Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt, two Iran experts at the pro-Israeli thinktank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have published a primer for bombing Iran that looks at the costs and consequences. It's called "The Last Resort," but it might have been called "Making the Unthinkable Thinkable."
They make it look easy.
Would Iranians "rally 'round the flag" if Iran is attacked? Maybe, maybe not, they say. "One cannot assume that a preventive strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure would necessarily prompt a nationalist backlash."
Would Iran strike back militarily? Maybe, maybe not, again. They looked at seven previous attacks against Iran, and conclude that Iran's response has been hot and cold. "Tehran has not always reacted swiftly to foreign attacks to assuage nationalist passions--and it has sometimes not responded at all." One quick hit-and-run attack against all, or nearly all, of Iran's nuclear research and industrial sites is the best way to go, they seem to suggest.
Would Iran close the Gulf to oil shipments? They might try, but we can handle that, the authors suggest. "Although Iran could disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf, causing at least temporary panic in world oil and financial markets, it could not block the Gulf for long."
Might Iran rev up its allies in Iraq and Lebanon to confront the United States and its allies? Yes, they say. So we'd have to get tough with them in those places, and "reduce the likelihoodof such an eventuality by quietly indicating that, as in 2006, [the Unied States] would support a tough Israeli response to Hizballah rocket attacks [from Lebanon]."
Will America's allies be angry? Probably, but the Europeans will likely sit it out and "the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf would have good reason to keep a low profile during any U.S.-Iranian confrontation."
Clawson and Eisenstadt conclude:
Should the United States opt for preventive action, success would hinge in no small part on its ability to craft a sustainable policy that effectively integrates diplomatic, military, and informational instruments to destroy key nodes in Iran's nuclear infrastructure, forestall or mitigate the effect of Iranian retaliation, and set the conditions for successful poststrike diplomacy or military action.
Worth trying, no? What's the downside?