Monday, December 13, 2004

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions and the United States

Despite all the talk after Bush invaded Iraq that Iran was next, war planners and analysts in the Pentagon are saying that a military approach to defeating Iran's nuclear ambitions is unlikely, at least in the near future. The major reason, according to a New York Times article published today, is that Iran, unlike Iraq, has dispersed its nuclear programs all over the country, hiding many of them underground and putting others in crowded civilian areas where airstrikes would cause huge numbers of civilian casualties. There may be many reasons why Iran has chosen to decentralize its nuclear program this way, but one big reason is because of what happened to Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981: it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, "[setting] back Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions by a decade."

American and European intelligence officials say Iran has taken this lesson to heart, spreading its nuclear facilities around the country, burying some underground and putting others in the middle of crowded urban areas.

For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency last year found centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, behind a false wall at the Kalaye Electric Company in a densely populated corner of Tehran, where there would be no way to conduct a military strike without causing major civilian casualties. "They are not about to make the same mistake Saddam did," a senior administration official said.

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