WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans believes it would be a disaster were Iran to attain nuclear weapons, and that military force should be used to prevent this from happening, according to a survey published in the US on Wednesday. However, American security experts called on the Obama administration to oppose an attack on Iran, even as a "last option."
The survey, commissioned by Fox News Channel, shows that 60% of US citizens believes military force is required to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, most of those in favor of an attack are Republicans: Some 51% of Democrats and 51% of independents are in favor, while 75% of Republicans support the military option.
The poll also shows that 56% of Americans believe it would be a disaster if Iran were to become capable of manufacturing atomic bombs, while 37% think it would be possible to cope with this eventuality. Only 3% believe that it would not be a problem at all.
A narrow majority of respondents gave US President Barak Obama a low grade for his handling of the Iran issue. Some 41% said they were satisfied with his performance, while 42% said they were not and 17% were undecided.
"Don't even think of attacking"
In contrast to public opinion, American experts warn against an attack on Iran nuclear facilities. The British newspaper Financial Times published an article with the headline, "Do not even think about bombing Iran."
"The strike option… lacks credibility," the article's authors Michael O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel claim. "America is engaged in two massive and unpopular military campaigns in the region. Given Iran’s ability to retaliate against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is simply not credible that we would use force in the foreseeable future. Tehran, Moscow and Beijing know this."
Riedel served for many years in the CIA and was even Middle East advisor to former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. Riedel and O'Hanlon warn that even a massive attack will not slow Iran's nuclear project.
"We cannot be sure we know where all existing Iranian facilities to enrich uranium are located," they write, adding, "Even if we did strike most or all existing facilities, Iran can rebuild fairly fast".
The authors also warn that while top political echelons in the US have reached the conclusion that the military option will not solve the problem, they still talk about an attack as a last resort.
"There are dangers to such an approach," they point out. "Mr. Obama may some day come under pressure to employ it when all else has failed – and we think this would be a mistake".
The two advocate firm sanctions to stop Iran's development of nuclear weapons, while offering a "nuclear umbrella over Israel and other threatened states."
"It is not a great option," they conclude, "but it is much better than war."