Consequences of U.S. Attack on Iran
Omid- Berkeley Forum has asked Professor George Bisharat about the escalating tensions between Iran & the United States. Professor Bisharat is a prominent legal scholar at the University of California's Hastings College of Law. He focuses on criminal law and Middle Eastern political & legal affairs. He believes that “a nuclear attack on Iran would be immoral, illegal, and politically disastrous.”
Do you think that the latest speculations on a possible nuclear attack on Iran are logical? What would be the reaction of the internaional community to such an attack?
In my view, a nuclear attack on Iran would be immoral, illegal, and politically disastrous. Of course, the same could be said of the invasion of Iraq, and that did not stop the Bush administration in 2003. However, I think that many elements in the Bush administration, including within the military, are against military action of any kind, not to mention the use of nuclear weapons. It is difficult to distinguish between genuine preparations for attack, and posturing for the purpose of intimidating Iran into concessions. But on balance, I think the odds are against a military strike against Iran.
Would attacking Iran raise the sympathy of the Muslim world? What about Islamist groups like Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Badr in Iraq?
If such an attack were to occur, I think it would inflame the entire Middle East and Muslim world, at least at the popular level. In fact, fear of this reaction is one of the factors restraining the Bush administration from attacking. How this reaction would be expressed by particular parties and governments is a little harder to predict, because any overt support for Iran would likely be met with consequences from the United States, and no group wants to be identified for this kind of treatment. So support would more likely be surreptitious.
Is there a possibility that in case of an attack Iran would retaliate by activating its Islamic allies in the region?
I would not expect Islamic allies in the Middle East to retaliate against the US militarily, and perhaps not at all on the official level. Again, the US has a great deal of economic, military, and diplomatic power that it can wield against any opponents of its policies, and so the latter have to resort to indirect means that do not put them in line for US retaliation.
*Professor Bisharat graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1983 and holds a B.A. in anthropology (UC Berkeley, 1975), an M.A. in history (Georgetown University, 1979), and a Ph.D. in anthropology and Middle East studies (Harvard University, 1987).