I was up in Los Angeles today, and along with a dozen other bloggers I spent about an hour chatting with Wes Clark, who was in town for a political rally. Clark had some provocative things to say about Iran and its nuclear program, especially in light of today's news that the IAEA has reported Iran to the UN Security Council because of concerns that they're developing nuclear weapons.
Here's what he said. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which suggests that Iran's research sites are too widespread to be destroyed via bombing, Clark believes that a military strike on Iran could wipe out its nuclear program very effectively indeed. He figures that a 14-day bombing campaign plus a few special-ops missions — which he described in some detail — would pretty much put them out of business. What's more, he also seems to believe that an operation like this is very much under active consideration within the White House and the Pentagon.
Pretty clearly there is a game of nuclear chicken going on here, with some posturing on each side, but Iranian President Ahmadinejad is crazy if he doesn't take into account President Bush's proven recklessness. He also crazy if he thinks that the American military is so tied down in Iraq that they couldn't attack Iran. Of course, it could well be that Ahmadinejad *is* crazy.
My guess is that almost everybody in the military would love to get the hell out of Iraq and start fighting real battles where you get to slaughter everybody in your way. Iran is likely much stronger militarily than Iraq, but still unlikely to provide very prolonged resistance.
The problem is what do you do for an encore. The nuclear threat (if any) from Iran might be destroyed, but much of the world's oil supply could be lost as well. Iran would also be far more difficult to pacify than Iraq, though an attack on Iran would probably turn Iraq's Shia into insurgents too.
As Kevin notes:
What would be the Democratic response if (a) Bush asked for an authorization of force against Iran or (b) simply launched an assault without asking Congress? The chances of this coming up as an issue this year are strong enough that it would be foolish not to be prepared to deal with it.
At the very least, I would hope, they would demand a lot of investigation before signing on.