Military attack against Iran would generate strong public support

WASHINGTON (The Brookings Institution) — Iran’s decision to resume nuclear activities is a direct challenge to the United States and Europe.
Recently, the new Iranian government of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad resumed research and development activities that had been suspended during the talks with the Europeans, still saying that its nuclear program was entirely peaceful.
In the debate about how to respond to Iran, two opposing camps have emerged: One wants to give in to Iran; the other wants to bomb it. Both are wrong.
In the first camp are those — mostly in Europe, but also in many other parts of the world — who accept Tehran’s argument that it has a right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It would be difficult to get international support for economic sanctions, they say, and even if Russia and China were somehow to agree to them, sanctions would fail to change policy — as in Iraq, North Korea and Cuba.
On the other side of the debate are those — mostly in the United States — who think that the time has come to use military force against Iran.
This view, too, is wrong. U.S. air strikes probably could destroy Iran’s critical nuclear facilities. But a military attack against Iran would also undoubtedly generate strong public support among Iranians.
And are we prepared for what Iran could do in return? Through its Shiite partners in Iraq and Afghanistan, it could wreak havoc on our forces. It could threaten oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than one-third of the world’s oil flows.
The option of relying on Israel to strike Iranian targets — as alluded to last year by Vice President Cheney — would be even worse and the United States would bear the responsibility anyway.
The United States and Europe should make a concerted effort to win Russian and Chinese support for tough action at the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council next month. Ideally, the Security Council should not only denounce Iran’s actions but agree on an oil embargo and a ban on investment in Iran.
The offer to support a civilian nuclear energy program, increase trade and investment — and even engage in regional security talks and restore diplomatic relations with the United States — would also remain on the table

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