U.S. Hitting Iran Stirs Less Strife Than Israeli Attack

U.S. air strikes against Iranian nuclear research and production facilities, if warranted, would result in fewer political repercussions than Israeli attacks, according to an analysis by a former member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A U.S. military action carries other consequences, such as making it harder for America to negotiate with Iran and to keep continued sanctions on Iran, according to a “policy note” co-written by retired Marine Corps General James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Israeli strikes “would almost certainly not enjoy the same international support as a U.S. strike,” Cartwright wrote in the note, released today by the Washington Institute For Near East Policy. Cartwright wrote the piece with Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli defense intelligence.

In considering whether Israel or the U.S. should carry out strikes, either option poses it own set of potential military, political and diplomatic drawbacks, they wrote.

The publication, in the form of answers to 10 questions that U.S. and Israeli leaders might pose, assesses the effectiveness and impact of conventional weapons strikes to derail Iran’s program. Cartwright, who retired in August 2011, was involved in U.S.-Iranian contingency planning at the Pentagon.

Significantly, he and Yadlin wrote, even though military strikes would only temporarily derail Iran’s nuclear program, action by Israel could “topple the international regime of export controls and sanctions” that President Barack Obama “has so carefully cobbled together.”

Strict Sanctions

“Without strict sanctions in place” to prevent the re-importation of nuclear material, they wrote, it may be only “a matter of years before the regime reconstitutes the program -- this time entirely bunkered underground to protect against future strikes.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in March there remains “time and space” for diplomacy aimed at averting military action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.

Still, pressure on Obama’s administration to move toward military action is growing as Iran advances its uranium enrichment capabilities and U.S. lawmakers, Israel and Persian Gulf allies press for results.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on March 5 said negotiating time is “finite.”

“The clock is ticking and the president has made that clear,” Kerry said.

The Pentagon is pursuing “serious contingency planning” - - along with the administration’s strategy of “tough-minded” and “crippling” sanctions -- “with the objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in written answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation.

“If Washington wants to avoid getting bogged down in another war in a Muslim country,” Cartwright and Yadlin wrote that any U.S. strike “must be geared solely toward stopping Iran’s nuclear efforts, not regime change or conquest.”

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