The New York Times has a detailed article about what it takes to wipe out Iran's nuclear program. In summary,:
- The four targets are Natanz and Fordo (uranium enrichment facilities), Arak (heavy water reactor), Isfahan (yellow cake conversion plant).
- Of the three potential routes (see map above), the central route through Iraq is the most likely. Iraq has virtually no air defenses and the U.S. is not obligated to defend its skies.
- Israeli F-15s and F-16s are capable of bombing raids, but do not have the 2,000 mile round trip range. The planes also need extra time in the air to "loiter" over a target and to fight off attacks from missiles and planes.
- Israel does not have enough airborne re-fuel tankers. It has at most eight KC-707s. More F-15s and F-16s would be needed to protect the tankers.
- The Natanz facility is under 30 feet of concrete. Fordo is in a mountain. Israel's bunker busting bombs may not be powerful enough. A nuclear weapon(!) may be needed to penetrate.
But what is to say that Israel is going to attack all four facilities? Also, never underestimate the power of the Israeli military.
The regional and global consequences are of course numerous. Just off the top of my head:
- Iran could cut off its oil exports further, affecting not only Europe, but Asia as well.
- Iran could attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz.
- Saudi and other pro-west Gulf States will up oil production to control oil prices.
- Israel will be attacked by Iranian missiles and explosives lobbed from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. We might see a return of suicide bus bombers inside Israel.
- Iran will no longer be able to financially prop up the Syrian regime, which is hemorrhaging its foreign exchange reserves. In an act of desperation, Syria will further escalate its attacks on rebels and protestors.
- Iran's preoccupation will mean a slight power vacuum in neighboring Iraq. Iraqi Sunnis and Al Qaeda in Iraq will take advantage of this and try to increase its power in government and take revenge through violence.
- China's inability to positively influence what happens in Iran (and Syria) proves that it is not quite a superpower.
- I can't figure out how Egypt is going to react. Is its people's animosity against the Israelis stronger than the general Arab dislike of Persians? Does the U.S. have any influence over the current Egyptian government?
- I can't figure out how this is going to affect the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline that is supposed to bring Canadian oil to the United States, which was put on hold by Obama, might be green lit before the November election. The only thing that is going to stop Obama from being re-elected is if the economy stalls again. And he absolutely must keep gasoline prices down.
- I'm trying to find a map of prevailing wind patterns in and around Iran. Because if uranium ends up in the atmosphere, it's going to drift into neighboring countries.