WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. military strikes on Iran would shake the regime’s political control and damage its ability to launch counterstrikes, but the Iranians probably would manage to retaliate, directly and through surrogates, in ways that risked igniting all-out war in the Middle East, according to an assessment of an attack’s costs and benefits.
The assessment said extended U.S. strikes could destroy Iran’s most important nuclear facilities and damage its military forces but would only delay — not stop — the Islamic republic’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
“You can’t kill intellectual power,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, who endorsed the report. He is a former deputy director at the National Counterterrorism Center and former deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
The report compiled by former government officials, national security experts and retired military officers is to be publicly released Thursday. It says achieving more than a temporary setback in Iran’s nuclear program would require a military operation — including a land occupation — more taxing than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
An advance copy of the report was provided to The Associated Press.
The assessment emerges against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Israel and the U.S. over when a military strike on Iran might be required. The Israelis worry that Iran is moving more quickly toward a nuclear capability than the United States believes. The U.S. has not ruled out attacking but has sought to persuade Israel to give diplomacy more time.
Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as a mortal threat, citing Iran’s persistent calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, its development of missiles capable of striking Israel and Iranian support for Arab militant groups.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
An oft-stated argument against striking Iran is that it would add to a perception of the U.S. as anti-Muslim — a perception linked to the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and hardened by Internet-based video excerpts of an anti-Muslim film that may have fueled Tuesday’s deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic office in Libya.
“Planners and pundits ought to consider that the riots and unrest following a Web entry about an obscure film are probably a fraction of what could happen following a strike — by the Israelis or U.S. — on Iran,” retired Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, an endorser of the Iran report and a former operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview.
The report was compiled and endorsed by more than 30 former diplomats, retired admirals and generals and others who said their main purpose was to provide clarity about the potential use of military force against Iran. They reached no overall conclusion and offered no recommendations.
“The report is intended to have what we call an informing influence and hopefully something of a calming influence, but that’s something readers will have to answer for themselves,” said Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has held informal contacts with Iranian officials as recently as the past few months.
Kearney said the assessment was meant to stimulate thinking in the U.S. about the objectives of a military attack on Iran beyond the obvious goal of hitting key components of Iran’s nuclear program. “Clearly there is some (U.S.) ability to do destruction, which will cause some delay, but what occurs after that?” he said in an interview.
Other endorsers of the report include Brent Scowcroft, who was President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser; former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, former Sens. Sam Nunn and Chuck Hagel and two retired chiefs of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and navy Adm. William J. Fallon.
The analysis includes stark assertions about one of the most volatile and complex issues facing the U.S. in a presidential election year. President Barack Obama’s failure to get Iran to negotiate acceptable limits on its nuclear program is cited by his opponents as emblematic of a misguided and weak foreign policy.
The report said the Obama administration’s stated objective — shared by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney — of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb is unlikely to be achieved through military force if action is limited to a combination of airstrikes, cyberattacks, covert operations and special operations strikes.
It says an extensive U.S. military assault could delay for up to four years Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. It also could disrupt Iranian government control, deplete its treasury and raise internal tensions.
“We do not believe it would lead to regime change, regime collapse or capitulation,” it said, adding that such an attack would increase Iran’s motivation to build a bomb, in part because the Iranian leadership would see building a bomb as a way to inhibit future U.S. attacks “and redress the humiliation of being attacked.”
A more ambitious military campaign designed to oust the Iranian regime of hardline clerics or force an undermining of Iran’s influence in the Mideast would require the U.S. to occupy part or all of the country, the report said.
“Given Iran’s large size and population, and the strength of Iranian nationalism, we estimate that the occupation of Iran would require a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined,” the report said.
The U.S. had as many as 170,000 troops in Iraq at the height of the 2003-10 war, and U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan peaked last year at 100,000. Eleven years into the Afghan war the U.S. still has about 74,000 troops there.
Early drafts of the report were coordinated by the nonpartisan Iran Project, a private group funded in part by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropy that promotes peace and democracy. The final version includes contributions from others with national security expertise. It is based on publicly available documents, including unclassified intelligence reports.
Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Biden cracks Obama teleprompter joke
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11