Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Nuclear Option

If reports are to be believed, the United States is actively considering a tactical nuclear weapons strike on Iranian atomic weapons facilities. Sadly, though, reports are rarely to be believed. And Seymour Hersch is never to be believed. When you read the article, what you get is routine contingency planning:
Some US military chiefs have unsuccessfully urged the White House to drop the nuclear option from its war plans, Hersh writes in The New Yorker magazine. The conviction that Mr Ahmedinejad would attack Israel or US forces in the Middle East, if Iran obtains atomic weapons, is what drives American planning for the destruction of Teheran's nuclear programme.

Hersh claims that one of the plans, presented to the White House by the Pentagon, entails the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One alleged target is Iran's main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, 200 miles south of Teheran.

Of course the President won't "drop the nuclear option." We never take any option off the table. And the notion that Pentagon war planners are -- gasp -- drawing up war plans for all possible contingencies is, not to put too fine a point on it, far from shocking.

Look, if we decide we need to do something militarily -- which we very well may -- we need to do it effectively. If, given the location, design and construction of the Iranian facilities, the only effective means are TNWs, well, them's the means we'll have to use. Suffice to say, we are many, many mega-parsecs from taking that decision. If, however, there's a bit of concern in Iran tonight: Good. We're not looking to play Florence Nightingale here.