WASHINGTON - Is it possible to halt Iran's nuclear program by military means? For years, this question has been asked by Israeli and US military officials.
Israel prefers Washington to act on its behalf but academics, left-wing politicians and experts say a military option is not on the cards for the Bush administration because of the situation in Iraq.
But retired US Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney thinks otherwise. There is a good military solution to Iran's nukes but it requires courage and determination to act Mcinerney told Ynet in an interview.
McInerney served as a pilot and a strategic commander in the US Air Force for 35 years. Following his retirement in 1994 he served as a commentator for Fox News.
McInerney said Iran should be attacked by fall 2007 if diplomacy fails.
He added that an aerial attack should be backed by a secret land operation aimed at deposing the Ayatollahs.
McInerney said a military operation against Iran should aim at destroying 1,500 targets within 24 to 36 hours, which would delay Iran's nuclear ambitions by at least five years.
He added that paralyzing the Iranian air force and the Shihab 3 missiles aimed at Israel would be among the goals of a US military offensive against Iran.
He said the Iranian Navy should also be destroyed to prevent Tehran from blocking the Persian Gulf.
The retired general estimates that such offensive would significantly destabilize the Ayatollah's regime.
Asked whether the exiled Iranian opposition is capable of governing Iran once the Ayatollahs are ousted, McInerney said the Iranian nation is divided and many citizens opposed to the Ayatollahs would attempt to take power.
Over 4,300 protests took place in Iran last year, he said.
He also noted that only 51 percent of Iranians are Persians while 49 percent belong to different ethnic groups.
He added that the Ayatollahs can be ousted if the US clandestinely supports opposition groups within Iran.
A US aerial attack against Iran would involve the following stages, says Mcinerney:
- 60 stealth aircraft, B-2, and F-117, would take part in the initial attack
- The second aerial wave would involve 400 aircraft (B-52, B-1, F-15, F-16 and F-18)
- 150 aircraft special aircraft would be dispatched for refueling and intelligence collection missions
- 500 cruise missiles would be fired at targets in Iran from US warships
The B-2 is capable of firing 80 250-kilogram bombs at 80 different targets simultaneously.
Diverting his attention to the importance of possessing key intelligence for a successful assault, McInerney expressed confidence in his country's intelligence-gathering capability.
He added however that hitting 20 to 50 percent of Iran's military targets is enough to loosen the Ayatollahs' grab on Iran.
He noted that although Israel's military campaign had some flaws, Hizbullah lost 25 percent of its fighters and refused to release injured figures, signs that group is in a difficult position after the war.
Asked if 'going it alone' is an option for Israel, McInerney praised Israel's aerial capabilities but warned that the lack of aircraft carriers and the geographical distance make it extremely difficult for Israel to carry out a successful offensive against Iran.
McInerney said that the Ayatollahs would seek the opportunity to leave the country to Switzerland where they hold large accounts should military commanders seek to overthrow them.
The general said should diplomacy fail, the US would consider military options against Tehran within a year at the latest, charging the west should not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Iranian threats to launch attacks against western countries, Iraq and Israel through sleeping terror cells proves Tehran's link to terror groups like Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.
He concluded that a diplomatic solution is preferable but without a serious military option in the cards, diplomacy would fail and the US should be ready to act.