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MIDDLE EAST: Threatened Israeli strike on Iran would lead to regional war, report says

July 14, 2010 |  4:01 pm

Picture 37The ultimate nightmare scenario could soon become a reality:

Israeli strike aircraft cross into Iranian airspace and hit the nuclear facilities at Natanz, Esfahan and Qom, as well as the laboratories of the University of Tehran, killing one of Iran's leading nuclear scientists along with dozens of researchers and a janitor. 

Iran retaliates by hitting Tel Aviv with long-range missiles and fanning the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, engulfing the Middle East in a protracted regional war and triggering a global economic crisis over oil prices.

This terrifying outcome is increasingly likely if Israel carries out a reportedly impending military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to a new study by the Oxford Research Group, a leading security think tank.

The paper, titled "Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects," was released Thursday following ominous statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Fox News channel in which he called Iran "the ultimate terrorist threat today."

"We should not allow irrational regimes like Iran to have nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said.

Although Netanyahu declined to outline a specific plan of action or a deadline, he reiterated his country's willingness to use force to stop Tehran from developing its nuclear capabilities, which Iran insists are for peaceful purposes.

"There's only been one time that Iran actually stopped the [nuclear] program, and that was when it feared U.S. military action," the prime minister said. 

Watch the interview here.

But according to the paper released Thursday, the consequences of such a military action against Iran "are so serious that they should not be encouraged in any shape or form.”

The report predicts such an attack would have the exact opposite of the desired effect by uniting Iranians against a common enemy, thus bolstering Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line regime, which would retaliate against Israeli and U.S. interests in the region.

The report points to Israel's recently improved strike capabilities and the bellicose rhetoric of its politicians and concludes that the Jewish state is preparing to take out not only known Iranian nuclear facilities but also factories, research centers, and university laboratories with the intention of destroying Iran's technical capabilities and killing its leading technocrats.

Iran would likely respond by attacking Israel directly, withdrawing from negotiations over its nuclear program, supporting insurgent activity against Western interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, and facilitating attacks against Western oil facilities in the Persian gulf.

“There would be many civilian casualties, both directly among people working on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but also their families as their living quarters were hit, and secretaries, cleaners, labourers and other staff in factories, research stations and university departments,” says the report, which was authored by Paul Rogers of the University of Bradford.

“An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would almost certainly be the beginning of a long-term process of regular Israeli airstrikes to further prevent the development of nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles," it continues. "Iranian responses would also be long-term, ushering in a lengthy war with global as well as regional implications."

Meris Lutz in Beirut

Screenshot: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he tells Fox News that Iran is the "ultimate terrorist threat" in a televised interview. Credit: Meris Lutz

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