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I’m not saying we’re there now, but we could soon find ourselves in a situation where some kind of military action starts to look like the only possibility to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. If we get to that point, assuming that we’ve not yet reached the point where they have a deployable nuclear missile, I’m suggesting a plan that is a little off the beaten path … a little outside the box. Okay, I’m tearing up the box, setting it on fire, and dancing around it naked in a forest clearing with the rest of the coven.
First, some context. Iran is unique in several ways that I think makes it possible to use tactics that would be a horrible mistake in any other part of the Middle East.
To start with, while most of the Muslim world, including almost the entire remaining Middle East, is Sunni, Iran is Shia, and Sunni and Shia hate each other almost as much as they hate us. An attack on Iran would not be seen in the same way, or produce the same reaction, as a similar attack on, for example, Saudi Arabia.
Iran is Persian while most of the rest are Arab, and Arabs and Persians hate each other almost as much as they hate us. This would reinforce the dynamic produced by the Sunni/Shia split.
The rest of the Middle East is far from sanguine about the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Several of them already see themselves as being in the position where if the Iranians get the bomb, that they either nuke up or knuckle under. Given that they paid for Pakistan’s development, Saudi Arabia will have it immediately.
Finally, and most importantly, there is a completely different population dynamic in Iran than exists in any other Middle Eastern country. In the typical state, you have an overwhelming population of fundamentalist, terrorist-sympathizing crazies restrained by a government that is some degree less fFundamentalist, less terrorist-sympathizing, and less crazy. Iran is the opposite; a relatively secular, relatively pro-Western population with a fundamentalist, terror-supporting crazy government.
It isn’t even really the government, it’s the Mullah-based uber-government that sits above the government, deciding what laws can be passed, who can stand for office, and all the strategic policy for the state. Without the Mullahs, in a comparison with the rest of the Middle East, it would come across as a relative bright spot.
So, my idea is simple: kill the Mullahs. You know … all of them.
I don’t know the state of our intelligence in Iran, but these guys have to get together at some point: The Monthly Mullah Meeting; The Annual Mullah Performance Review; The Semi-Annual Mullah Pancake Breakfast … something. If you can get them all together, then it’s one and done. One bomb, that is.
If you can’t get them together, then get them apart, in a time-on-target salvo, so that no one has a chance to go to ground. The government would remain intact and completely functional, so there is no worry about nation-building. All the infrastructure would be similarly intact, because you’re just trying to kill about a dozen guys.
It may or may not also be advantageous to destroy some portion of the Iranian military to demonstrate how easy it would be to destroy the rest. Sink everything floating in the Persian Gulf, for example.
And that’s it. We’re done. The only thing left to do at that point is to tell them:
- We’re done. We have no intention of taking further action. We have no ill will towards the Iranian people, which is why we chose an option with the lowest possible collateral damage. We only attacked the Mullahs, the ones who took our people hostage, who declared war against us, a declaration that has never been rescinded, and who have committed numerous acts of war against in the years since.
- We will take an extremely dim view towards any attempt by anyone to set themselves up as new Mullahs.
- We will take a similarly dim view towards any attempt by the military to take control.
- We call for elections at the earliest opportunity, in which anyone who chooses to do so may run for office.
One obvious potential downside is that they retaliate through their various proxies but given that I stipulated at the start that we’ve reached the point of a military response, that worry would apply to any plan. And I would argue that the nature of this one might actually be less likely to produce that kind of retaliation.
Most of the remaining potential downside would tend to fall into the category of “they’re already crazy, so how much worse can it get?” The last way that Iran is unique is that it’s harder to make things worse than it would be for other states where the government is keeping a lid on a crazy population.
The potential upsides depend on asking what the Iranian people care about. Do the people want to support terrorist operations in other countries? Do they want to provide massive amounts of aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon? Do they want to ship men and material to Syria? Do the people even care about having a nuclear weapon, or do they want jobs and reasonable prices when they go to the grocery store? If we could put the power into the hands of the people, it would be hard to imagine them not being less crazy than the guys running the place now.