.S. military option would require "robust planning and military presence." The report said a feasible military option could force Iran to accept a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis.

"Such an integrated approach can reduce the potential need to employ actual military force by convincing Iran that any such confrontation would be counter-productive, and that it faces determined international and regional solidarity against Teheran," the report said. "Diplomacy would come into play in paving the way for a credible deterrent and to build the capacity needed to actually carry out military action, if needed."

The report said the United States must draft a deterrent policy against Iran. The task force said Washington must threaten nuclear retaliation for any nuclear attack by Iran or its proxies. Another option called for massive U.S. conventional retaliation with assistance from Gulf Cooperation Council states.

"The U.S. administration may need to announce that it reserves the right to respond to any attack against itself or its allies with overwhelming force and, perhaps, nuclear weapons." the report said. "Alternatively, the U.S. government could consider a declaration of automaticity: In the event Iran or any suspect proxy utilizes nuclear weapons, Iran will be hit with a devastating retaliatory strike. In the interim, though, this requires preparation for such a response."

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