Sen. Coats and Sen. Robb’s bipartisan task force study of U.S. policy toward Iranian nuclear development is now out, at this website. Download the .pdf.
It goes beyond the traditional think tank or Council on Foreign Relations study group in that it recognizes that diplomacy, even if the favored option of Washington, may not work and can do real harm. If diplomacy doesn’t work, the report provides a cascade of ever more robust further options.
The BPC study also looks at both containment and deterrence as military strategies for which there must be preparation beyond just the rhetoric of a lameduck White House or presidential campaign. To be perfectly blunt, containment means the ability of the Gulf Arab states to wage war independently with Iran for three or four days until the cavalry can come in, and deterrence is, in its essence, the willingness to kill hundreds of thousands of people. Two four-star generals (retired) and a four-star admiral also participated, including Gen. Chuck Wald, who led the air campaign against Afghanistan in the initial weeks of Operation Enduring Freedom. Any public and academic discussion of military options without an eye toward the detail these military experts provided is truly facile. Despite the AP story, they concluded that a military strike could certainly be more effective than the Iranians realize, even if they also acknowledge the tremendous incumbent costs.
Also relevant in the report is the testimony of numerous financial and energy sector analysts and specialists who outlined a number of preparations which need to occur (e.g. a trans-Saudi pipeline to lessen dependence on the Strait of Hormuz) as well as effective unilateral sanctions which could be implemented by the next US president, even without doubtful Russian or Chinese buy-in.
And the number crunching of a RAND proliferation specialist who demonstrated that, when various centrifuge and feedstock variables are met, Iran could enrich a warhead’s worth of highly enriched uranium in as little as 17 days (the IAEA now inspects about once per month, when Iran cooperates). Blaise Mistzal, a brilliant young analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, also analyzed both the legal arguments of both Iran and the United States.
Lastly, there is a lengthy backgroun section on Iranian history, culture, demography, and governance and an index so the BPC report certainly becomes a one-stop manual to the current crisis. This problem isn’t going away, but hopefully this report will shed some light on the complexity of the problem and the difficult choices this administration punted and the next administration will face.