Attacking Iran’s Nuclear Sites Would be Sheer Madness

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By Claude Salhani, journalist, author and political analyst based in Beirut, specializing in the Middle East, politicized Islam and terrorism. He is also the former editor of the Middle East Times and. C the former International Editor with United Press International and also ran UPI’s Terrorism & Security Desks. Cross posted from OilPrice

A timely article by Wade Stone for Global Research examines what would happen to the oil producing nations of the Gulf in the event that Israel would target Iran’s nuclear reactors and facilities; the reply and the scenario given is nothing short of a nightmare. Most, if not all, the cities in the region of the Arabian Gulf – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City, Riyadh and others – would become uninhabitable for decades to come.

The article provides a good study of the ensuing catastrophe that would result. Though frightening as it is, the article looks at the issue mostly from a technical perspective and does not convey enough the hellish reality of the immediate panic that would befall the region and indeed the world, given the repercussions resulting from the inter-dependency of nations today.

In the event of an attack by Israel on the Iranian sites at Bushehr, Natanz, Arak and Isfahan in order to prevent the Islamic Republic’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and if the fallout was to hit certain weather conditions prevalent in the Gulf region the result is that nearly the entire region would become uninhabitable for decades to come. And says the author, the disaster would not be limited to the region, but depending on the weather pattern, the fallout may very well hit Israel and even Turkey.

Much of what would happen depends largely on the climatic conditions at the time of the attacks. Great desert storms known as the shamal and the sharqi, sweep down and blankets the entire region and would bring with it contaminated sand particles.

If you saw one of the Mission Impossible movies where Tom Cruise chases one of the bad guys through the streets of Dubai as a monstrous sand storm blows in, then you may have a better idea of what these storms refer to. Now imagine that same sand storm blow through the region only this time each little particle of sand contaminated by nuclear fallout. A single particle is all that is needed to contaminate a human being.

The author of the article states that the storm travels in a semi-circular route, at a speed of 30 to 300 kilometers through the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In other words the major oil producing centers as well as a large number of refineries would become contaminated.

Aside from the ecological disaster of which there would be no precedent, there is also the human aspect of the tragedy. And then the economic fallout as oil production from the region would plummet overnight.

Think of the disaster that such an impact would have on the price of oil if suddenly more than 17 million barrels per day comprising the joint production form Saudi Arabia (10 million bbl/d), the UAE (3.087 million bbl/pd) Qatar (1.63 million bbl/pd) and Bahrain (44,800 bbl/pd). Not to mention the oil from Iraq and Iran, that would plunge the world into one of the greatest crisis ever experienced.

Consider the consequences: the first tier would be ground zero, the immediate areas affected by the fall out. Here there would be sheer hysteria and pandemonium on a biblical scale as that area would witness a mass exodus by hundreds of thousands of residents, foreign and nationals, all trying to get out of the contaminated area as people in total panic would end up fighting each other for the last seats on airplanes out of the region.

Then imagine if you will the insanity as those who failed to secure air travel would get in their cars and start driving west.

The second tier of trouble would immediately be felt as an unprecedented oil shortage would create havoc on the world markets and stock exchanges. Wall Street, the FT100 and other international markets would crash, companies would collapse overnight.

The third tier of disaster would come from countries slightly removed from the front-line states as the after effects begin to settle in.

In terms of damages, said the author of the report “Think of the nuclear accident at Fukushima” in Japan says the author, “and multiply it by ten.” Fukushima was unquestionably the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date, surpassing Chernobyl in Ukraine, where the death from cancer reached a million.

“Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would leave the entire Gulf State region virtually uninhabitable,” writes Stone.

Okay, those in favor of military action by Israel and/or the United States on Iran’s nuclear facilities may argue that this is a worst case scenario and that any strike by Israel would be “surgical and tactical and precise.” And they may well be right. But even a best-case scenario where minimum nuclear waste is released into the atmosphere and claims that the heat from the fires caused by the bombing would incinerate all nuclear particles, there would still be some contamination.

So after all perhaps the great cities of the region would not become uninhabitable as imagined by one writer. Indeed, it may be hyped in order to grab readers’ attention. Maybe in the best case scenario there would be “minimum collateral damage” where “only” a million or so people would die over the span of a decade from cancers brought about by the attacks. What was it that Josef Stalin used to say about killing a million people? “It’s only a statistic.

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  1. JGordon

    Simply because a course of action is insane is not sufficient reason for politicians to discard it out of hand. In fact, by posting this piece you have as much admitted that you believe that our politicians are insane (or at least seriously stupid for not knowing the above, if they don’t know it).

    Therefore, let’s just take this one step further and acknowledge the fact that all people with power everywhere are inherently untrustworthy and very likely also insane. When you come to understand that fact, then a lot of other political positions, from gun control to fiscal/monetary policy, will naturally realign into patterns that better reflect reality.

    1. wunsacon

      Yeah, I had the same reaction. IOW:

      >> Attacking Iran’s Nuclear Sites Would be Sheer Madness

      Gee, that hasn’t stopped us before!

      1. JGordon

        I used to be really big into politics and I was a huge Obama supporter in 2008. But in 2009 I started to notice that everything he said was a lie, and after that it was kind of hard to keep believing in him, or in politics in general. Now I have evolved to the point where I just automatically assume that everyone with even a tiny bit of authority everywhere is lying through their teeth, unless I have absolute, irrefutable proof that what they are saying is not a complete lie.

        So far that stance has served me well for accurately predicting how things will go. Now when I hear lying politicians or corporate leaders speak (whether in Europe or America or where ever) I am utterly astonished that there are still people who give what they say credence.

        1. JGordon

          Just as an example, if a politician says something along the lines of, “the banks are sound,” my realtime automatic politician-speak descrambler translates that into, “hoy f*ck get your money out of the banks ASAP”. It really works! Try it out.

          1. AbyNormal

            for decades ive noticed a consistent pattern; when politicians suggest they’re ‘looking into’ or out-right deny policies changes…

            They’ve Already Gone and Done It.

          2. Larry Barber

            I’ve long maintained that it is far more efficient to simply assume that anything coming out of government, particularly the Department of Defense and the security apparatus is lie. The number of lies so far outnumber the true statements that you save a lot of time figuring out what is a lie this way.

            And most politicians are worse than the DoD/CIA/NSA/DHS/etc. Most of them will lie when it would be to their advantage to tell the truth.

          3. David Archer

            Trust government not at all and business even less – reverse the positions of government & business in the equation if it makes you feel better.

    2. diptherio

      As the inimitable folksinger Greg Brown explains the situation:

      The president he gonna start laughin’
      Pass to the general a toke.
      All the world bigshots gonna lay down their guns
      And say “hey folks, it was all just a joke!”

      “Bombs & stuff?
      Droppin’ on you?
      You know we would’n’ do that to you.
      We’re the leaders-of-the-world
      We’re the real cool guys
      We’re elected, respected, we try to be wise
      We’re not gonna drop a bunch a’ bombs on everybody, blow up the whole world
      over some little political difficulty or border dispute or somethin’
      Us leaders-of-the-world we’re like all you people,
      Jus’ like to sit back, relax, take it easy…”

      Dream on…

    3. Paul W

      Then we’re all in agreement that they are insane. Anyone who would consider bombing a nuclear power plant should be locked up immediately. Yet our MSM present their “all options are on the table” as being a rational policy. Pathetic.

      Regarding the nuclear power plant blowing up domino theory, would it not make sense to have Hizbollah targeting Israel’s plants in retaliation or infiltrators in the US going after American plants?

      1. banger

        I disagree–I don’t think serious policymakers are considering an attack–it’s all bluff and bluster. People in power are Machiavellians and nothing and I mean nothing they say is true.

        There is no public support for a new war and, besides, Iran makes a good “enemy” to have–ask the Israeli right–where would they be without Iran?

        1. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

          When Syria is wracked by civil war and Iran is bombed out, the Israeli right will go after the Israeli left. Those kind of people will always find some threat. It’s their raison d’être

    4. Susan the other

      And sometimes the truth literally makes your heart stop. The real reason we nuked Japan was to scare Russia. Why were we all so brain dead? Other excuses were that we wanted an unconditional surrender, even though Japan was so done for it was an execrise in masochism for our great nation; bringing an enemy to such an abject condition. Well, blabbered Truman, if we hadn’t nuked them they would never have surrendered. Right. I, for one, do not believe Iran wants to annihilate Israel any more than we want a nuclear political decision. Just talking about it is a joke.

      1. Mark P.

        Susan the Other wrote: ‘The real reason we nuked Japan was to scare Russia.’

        You probably don’t know it, but you’re citing a revisionist theory that was first promoted by a man named Gar Alpowitz in the 1960s — and which never made that much sense if one thought about it for a minute — and that’s since been shot down in flames by a vast mass of documentation assembled by historians of the era — American and Japanese — and the testimonies of people who were, you know, actually around.

        Those testimonies include those of members of the Japanese military high command. A sample of those can be found, for example, in the book —

        Also, the release of the ULTRA intercepts, which starting becoming available in the 1970s (post-Alpowitz). A good book here is MACARTHUR’S ULTRA; CODEBREAKING AND THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN, 1942-1945 (1972) by Edward J. Drea

        Essentially, what the ULTRA intercepts showed when they were released in the 1970s is that in 1945 one relatively peripheral faction among the Japanese were making tentative noises about conditional surrender to the Americans (I am not an American). Simultaneously, the Japanese high command — who had the power — were doubling down on efforts to create as many casualties as possible if Operation Downfall (the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands) proceeded. Arguably, those predictions of casualties of around a half-million would have been conservative.

        For a brief account of the argument among historians, see for example —
        “The Historiography of Hiroshima: The Rise and Fall of Revisionism”
        by Michael Kort

        In summary: this is a war that was fought among the historians and lost by the revisionists a couple of decades ago.

          1. glitch

            Updated canned response to trolls? For the NC noobs like me.
            Gar Alperovitz is quite credible.

          2. Lambert Strether

            @glitch No. Last I checked the historiograpy on this, Alperowitz was in good standing (which dates me, I know). So I am pleased to have the update.

            * * *

            That was not the canned response you were looking for. This would have been: “Thanks for sharing your concerns.”

  2. Middle Seaman

    Experience in Middle East affairs doesn’t qualify one as a nuclear physicist, an arms expert or knowledgeable of radiation spread. Just ignore this article.

    1. reprobate

      People who don’t bother reading an article have no credibility. Salhani was writing up Wade Stone’s account, so your comments on Salhani are wide of the mark.

      1. LucyLulu

        “Maybe in the best case scenario there would be “minimum collateral damage” where “only” a million or so people would die over the span of a decade from cancers brought about by the attacks.”

        I read the article, several times, and Seaman’s comment is quite apropos. If Salhani has major disagreements with Strong, he certainly didn’t say so. In fact, I read it a few times because it was so often difficult to distinguish what Salhani was merely attributing to Strong vs. what was his (Salhani’s) opinion. The strongest statement he made against Strong’s case was that there were SOME (“those in favor…..”, sentence which didn’t make sense to me) who might argue that Strong had presented a worst-case scenario.

        Did you read the article?

        1. reprobate

          Yes, and it’s abundantly clear that he is writing up Stone and his commentary comes in the last two paragraphs. It’s not hard to parse unless one isn’t reading closely.

    2. JGordon

      Crap man, whoever paid you didn’t get their money’s worth. I want to make it clear here that if someone actually wants some good propaganda put there, that is tailored specifically for the audience, you need to hire me. I support the Obama regime and the police state, and I am totally willing to sell out to it. I am not being facetious. Hire me!

      I have a BA in professional and technical writing, my GRE verbal score is in the 98th percentile, my Sanford-Benet IQ score is 145, and I write real good copy (when I’m actually getting paid for it). Look, I’m poor and I want the job!

      1. Bunk McNulty

        As a wise man, George Frayne, once said, “The only thing worse than selling out is selling out and not getting bought.”

        (I, too, would gladly sell out to any Oligarchy-supporting outfit. The amount it would take to ease my conscience would be a mere pittance, in the scheme of things.)

    3. liberal

      I haven’t read the article yet myself, but my bullshit meter started pegging when I skimmed the post.

  3. LucyLulu

    I don’t give credence to much of what is written in this article either, and dammit, I just lost my post with sources.

    There haven’t been a million deaths from cancer attributed to Chernobyl. It’s closer to 60,000, from a post on AllThingsNuclear from UCS in 2011, who disputed the often-cited figure of 4,000.

    Fukushima is hardly expected to have 10 million excess deaths from cancer. It would be expected to come in lower than Chernobyl given 1)prompt evacuation unlike Chernobyl 2) deposition rates of 37 kBq/sq.m over 35 times as large an area 3) concentrations in milk in surrounding area 50 times higher in Chernobyl. Not all cancers have been shown to be dose-dependent but most are.

    Nuclear fuel does NOT incinerate in fires. Heat acts as a catalyst for nuclear fission, hence the importance of providing cooling for all but new and unused nuclear fuel.

    And aren’t Iran’s facilities buried underground? Assuming there was no detonation (provided by another material, e.g. graphite in Chernobyl, or unvented hydrogen gas, allowed to develop high atm. pressures, from water/steam used as coolant in Fukushima), fuel exposed to fire and high temps would burn down through their containment structures a la “China syndrome”.

    Nevertheless, I agree that bombing Iran is a foolhardy proposition, certain to result in mortalities whether due to radiation or other causes. Whether they have nuclear arms or not, I don’t believe Iran represents half the risk of N. Korea or Pakistan, or for that matter, Israel or the U.S. Unlike Iran, Israel has been aggressive towards its neighbors, and is confirmed to have nuclear weapons that it refuses to allow to be inspected. I propose that out of fairness the U.S. either impose the same expectations on both countries or we impose none. Preferably the latter.

    1. Larry Barber

      The article doesn’t make it clear if it’s assuming the attack would be with conventional weapons or not (not terribly well written). Given how hardened the Iranian nuclear facilities are, it could be that nuclear weapons are the only thing that could reach them. Of course, if the attack were done with nukes, then everything you are saying pertaining to nuclear power plants is moot.

      1. reprobate

        1. The US announced it is making new, better bunker busters supposedly to get at the Iranian facilities

        2. Stone posits that multiple facilities will be targeted, not just one, so looking a single past disasters isn’t comparable

        3. In Fukushima, there have been massive efforts to reduce the release of nuclear material, and prevailing weather patterns took it mainly to the east, over the Pacific. You also seem to forget that the hot zone around the plant was evacuated and remains evacuated. Would such measures be possible or implemented quickly enough?

        And more important, if a plant was INTENTIONALLY DESTROYED BY A WEAPON, would the sort of containment measures used at Chernobly and Fukushima be effective? This looks to be apples and oranges.

        Japan has a long history of under-reporting crises. Deaths increased in Japan the year after the tsumani, even when you parse out the ones who died in the tsunami proper:

        “Buried in the many documents the Japanese health ministry places on its website is the monthly estimate of deaths. During the 12 months following Fukushima, the number of deaths for all of Japan jumped 57,900 above than the prior year. About 19,200 were additional deaths from accidents, almost all from the immediate impact of the earthquake and tsunami, but that left 38,700 excess deaths from other causes — with no immediate explanation. While all of these cannot automatically be attributed to radiation exposure, they should be taken seriously and become the subject of extensive health studies.”

        And more official accounts make clear that the current estimates of low deaths are speculative:

        “Predicted future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are predicted to be quite low. However, the researchers emphasized that the uncertainties in the calculations is high, suggesting further research is required.”

        4. The graphite core is flammable.

        5. Stone argues the consequences are so horrific that the talk of going after Iran’s nukes must be bluster.

    2. Colas92

      Good posting Lucy… no one died at Fukushima … and only a few workers were exposed to high dosages of radiation… Chernobyl was not a commercial reactor and there are no reliable figures about cancer deaths…

    3. casino implosion

      All good points by Lucylulu. I’m no fan of attacking Iran, but that article was badly written and full of sketchy or downright dubious assumptions and claims.

    4. fajensen

      Nuclear fuel does NOT incinerate in fires. Heat acts as a catalyst for nuclear fission, hence the importance of providing cooling for all but new and unused nuclear fuel.

      Nuclear reactions cannot be “catalysed” in any way, maybe neutrinos have an effect on decay rates but this still theory. It is the decay heat from fission products that must be cooled away in used fuel.

      “Nuclear Fuel cannot burn” … Well, that depends, the pure metals used in bombs will burn quite nicely, the zirconium cladding holding commercial fuel pellets will also burn once ignited. The actual commercial fuel inside the fuel tubes is either a ceramic or a sintered oxide. The actual ceramic/oxides will not burn but the material is brittle and will produce dust when smashed or even when used – the impurities produced by the fission process will eventually swell the material and shatter it.

      The Iranians proably use uranium hexaflouride gas in their enrichment process. This material is somewhat radioactive, toxic, highly corrosive and – true to form for Flouride – reacts readily with water wapour to become both more toxic, corrosive, e.t.c. and ensure an effective dispersion in the environment if it leaks. Flouride IS evil by nature.

  4. Forest Tress

    We did Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan (and many many others). What’s to stop us now? After 9/11 everyone from Brookings to liberal writers Inc wanted genocide brought unto “the enemy”. No matter what the thoughtful among us said, you can’t the USA without industry and banking right in there with death and destruction.

  5. DakotabornKansan

    University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland analysis of mainstream media coverage of the Iranian nuclear issue here:

    Quoting from the study’s executive summary:

    “… newspapers…frame their coverage of Iran’s nuclear program in a manner that emphasized official narratives of the dispute and a relatively narrow range of policy choices available to officials. By not consistently describing the complex web of international relationships, security concerns, and intervening political factors in sufficient detail, newspaper coverage further privileged official narratives and policy preferences. This makes it likely that the policies enacted and under consideration by policy makers—coercive diplomacy and war—remain the most likely outcome of the dispute. In this way, news coverage of Iran’s nuclear program is reminiscent of news coverage of the run-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. News coverage has the potential to play a significant, constructive role in finding a lasting resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, but journalists and editors first need to address the tendencies present in their current coverage of the topic.”

    1. Wordsmithery

      Nuclear weapons are an important feature of our Democracy, perhaps Iran’s aquisition will spur important domestic democratic reforms, affordable housing and health care for more Iranians. I’d like to see the Press Inc cover that angle.

      1. Walter Map

        The U.S. does not have a “Democracy”. It has a police state run by transnational corporatists who laugh at “Democracy”, where public “consent” is routinely manufactured, when the oligarchy bothers with it at all.

        Nuclear weapons are only one of the means by which the masters of mankind can create global catastrophe (several others are already in the pipe), and you talk about it like it’s a good thing.

    2. Susan the other

      This just occurred to me: Iran could be the paragon of integrity here. Even though they have a huge oil reserve, they are developing their nuclear energy industry. They should be developing thorium, that would be the proof of their intentions. But heaven forbid any of this because the propaganda is such that we never question the death of oil. It’s done. Iran needs clean energy. So who has the most vested interest in prolonging this charade? The oil industry, that’s who.

    3. banger

      True enough but in the lead up to Iraq there was a lot of sentiment for war by both political parties and a significant number of Americans. Today support for a new war is just too low and even if there’s a false-flag incident there’s unprecedented skepticism of anything the government says on matters of security.

      I don’t believe there’s even much support within government. There certainly was not much support for it when I had access to an insider (a couple of years ago) who made it clear to me that senior policy makers in the Pentagon, CIA and State were against it. Only in the Air Force with its cadre of officers who are waiting for the end of the world seem to be interested.

  6. TomDor

    Incidentally, the best way to put an end to all wars is not to begin any.

    “No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.” -Alexis de Tocqueville

    “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” -George Orwell

    “A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.” -James Madison

    1. Garrett Pace

      Well, the militarists say, ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’ An ancient Roman adage – it’s nonsense. The whole of history has proved it’s wrong. If you want peace, prepare for peace.
      -Lord Philip Nowell Baker

      1. Expat

        And let’s not forget the extraordinary Chas Freeman, who was chosen in 2009 by Dennis Blair to be chair of the National Intelligence Board until the right wing in league with the Israel lobby forced the withdrawal of his name (with Obama once again showing his colours), who said:

        “War is policy FAILURE by other means.”

        1. gepay

          i think it kind of obvious that the US prepares for war. we have military bases on both sides of Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan. Right now we are trying to implement regime change in Syria, an ally of Iran. Notice how hard it is without airpower available. Ghaddafi was fine until NATO came. Also Israel wants Hezbollah eliminated before war with Iran. it invaded Lebanon fairly recently trying to do that but failed. Once Syria and Hezbollah are gone, then the iran attack might happen – especially if no when the next economic calamity happens. it would be folly but so is not changing the criminals running the financial system. The system is broken.

  7. Norman

    I too read the Global Research article of Tuesday 14 May 2013, which is more than eye opening. With all the sabre rattling that has been going on, no one has seen fit to take what is in the article to the masses. Perhaps the P.O.T.U.S. is fully aware of such, I would hope so, but that doesn’t help with the politicians ranting on about him not having any guts, especially the Israeli #1.

  8. neo-realist

    Don’t believe the hype. As much as the Israel Lobby wants a hot war, there are far too many interests that don’t want it to happen. The pentagon wants no part of a asymmetical war with Iran when our forces have been so degraded by Iraq, Afghanistan and Stop Loss on the troops going on forever, the Global Economic Elites don’t want the disruption to exports and the markets, and Israel won’t do it unless we’re holding their hand in the bombing which we won’t do. I believe we can look forward to more covert action all the time and more tough posturing from the oval office.

    But I don’t entirely rule out miscalculation and Persian Gulf of Tonkin moves from other actors in opposition to the predominant elite views on war with Iran making it happen.

    1. banger

      I agree it’s just bluster. I know for sure that neither the foreign policy establishment wants no part of a serious bombing attempt to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program–they’ve decided to rattle their sabers for various Machiavellian reasons and continue with covert operations.

      For Israel, I’m almost sure they have no interest in taking on Iran at this time. Besides, having Iran as a threat guarantees that the Israeli right will stay in power. The Israelis are happy with chaos Syria right now and they’ll keep quiet about Iran until Syria is resolved–that’s my impression as someone who has observed these things for some time.

  9. Bill Smith

    There are a lot of reasons not to bomb the Iranian nuclear processing facilities but this article is junk.

    “Fukushima was unquestionably the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date, surpassing Chernobyl in Ukraine, where the death from cancer reached a million.“

    A million, eh?

    “If you saw one of the Mission Impossible movies where Tom Cruise chases one of the bad guys through the streets of Dubai as a monstrous sand storm blows in”

    I think it should be compared to the latest Star Trek movie instead… Oh, wait the Borg have taken over the US government…

  10. b2020

    Original article here:

    This is drivel, which is unfortunate. I have no idea whether sandstorms and local weather patterns have a decisive impact on fallout patterns, and this
    “US-Israeli military ordinances employed to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities would certainly be tipped with depleted uranium, and very likely would include some mini-nukes.”
    is as inane as it is wrong.

    But in the most ridiculous manner possible it draws attention to maybe the least mentioned issue about civilian nuclear facilities – what happens if, by accident or intentionally, they are attacked? Fukushima demonstrates that crucial emergency power and other components are located outside the domes, and that hot fuel pools are at least as much of a risk as active cores when the power supply and cooling fails. When it comes to nuke-on-reactor, you will find very little information regarding targeting doctrines or risk of accidental hit (facilities near military targets or population centers). IIRC there are no international agreements prohibiting targeting of nuclear facilities or defining exclusion zones. Nuclear powerplants are targets, quite possibly explicit strategic targets for ballistic nuclear warheads. The combination of tons of radioactive inventory and the firestorm of a typical warhead creates a very different fallout situation. In short, you can have “civilian” reactors or you can have MAD all-out retaliation, but you cannot have both.

    1. liberal

      Decades ago there was a _Scientific American_ article on this very issue.

      IIRC a nuke hit on a nuke plant in e.g. the US would render an amazingly large amount of land uninhabitable.

    2. reprobate

      This isn’t Scientific American, but it cites what sounds like a good study:

      Even a conservative strike on a handful of Iran’s nuclear facilities, a recent report predicts, could kill or injure 5,000 to 80,000 people. The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble, a report written by an Iranian-American scientist with expertise in industrial nuclear-waste management, notes that a number of Iran’s sites are located directly atop or near major civilian centers. One key site that would almost certainly be targeted in a bombing campaign, the uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan, houses 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride and is located on the city’s doorstep; toxic plumes released from a strike would reach the city center within an hour, killing or injuring as many as 70,000 and exposing over 300,000 to radioactive material. These plumes would “destroy their lungs, blind them, severely burn their skin and damage other tissues and vital organs.” The report’s predictions for long-term toxicity and fatalities are equally stark. “The numbers are alarming,” says Khosrow Semnani, the report’s author, “we’re talking about a catastrophe in the same class as Bhopal and Chernobyl.”

      Beyond those initially killed in a potential strike, the Iranian government’s lack of readiness for handling wide-scale radiation exposure could exponentially raise the death toll, Semnani says. His study, published by the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and the nongovernmental organization Omid for Iran, outlines Iran’s poor record of emergency response and notes that its civilian casualties from natural disasters like earthquakes have been far greater than those suffered during similar disasters in better prepared countries like Turkey. With virtually no clinical capacity or medical infrastructure to deal with wide-scale radioactive fallout, or early warning systems in place to limit exposure, Iran would be swiftly overwhelmed by the aftermath of a strike. The government’s woeful unpreparedness remains unknown to most Iranians. “This issue is a redline, the [Iranian] media can’t go near it,” says Jamshid Barzegar, a senior analyst at BBC Persian. “To talk about this would be considered a weakening of people’s attitudes. The government only speaks of tactics and resistance, how unhurt Iran will be by an attack.””

      And this seems to focus mainly on the immediate deaths. If the study I linked to on the long-term cancer deaths from Chernobyl at close to 1 million is solid (it’s book length and apparently has a lot of statistical backup), the longer-term consequences would be significant.

  11. mac

    So the objective is to stop Iran from getting nukes.
    Let us go back to WWII and look at stopping Japan and Germany.
    Look at Dresden, look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    Find two cities in Iran and Bomb them to dust then see what the Country wants to do, if not convinced pick two more.
    Indeed a lot of “innocent” folks will die, but probably less than IF Iran and the crazy black rag gang get to use them.
    That is indeed how we won WWII and to some extent the cold war.

    1. banger

      That is nonsense–the war was already lost and Dresden had no bearing on anything. The Japanese were ready to surrender before we laid the nuclear bombs on them–the nuclear option was to deter the Soviet Union and maybe keep them out of Japan.

      But even if you were right such a course is horrific and cowardly. Iran has done nothing–it’s attacked no one. In fact it has been us that attacked it–overthrowing and elected government–goading Iraq to attack it and the continuing covert operations and sabotage being aimed at it every day. I’ve known Iranians and they are not our enemies–I know who our enemies are and they are right here at home.

      It was the generals around Kennedy during the Cuban Missle Crisis that counseled an all out attack figuring that we’d only lose 40 million if we attacked first.

    2. Strangely Enough

      “Indeed a lot of “innocent” folks will die, but probably less than IF Iran and the crazy black rag gang get to use them.”

      Yeah, because they’re the monsters…

    3. Mark P.

      Mac wrote: ‘Find two cities in Iran…That is indeed how we won… to some extent the cold war.’

      Horse manure. In the real world, nuclear weapons are useless for anything but very limited deterrence and highly unreliable for that, as proved by the fact that: –

      [1] During the Cold War, we never even deterred the Soviets from putting their nukes in Cuba, though nobody ever talks about it. From 1970 onwards, a large Soviet nuclear submarine base existed at Cienfuegos Bay on that island, and from then onwards to the end of the Cold War increasing numbers of Soviet nuclear bombers and land-launched missiles.

      Nixon and Kissinger tell you as much in their individual memoirs, if you read between the lines.

      [2] Between seven or eight shooting wars (depending on how you count) between states where at least one side has been a nuclear power. There have been two shooting wars where BOTH sides — Russia vs. China, India vs. Pakistan — have been nuclear states and might have conceivably ended up glassing each other.

  12. Colas92

    The article misses a critical point of reality… somewhere along the line– be it Syria or Iran — there will be a three-way superpower confrontation. One side will include the US- NATO stooges– the other side Russia and China. The wild card could wind being a fourth nation; namely, Pakistan which is a thermonuclear power as well.

    Are the US- NATO crazies nuts enough to provoke this kind of confrontation?

    Quite possibly yes, though Obama has the look of Kennedy-in-the-Cuban Missile Crisis these days. But I suspect the potential for a melee involving nuclear armed powers is the ultimate danger posed to all of us in an attack on Iran.

  13. banger

    It is obvious that a massive attack on Iranian facilities is ridiculous–as far as I know no one supports such an attack who aren’t all fundamentalists waiting for the end-time. I personally don’t think the Israelis are interested either but keeping Iran as a major “threat” insures continued right-wing victories in Israel and justifies destabilization efforts in Syria with the horrendous results evident everywhere.

    U.S. policy objectives have been achieved–that was to destabilize all secular regimes (along with the Gulf States and radical Islamists) in order to create either permanent dependency on the U.S. or endless tribal warfare (divide and conquer). This has been achieved. As for Iran, a weak and divided Syria will increase the ability of covert operation in Iran and cut supply lines to Lebanon. The Saudis are on a crusade against Shiites, Israel wants to de-fang Hezbollah and Syria to speed it’s desire to annex the West-Bank and all sides are happy to have an “enemy” in Iran.

    1. Colas92

      Banger- good analysis … but counting on rationality or risk free chicken games out of Washington is not a good high percentage bet… Hoipe I’m wrong.

  14. Kunst

    “at a speed of 30 to 300 kilometers”

    30 to 300 kilometers is a distance, not a speed. 300 km/hr would be more than twice hurricane speed, so I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean.

  15. bob

    The jews are cowards. They will not attack Iran. They will however start kcking you while you are down on the floor injured.

  16. MaroonBulldog

    What scientific illiterate could believe any “claims that heat from the fires caused by the bombing would incinerate all nuclear particles”?

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