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The University of Texas at Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Letter to the Editor

Targeting Iran's Nuclear Weapons

The Washington Post, Monday, February 12, 2007

Letter to the Editor in response to "What to Ask Before the Next War," The Washington Post (2/4/07).

Contrary to Paul R. Pillar's suggestion in "What to Ask Before the Next War" [op-ed, Feb. 4], the consequences of potential U.S. airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities are unlikely to resemble those we now are suffering for needlessly invading and occupying Iraq.

Indeed, a longer perspective on Iraq undermines Mr. Pillar's thesis.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's nearly operational Osiraq nuclear reactor, setting back Saddam Hussein's bomb program by at least a decade, without triggering a terrorist backlash, wider war, rise in oil prices, global recession or anything else on Mr. Pillar's list of horrors. Similarly, the United States used airstrikes in the 1998 Operation Desert Fox to degrade dozens of suspected Iraqi military facilities without triggering substantial backlash.

Obviously, we should not bomb Iran before exhausting diplomatic alternatives and considering the costs and benefits, including the potential for escalation.

But neither should we bias our calculations by grossly exaggerating the likely consequences of a narrow air campaign, which history indicates could set back Iran's nascent nuclear weapons program at relatively low cost.

Copyright 2007 The Washington Post Company