Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer injects some much needed sanity into the debate over what to do about Iran:
KRAUTHAMMER: Do we have enough intelligence? Do we know where their stuff is hidden? They have spoken about a second uranium enrichment place. Do they have others? And, also, how deeply buried and how hardened are the targets? Because unless we know if we have access with our equipment, our bombs, they may be ineffective. I think they have got to make assessment on the current intelligence which appears to us, at least on the outside, rather weak.
Weak to say the least, and often contradictory.
Just look at what we’ve been told over the last three years:
The United States’ National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 stated that Iran had halted it’s nuclear weapons program in 2003. In February 2009, though, both the United Nations and the United States issued reports saying that the program was further along than previously believed. Less than a month later, though, the Director of National Intelligence seemed to debunk those February reports. But then, last August, we were told that Iran was on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. Then, last month, the CIA came out with yet another report saying that “Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.”
So, what exactly are we supposed to believe ?
Beyond that, though, there’s the fact that an attack on Iran may prove unsuccessful in having any real impact on their nuclear program:
Last September, when Iran’s uranium enrichment plant buried inside a mountain near the holy city of Qum was revealed, the episode cast light on a wider pattern: Over the past decade, Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers across the country.
In doing so, American government and private experts say, Iran has achieved a double purpose. Not only has it shielded its infrastructure from military attack in warrens of dense rock, but it has further obscured the scale and nature of its notoriously opaque nuclear effort. The discovery of the Qum plant only heightened fears about other undeclared sites.
Now, with the passing of President Obama’s year-end deadline for diplomatic progress, that cloak of invisibility has emerged as something of a stealth weapon, complicating the West’s military and geopolitical calculus.
The Obama administration says it is hoping to take advantage of domestic political unrest and disarray in Iran’s nuclear program to press for a regimen of strong and immediate new sanctions. But a crucial factor behind that push for nonmilitary solutions, some analysts say, is Iran’s tunneling — what Tehran calls its strategy of “passive defense.”
Indeed, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has repeatedly discounted the possibility of a military strike, saying that it would only slow Iran’s nuclear ambitions by one to three years while driving the program further underground.
Some analysts say that Israel, which has taken the hardest line on Iran, may be especially hampered, given its less formidable military and intelligence abilities.
“It complicates your targeting,” said Richard L. Russell, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst now at the National Defense University. “We’re used to facilities being above ground. Underground, it becomes literally a black hole. You can’t be sure what’s taking place.”
A military attack on Iran would have unintended consequences even if it was successful.
An unsuccessful attack would serve no purpose other than to embolden the Iranian regime even further.