26 February, 2009

Geographic Distribution and Fortification of Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

In the 2002 State of the Union Address President George W. Bush, used the term “Axis of Evil” to describe three states. These three were Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. This speech laid out the goals of “the war on terror”. According to the President “Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.”[1] These three were picked because of their intentions of securing “weapons of mass destruction”. Iran was targeted specifically because, “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.”[2] The government in Iran has made statements which convey the intention to use any weapons of mass destruction on Israel and its allies. After Israel’s preemptive air strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 many wonder if Israel or the United States would launch a preemptive attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of all states involved we can determine if an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is even possible.
The United States has had four goals when dealing with Iran, since the current government took power. They are “limit Iran’s aggressive assertiveness in the region, halt Tehran’s support for terrorism, promote Iranian democracy and human rights, and stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”[3] Iran’s current population and terrain drastically limit any military courses of action. Iran is located in the Middle East, it is bordered by “Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan-proper, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan”.[4] Currently Iran is sandwiched between U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has an estimated population of 65,875,224. The terrain of Iran is “rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts”[5] Due to the difficult terrain and large anti-American population the possibility of utilizing ground forces is not considered as a course of action. When the dispersal of the nuclear facilities is taken in to account, ground forces are impossible to utilize. Therefore any military action must be done from the air.
Iran learned from the mistakes Iraq made in 1981 when Israel destroyed their only nuclear reactor. Iran has done several things to ensure their nuclear facilities remain unharmed. The facilities have been dispersed across the large nation, creating the possibility of a small flight being able to do massive damage impossible. The map below demonstrates how the Iranians dispersed their Nuclear Facilities. Iran has also placed the facilities in densely populated cities when possible. Some facilities due to their purpose are dependent on natural resources.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Iran has facilities critical to its program in five different cities. These cities are Tehran, Bushehr, Esfahan, Natanz, and Arak.[6] Tehran has the Kalaye electric company which is suspected to be producing centrifuge parts, Tehran research reactor, radioisotope production facility, Jabr Ibn Hayan multipurpose laboratories. In Bushehr there is a Russian built light water reactor. Esfahan has a miniature neutron source reactor, light water sub-critical reactor, heavy water zero power reactor, fuel fabrication laboratory, uranium chemistry laboratory, uranium conversion facility, graphite sub- critical reactor which has been decommissioned, and a fuel manufacturing plant. Natanz has a pilot fuel enrichment plant and fuel enrichment plant. Arak has the Iran nuclear research reactor. The facilities that make other countries nervous are in Natanz because they produce the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a power plant or bomb.[7]
(Iran Nuclear Sites)
While Iran has never claimed to be pursuing nuclear weapons many nations believe otherwise. These nations would include the United States and Israel. By looking at the armaments of these nations the Iranians have constructed a defense network. With the aid of the Russians Iran had acquired an array of very effective anti-aircraft weapons. These weapons would include the Russian made S-300 PMU. One of these weapons is deployed at the Bushehr nuclear weapons facility. This weapon is capable of engaging targets ranging of elevation from 30 ft. to 90,000 ft. it is capable of engaging both aircraft and cruise missiles. It is also designed to counter any kind of electronic counter measures. In addition to the one which is known to be deployed there are several others which have been purchased from the Russians. There are also many Russian made 100mm anti-aircraft guns emplaced around the country. Iran also has 25 F-14 Tomcats sold to them by the United States, these planes have been equipped to act as miniature command and control aircraft, as the rest of Ian’s planes they are too old to be capable of night operations. The other natural defensive barrier is the simple fact that there are 1,100 miles between Israel and Iran. [9]
The 1,100 miles between Israel and Iran is important due to the aircraft and the armaments that Israel posses. While Israel has many different types of U.S. made aircraft very few have the capabilities to make the trip to Iran. Israel currently has 25 F-15s, 16 F-16 Is, 126 F-16 C&Ds. An important distinction between the Iranian and Israeli aircraft capabilities is that all of the Israeli planes are capable of conducting night operations. The problem with the Israeli aircraft is that only the F-16 Is have the range to reach the Iranian Nuclear facilities without refueling, and the Israelis lack the capabilities to conduct a large scale refueling.[10] Israel was also sold 100 GBU-28s. These bombs are 5,000 lbs. Bunker Buster bombs capable of penetrating 100ft. of dirt or 20ft. of concrete.[11] Due to the fact that Israel has very few planes which could conduct an attack it is unlikely that Israel could have any devastating impact on Iran’s nuclear program.
The only nation which has any kind of air power capable of slowing down or stopping Iran’s nuclear program would be the United States. This is due to the capabilities of its aircraft, and the technological advantage. The U.S. has the F-22, B-2, and F-117A which could be used to attack the anti-aircraft installations, exposing the nuclear facilities for the non-stealth aircraft. The second wave would be a large scale air strike hitting the nuclear facilities utilizing precision munitions. The U.S. has the capabilities to conduct all of the in-flight refueling. [12]
Over the years Iran has developed an elaborate anti-aircraft defense system. In addition to dispersing the nuclear facilities within the country, while placing them near populated areas. While these are factors create difficulties when attempting to conduct an air strike, the United States and Israel have the capabilities to conduct an air strike. While the U.S. and Israel have the capabilities to attack Iran, it may not me the best decision due to the reactions of the many other Islamic nations. The only manner of which the United States or Israel could successfully attack Iran’s nuclear facilities is as a secondary strike after Iran had attacked Israel or the U.S.[13]

[1] State of the Union Address 2002,President George W. Bush, From the 2002 Presidential Documents Online via GPO Access, January 29, 2002
[2] Ibid.
[3] Michael McFaul, Abbas Milani, and Larry Diamond. 2007. "A Win-Win U.S. Strategy for Dealing with Iran." Washington Quarterly 30, no. 1: 121-122.
[4]Central Intelligence Agency, “The World Factbook- Iran” CIA World Fact book. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/iran.html [accessed February 22, 2009]
[5] Ibid.
[6] Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Iranian Nuclear Sites, Hussein D. Hassan, 2007.
[7] International Atomic Energy Association, Report prepared for Meeting of the Board of Governors prepared by the Director General, Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: 2003.
[8] “Iran Nuclear Sites”, Nuclear Threat Initiative Web site, http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles_pdfs/Iran/iran_nuclear_sites.pdf [accessed February 22, 2009].
[9] Andrew Brookes, “Air Attack Iran,” Royal United Services Institute, [Jun 2006, Vol. 151, No. 3]: 53
[10] Ibid,53.
[11] Global Security, “Guided Bomb Unit-28.” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/gbu-28.htm [accessed February 22, 2009]
[12],Andrew Brookes, “Air Attack Iran,” Royal United Services Institute, [Jun 2006, Vol. 151, No. 3]: 54
[13] Michael McFaul, Abbas Milani, and Larry Diamond, "A Win-Win U.S. Strategy for Dealing with Iran," Washington Quarterly [Winter2006/2007]: 124-125.

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