Time to bomb Iran

It turns out that not even Stuxnet set back the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Photo: Wikimedia

JERUSALEM May 18, 2013 — One argument made by opponents of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is that there is still time for sanctions or a diplomatic solution to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring the bomb.

To support that assertion, politicians and pundits point to the great success that the West has had in setting back the nuclear program of the regime in Tehran through technological warfare.

SEE RELATED: Iran pays for enriched uranium with economic downfall and more talks

The best-known weapon in this clandestine cyber-war is Stuxnet, a computer worm that infiltrated the devices governing Iran’s nuclear facilities, ostensibly destroying data and disrupting the overall operation. Widely believed to be a joint American-Israeli creation, Stuxnet is touted as a shining example of modern brain power outweighing outdated planes, missiles, tanks and boots on the ground.

You don’t need to be a computer genius or a military expert to guffaw at this suggestion. Iran’s ayatollahs, for instance, are most certainly amused by it. This is why they keep agreeing to futile nuclear negotiations, which do nothing but stave off actual attacks on centrifuge sites and uranium-enrichment plants while buying precious time for further progress on nuclear warhead production.

It was no surprise, then, when Saeed Jalili, chief Iranian negotiator and presidential candidate loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenai, met with European Union foreign policy head Catherine Ashton in Istanbul on Thursday to discuss a resumption of talks with the 5+1 countries — the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — “that will take place soon.”

Ashton may be pleased as punch with the outcome of this tete-a-tete, particularly since she seems to agree with Jalili and his ilk that Israel poses a greater threat to regional stability and peace than Iran. But she is as capable of settling the nuclear dispute as she is of changing her radical political stripes. And everybody knows it.

SEE RELATED: President Obama can’t be trusted on Iranian nukes

What few people realize, however, is that Stuxnet wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Indeed, according to a new report, published in the Royal United Services Institute journal, Stuxnet may have done more harm to the West than good.

The study, “Are Cyber-Weapons Effective? Assessing Stuxnet’s Impact on the Iranian Enrichment Programme,” conducted by King’s College academic Ivanka Barzashka, calls into question commonly held assumptions about the famous computer worm and the consequences of its performance.

“Considering Stuxnet’s destructive potential, it is surprising that more machines were not affected,” writes Barzashka. “Clearly, the Iranian operator managed to contain the problem … Iran’s ability to successfully install and operate new centrifuges was not hindered.”

Barzashka based her detailed report on International Atomic Energy Agency physical inventory data, which prove that “uranium-enrichment capacity grew during the time that Stuxnet was said to have been destroying Iranian centrifuges.” And, she explains, “an increase in enrichment capacity or centrifuge performance shortens the time Iran needs to manufacture the nuclear material for a bomb…

If anything, the malware — if it did in fact infiltrate Natanz — has made the Iranians more cautious about protecting their nuclear facilities, making the future use of cyber-weapons against Iranian nuclear targets more difficult.”

In a funny yet predictable twist coming from a British academic, Barzashka’s conclusion from her own research is that cyber-warfare is not the way to go about extending goodwill gestures towards Iran while engaging in talks. What the rest of us can and should glean from her study is that even Stuxnet seems to have sped up, rather than retarded, Iran’s nuclear program.

It is time to stop worming our way out of undertaking the inevitable: bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities into oblivion.


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Ruthie Blum

 Ruthie Blum is a pull-no-punches, conservative, Israeli-American columnist for Israel Hayom,  and the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’”

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