NEW YORK, Sept 13: A US or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could derail the Islamic Republic’s suspected weapons programme for four years at most, but it would alienate and unite the Muslim world, against Israel, and US, according to a report.

The report released on Thursday by the ‘Iran Project’, a bipartisan group of former national security officials and foreign policy specialists, discusses the military pros and cons of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and outlines the less- discussed political fallout of any such attack.

Air raids, commando assaults and computer network attacks “would destroy or severely damage many of Iran’s physical facilities and stockpiles”, according to the New York based group.

“But in our judgment complete destruction of Iran’s nuclear programme is unlikely and Iran would still retain the scientific capacity and the experience to start its nuclear programme again.”

Military effectiveness notwithstanding, the report concluded that “one of the most serious but difficult to quantify costs of military action against Iran could be damage to US reputation and standing”.

“If Iran’s nuclear programme is attacked by the US or Israel in the absence of an international mandate or a multinational coalition, support for maintaining sanctions against Iran could be substantially weakened,” the report said.

But getting a mandate from the United Nations Security Council for an attack on Iran would be impossible.

High-profile signatories

The report is more noteworthy for the former US officials listed among its signatories, including former Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Paul Pillar; former US Central Command commanders Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and Admiral William Fallon.

Other signers of the report include former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia; retired US Ambassador Thomas Pickering; George W. Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Iran may retaliate by attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz, an action that would “rattle global markets and cause a significant spike in oil prices”.

‘Destabilising forces’

An assault would “introduce destabilising political and economic forces in a region already experiencing major transformations”, the report said. A US strike may provoke worldwide anger among Muslims and enhance Al Qaeda’s ability to recruit new members.

The report reiterates conclusions previously outlined by US officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, about the limited effectiveness of a military attack on Iran.

A US air strike involving stealth B-2 bombers dropping 30,000-pound precision-guided penetrating bombs “carried out to near perfection” could delay Iran’s programme by up to four years. A unilateral strike by Israel “with its more limited capabilities, could delay Iran’s ability to build a bomb by up to two years,” the report said. An Israeli airstrike “is unlikely to succeed in destroying or even seriously damaging” the deeply buried Fordo enrichment facility and the stockpile of near-weapons- grade enriched uranium there.

The “lack of a high-confidence military option against Fordo is a key reason why Israeli government officials believe they must take action to destroy Iran’s supply of low-enriched uranium and damage Iran’s ability to produce more centrifuges before Fordo becomes fully operational”, the report said.

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