Who can be toughest on Iran?
Many presidential candidates have been making efforts to out-tough each other when it comes to dealing with Iran. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced recently that he would be open to “a bombardment of some kind” against Iran. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on CNN saying, “I think the President’s right with trying to bankrupt them before we bomb them. That’s a good way to start.” He also did not rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons:
Helene Cooper of the New York Times recently pointed out in her column that the idea that the US could bomb Iran and leave it at that is misguided and naïve:
That sounds like the kind of air strike that Israel conducted against a suspected Syrian nuclear site last month. The trouble, many foreign policy experts say, is that Iran is not Syria. So do not expect Tehran’s ruling mullahs to quietly sit back after being bombed, as Syria’s leaders did.
Iran, most experts say, would react.
“In every conceivable way that I can imagine, a strike on Iran would be a lose-lose for the U.S., a lose-lose for Israel, and a lose-lose for the Iranian people,” said Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Iran’s ability to retaliate against the United States and its interests abroad spans the gamut from economic, by driving up the price of oil, to political, by spurring restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to openly revolt against regimes that, for now, are American allies. Iran can also hit back militarily, against American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Finally, Iran could target America’s closest ally in the Middle East—Israel. While Israel has a missile defense system that can shoot down ballistic missiles, Iran’s military rulers might try to provoke an Israeli response anyway. Saddam Hussein tried that during the first Gulf War and failed, because the first Bush administration successfully pressured Israel to exercise restraint, and Israeli casualties were minimal.
Inspector General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El-Baradei has also expressed concern about the increasingly hostile rhetoric in the US:
ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran’s alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it.
"I’m very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection," he said.
"My fear is that if we continue to escalate from both sides that we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss. As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least. And we cannot add fuel to the fire," ElBaradei added.