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President Obama has said "all options are on the table" regarding Iran. What would a military option look like?

Question submitted by Peter Bungus, June 5, 2013

Answered by: Ray Takeyh, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies


The United States has long struggled with how to manage Iran's nuclear ambitions. Any U.S. military option in Iran is likely to be dynamic, depending on its objectives.

A military plan to disable Iran's hardened and dispersed nuclear facilities is likely to be a prolonged and arduous operation. This would not be a precision strike launched by a few airplanes in a flashing moment. An intervention to seriously degrade Iran's nuclear infrastructure would have to feature not just airpower but deployment of intelligence assets and Special Operations Forces. The initial series of strikes would likely be followed by more attacks, given the facilities and plants that escaped destruction in the first few rounds. In essence, for at least a week or so, the United States would be at war in a volatile region.

Ultimately, the success of a military strike would not be contingent on the sophistication of U.S. arms or the precision of U.S. weaponry. The most valuable asset would be intelligence. To say the least, an attack on Iran would not be a surprise to Iran's clerical leaders. For over a decade, U.S. and Israeli officials have insisted that all the options are on the table and have hinted at bombing campaigns to come. The Iranian leaders must have taken all these threats into account and engaged in activities to ensure the survival of the bulk of their nuclear installations, should the United States redeem its pledge that all options are on the table.