"It is difficult to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country. As Prime Minister, he has done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage," wrote recently David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker.
This comment was written before Netanyahu accused the US of being unable to draw a red line whose crossing would be reason enough to launch an attack on Iran, and following a statement by US Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, that he won't be "complicit" in an Israeli attack against that country.
Remnick's comments have been lent additional credence by a just released report, "Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran," written by almost three dozen former notable U.S. national security advisers (Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sandy Berger), intelligence and military officers (among them Gen. Anthony Zinni and Adm. William Fallon,) and diplomats (among them former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering). Prominent Republicans included former Nebraska Se. Chuck Hagel, former Trade Representative Carla Hills and former Deputy Secretaries of State John Whitehead and Richard Armitage.
The report is highly critical of a possible attack against Iran, carried out either by Israel or by Israel and the U.S., a course of action that has been repeatedly advocated by the Israeli Prime Minister. According to the authors, the report is not an advocacy document, but rather an effort to "depoliticize discussion of a highly charged issue," and provide informed analysis and opinion on which aspects should be taken into consideration before launching and attack on Iran.
The bipartisan group who wrote the report emphasizes that military force should be a last resort, and that "...it will be impossible to make a rational assessment of the role of military force in any overall Iran strategy, without first carefully assessing the likely benefits and costs of military action."
Among the possible benefits of a strike against Iran are the following: damage or destroy Iran's declared major enrichment facilities; damage Iranian military capabilities; demonstrate U.S. seriousness and credibility, and help deter nuclear weapons proliferation.
Although the authors make clear that most uranium conversion facilities could be destroyed by a US attack, they also indicate that it would be considerably more difficult to damage or destroy the Fordow enrichment facility which is buried under 200-300 feet of rock. Should Israel and no the US carry out the attack, "Israel could not do great damage to the deeply buried Fordow enrichment facility, without resorting to riskier ground attacks."
Should the US have as its aim regime change in Iran, however, a considerable commitment of force could be required to occupy part or all of the country. Given the size and population of the country, the US would need more resources and personnel than what the "...U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
The costs of an eventual attack on Iran are carefully analyzed in the report which establishes that there would be near-costs associated with Iranian retaliation as well as long-term costs with serious consequences for regional and global stability, including economic stability.
Among the costs associated with an attack on Iran described in the report are those resulting from Iranian retaliation against the US; Iranian strikes against Israel; indirect retaliation by Iran; breakdown of global solidarity against Iran's nuclear program; increased possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear state; global political and economic instability, provoking disruptions in security and in energy supply; and damage to the United States' global reputation.
It doesn't escape to the authors of the report - nor to anybody who has been following events in the region closely - that US and/or Israel military strikes will more likely unify the population behind the government rather than generate resistance against the regime.
The bi-partisan group which authored the report, leaders in the US, UK, Russia and China and Israel' former security and intelligence chiefs (such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former Israeli Defense Minister, Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, fomer Israeli Internal Security Chief, among many others) have been clear in their opposition to an attack against Iran which could bring devastating consequences to the region and to the world. In these circumstances, nobody should follow Netanyahu's messianic, unrealistic project of attacking Iran.