I have no idea how the Iranian nuclear talks are going or whether an agreement will be reached. But essentially, they are irrelevant anyway. At best we can only delay Iran, and they seem very determined to join the nuclear club, for prestige purposes if for nothing else. However, we do have a Plan B in place, fully operational and awaiting only the call from the White House.
This plan involves a sudden set of aerial strikes against all known Iranian nuclear facilities. These would be followed by an indefinite series of repeat strikes as target assessment is performed and new information is obtained. There is more to it of course, such as preliminary air defense suppression strikes, but that is the essence. It is often reported that we are hampered in this by poor intelligence on the ground. This is almost certainly untrue but the real facts must be concealed for security and operational reasons.
Our current operational weapon system is capable of destroying all known nuclear research, development and storage facilities in Iran, probably with a single strike at each. It is called Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). MOP can penetrate “at least” 200 feet of rock or reinforced concrete and carries a 5,300 pound high-intensity explosive. It destroys via initial blast and a shock wave that would collapse buried shafts, pathways and interior rooms. Its secondary effects are to make an entire underground structure unstable. No one inside the structure would survive.
Only the B2 Stealth Bomber has the lift capability and range to deploy this weapon. Each B2 can carry two of these monsters. Our current stockpile at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri is limited (about 20) but only because MOP is quite expensive. It can be easily replenished. Moreover, a much larger guided missile version is under contract, although the details are classified.
We probably wouldn’t find all of the important targets, and there is a technology race underway between building more impenetrable facilities and designing more devastating ordinance. But there is little doubt that we could deliver a crippling blow that would make a sustaining program extremely expensive for Iran. If this race continued long enough there would be no choice but to transition from conventional to low-yield nuclear weapons, and Iran would certainly know this. It is not a path that either Iran or we would follow lightly.
Make no mistake, Plan B means going to war. No country would accept the punishment and loss of life that Plan B will inflict without reacting savagely, and that would almost certainly quickly ratchet up into full conflict.
The question is, would we really execute Plan B? Much depends upon who is President when the time comes for a decision. In choosing our next President, it would be wise to think about how he or she might react to this question. There is no way to know for certain and I doubt that candidates could or would make this clear. Nevertheless, I think I could make an educated guess about many in the current field.
Personally, I don’t think the risks and costs of Plan B are worth its limited benefits, and I am persuaded that most Presidents would agree. It might have marginal value as a threat, but not much more. Those familiar with the movie “Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” know of a possible flaw. We haven’t as yet made clear to Iran what Plan B entails, so it is not much of a threat, is it?
As an aside, Israel doesn’t have the capability to execute the initial phases of Plan B, unless of course we supply the tools. Thus they would have to go immediately to the final phase, using their “secret” nuclear arsenal. Bluster aside, that just won’t happen.
Here’s what I think will actually occur. The nuclear talks are just a sideshow. Iran will get the bomb and a suitable delivery system. In time, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will follow suit. It is just too depressing to follow this chain of logic to its inevitable and tragic conclusion.