Reporting from Washington – Agreement to open Iran’s hidden nuclear complex to inspection has reduced talk of military action and put diplomacy back on track — at least for a while. But even as the U.S. tries to build international pressure, emerging details suggest it might already be too late for an armed strike.
Everything about Iran’s newly disclosed site near the holy city of Qom complicates the task for the two most likely attackers, the U.S. and Israel. Iranian officials say that’s precisely why they built the facility on an elite military base, fortified with steel and concrete, and buried under a mountain.
Less than a week after President Obama revealed that the U.S. knew about the site, Iran agreed to open it to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a subsequent visit to Tehran, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said inspectors would visit Oct. 25.
The Obama administration and its allies are concerned that, despite Tehran’s denials, Iran’s atomic program masks an effort to build nuclear weapons. Still, Obama has consistently said he favors engagement over confrontation. In part, that reflects a distaste for preemptive military action. But it’s also a result of concerns over Iranian retaliation, the strain on a U.S. military force still heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility that such an attack could close the window on political reform inside Iran.