I think there is at least a 50:50 risk of some sort of real crisis, probably with military action, in Iran before the end of next year.
A major US attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would kill up to 10,000 people and would lead to war in the Middle East.
There is always the possibility that the Israelis do it. I don’t think you can rule that out. For the Israelis, having an Iran which is getting anywhere close to a nuclear weapons capability is simply not acceptable.
Any bombing of Iran by US forces, or by their Israeli allies, would have to be part of a surprise attack on a range of facilities including urban areas that would catch many Iranians unprotected.
Precision bombing could put Iran’s weapons programme back five to ten years. But within a month the situation would become an extremely dangerous conflict.
Britain could be drawn into the conflict if the prime minister allowed B2 bombers, which can carry 40,000 pounds of precision bombs, to use bases at Fairford, Gloucester, and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation.
It could eventually lead to a lengthy confrontation involving many other countries in the region, could mean the closure of the Gulf.
And it would probably have a formidable impact on oil prices, as well as spurring new attacks by radicals on Western interests.
Such a confrontation would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, as well as the US and Iran. There is a distinct possibility of the Arab Gulf states getting involved as well.
Military deaths in the first wave of attacks against Iran would be expected to be in the thousands.
Civilian deaths would be in the many hundreds at least. If the war evolved into a wider conflict, primarily to pre-empt or counter Iranian responses, the casualties would eventually be much higher.
It is worth noting that an attack by the US or Israel on Iran would probably spur Tehran to work as rapidly as possible toward developing a nuclear military option.
A ground offensive in Iran would not be feasible, as it would require at least 100,000 troops – and US forces are already overstretched with 130,000 soldiers in Iraq and 18,000 in Afghanistan.
In reality any attack would have a powerful unifying effect within Iran, bolster the Iranian government, and mean any future US relationship with Iran would be based on violence.
Simply put, a military response to the current crisis is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further. Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies of the University of Bradford. To read his study of the threat to Iran go to www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk