The Consequences of Military Action Against Iran – Paul Rogers

The Oxford Research Group has recently released the report “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects” by Paul Rogers analyzing the likely ramifications of military intervention in Iran by either the United States or Israel that targets Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The report concludes that military action is highly inadvisable and should be avoided at all costs.

While public protest recently demonstrated the degree of civil strife within Iran, the nation is likely to experience unifying support for the Ahmadinejad regime and encouraging the country to redouble its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Complete elimination of Iran’s nuclear facilities is highly unlikely and neither Israel nor the United States would be capable of preventing acquisition of nuclear weapons through military strikes. Wholesale destruction of Iran’s nuclear program is simply not possible.

Not only would Iran concentrate its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, a protracted conflict throughout the Middle-east would begin, creating further instability in the region. Iran may substantially increase support of anti-Western groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, employ paramilitary or missile attacks on Western oil production in the gulf, close the Straights of Hormuz, or attack Israel with conventional weapons. Furthermore, these actions will not occur immediately following the attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities but are viable options to Iran over the long term as means of retaliation.

Rogers offers two other policy prescriptions in place of a military strike. First, efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement should be dramatically increased. The other option is to accept the eventual acquisition of nuclear capability by Iran and begin the process of balanced regional denuclearization.

Response

The costs of of any military engagement with Iran will greatly outweigh the benefits and will not achieve the primary goal of preventing the nuclearization of Iran. In fact, it will likely compromise other objectives in the region by escalating tension within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, solidifying support for Ahmadinejad’s regime, further eroding the West’s influence in the region, and generally impeding further progress towards the adoption of democratic norms within the Middle East.

Even though Rogers makes a substantiated and compelling argument, his report could have been strengthened in two ways. His two options for policy towards Iran should have been greatly elaborated. He readily admits in the report that such an undertaking is beyond the scope and purpose of the report but the reader is most definitely left wanting a the end. A general outline of the process for regional de-nucealrization as well as specific prescriptions for how to strengthen diplomatic efforts would have been incredibly useful.

Second, a strong argument can be made for why a nuclear Iran does not result in an existential threat to the United States or Israel but Rogers does include or build upon it. Without concluding that a nuclear Iran does not pose a pertinent threat to national security, proponents of military action can easily evoke the “one percent” doctrine argument of the Bush Administration and claim that even the slightest chance of Iran utilizing weapons of mass destruction must be prevented at all costs. Any resulting regional turmoil or impediment to other objectives in the Middle East would no longer outweigh the temporarily and fleeting benefits of a military strike, therefore negating Rogers argument. While the “one percent” includes several glaring faults, the argument must be addressed nevertheless.

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