A successful attack on Iranian nuclear facilities could cause mass civilian casualties and send toxic plumes of chemicals toward allied nations, a recent study found.
“It is an ugly picture that needs to be considered, and whoever is thinking about attacking [an] Iranian facility, they need to take this into account,” said Khosrow Semnani, author of “The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble: The Human Cost of Military Strikes Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities.”
Semnani, who presented his paper at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank on Oct. 12, said the implications of an attack on an Iranian nuclear facility would be “horrifying.”
In his paper, Semnani focused on four out of the more than 400 Iranian nuclear sites — Isfahan, Natanz, Arak and Bushehr — calling them active “hot sites.”
Citing August numbers from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Isfahan facility alone has 550,000 kilograms of hazardous uranium hexafluoride, Semnani said. An attack on the facility would send out a plume of the toxic material into the atmosphere and could cause between 5,000 to 70,000 casualties, and that is a conservative estimate, he added.
Attacks at the other three facilities would also cause the deaths of thousands of civilians, he said.
The Bushehr facility would be of particular consequence, Semnani said. While the nearest major city to the facility is Shiraz — with a population over 1 million — winds could send plumes of toxic materials in the opposite direction toward the Persian Gulf, adversely affecting U.S. allies.
“Virtually all population centers in the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would be at risk,” Semnani wrote in the paper.
Coupled with that, an attack could cause contamination of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman water basin, poisoning food supplies, the report said.
An attack would slow down Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it would not stop them, Semnani said.
“While such attacks would almost certainly destroy many of Iran’s nuclear facilities … [a] military attack can only temporarily slow down Iran’s nuclear program,” Semnani wrote.
“The human casualties alone should make it clear that it is a mistake to assume that the failure of diplomacy makes the military option the only real, effective or reliable default option,” said Semnani in the paper.
One of the biggest problems facing the Iranian people is a lack of information, Semnani said. Many citizens, given information by state-sponsored news outlets, are not aware of the increasing risk posed by potential nuclear facilities, but if they knew the risk, they would not support the nuclear program, Semnani said.
“While Ayatollah Khomeini [Supreme Leader of Iran] may have every reason to play a game of nuclear poker with the Iranian people and nuclear program as his chips, once the price of his gamble becomes apparent to the Iranian people, his willingness to risk the destruction of Isfahan alone would turn millions of Iranians against his belligerent policies,” Semnani wrote.
Because of this lack of information, Iranians are unprepared for the potential attacks. Hospitals surrounding the facilities will not be able to accommodate the mass casualties, and response teams are not trained for the job, Semnani said. This will only exasperate the chaos in the aftermath of an attack.
Semnani noted during his remarks that his paper was not a political one, but a humanitarian one.
“This paper is not a political paper, this paper is not a scientific endeavor, it is … really a humanitarian attempt for us to highlight and point out the degree of devastation that Iranians will suffer if there is an attack,” Semnani said.
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Posted at 5:04 PM by Yasmin Tadjdeh, National DEFENSE