In “Failure of American Jewry” (Jewish News, Oct. 2), Chaim Jablonowski expressed the opinion that Jewish Americans who support the nuclear agreement with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) or who failed to either oppose or support it were failing in their duty to Israel and the Jewish people. I honestly cannot support such a conclusion. However, that isn’t the point. The problem with all the arguments is that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the agreement have thoroughly raised and openly discussed any other options or alternatives.
A number of alternatives are obvious. Rather than make a deal, we could have simply continued the sanctions or increased them. However, sanctions so far have not stopped the Iranians from moving forward with their nuclear program. The Iranian leadership seems perfectly content to allow their economy and their people to suffer in pursuit of a nuclear capability. The consensus among experts seems to be that, absent any deal, Iran would have a working bomb in about a year and would have the capability of putting it in a functioning warhead within three years. This course of action would obviously not solve the problem.
A second option would be for the United States to repudiate the JCPOA and demand that Iran renegotiate its terms. Unfortunately, Iran has no incentive to do so. Since all the other parties to the negotiations and the U.N. have already agreed to lift their sanctions, Iran will have access to a significant amount of cash to continue is nuclear program, restore its economy and continue to fund and sponsor international terrorism. Since both Russia and China have already made deals to sell cutting-edge weapons systems to Iran, there is no military benefit to them to reopen the issue. Finally, Iran is ruled by a theocracy and their idea of what is in Iran’s best interest may be very different from what we think it should be.
Then, there is the option of military action, i.e. war. It is obvious that the leading role in any military action against Iran would have to be assumed by the United States. Neither Russia nor China would participate in such action since the destruction of Iran would not serve their national, geopolitical or economic interests. Thus, the United States is the only country with sufficient military power to destroy, or at least significantly damage, Iran’s nuclear facilities.
There are many people who believe that a few combat sorties using smart bombs would be sufficient to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. After all, Israel destroyed Iraq and Syria’s nuclear facilities in single raids composed of less than a dozen planes each, and with no losses. We’d just fly in there, bomb the facilities and all our planes would return safely. This is not a realistic assessment. We would not be attacking a single target but many targets. Iran has admitted to, or our intelligence agencies have identified, almost 50 sites connected to or associated with Iran’s nuclear program. Many of these sites are underground and/or heavily fortified. Iran’s radar and air defense systems protecting these sites are far more effective and robust than those the Israelis faced in Syria and Iraq. Any bombing campaign against Iran would more closely resemble the allied air campaign against Germany in World War II in duration and cost in planes and lives than our current efforts in fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Not since World War II have the American people been asked to make the sacrifices that would be needed to fight such a war with Iran. We must understand what the sight of the United States attacking a Muslim country, arguably without provocation, would do to the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. The threat from terrorism we face today will seem like nothing. We will be attacked here at home and abroad by suicide bombers, as well as in cyberspace, and vilified in every mosque in the world. Even if the air campaign were successful in a short time, say three or four months, the heightened threat from Islamic terrorists would be with us for years, if not decades, to come. The repercussions of our attacking Iran would have a huge negative impact on our economy that would only add to our losses in lives and treasure. I do not believe that the American people could or would willingly make such sacrifices if they believed that they were doing so to defend Israel, or any of our other allies, for that matter. Iran poses no military threat to the United States. Convincing the American people otherwise is, I’m afraid, not possible.
What we must do now is to strictly adhere to and enforce the agreement. The United States, Israel and our western allies have more than sufficient intelligence assets, both human and technological, to keep a very, very close eye on Iranian activities. The United States must use all its powers of persuasion to get all the signatories to the agreement to share their intelligence so that any attempt by Iran to violate or circumvent its terms would be discovered almost immediately. This would make it very easy to take any necessary and appropriate action to force Iran back into compliance. And, of course, we should all pray that, this time, God is on our side and will see us through this trouble.
Robert Jastrow is a retired attorney living in Chandler. He served eight years in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer and has been a longtime student of military history and affairs.