Wars, And Rumors Of Wars: Is An Israeli Strike On Iran More Likely Than Ever?

A new IAEA report may make an Israeli strike on Iran in the near future more likely than it has ever been.

A new report about the status of Iran’s nuclear program may make an Israeli attack on Iran far more likely:

JERUSALEM — For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday offered findings validating his longstanding position that while harsh economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation may have hurt Iran, they have failed to slow Tehran’s nuclear program. If anything, the program is speeding up.

But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.

With the report that the country has already installed more than 2,100 centrifuges inside a virtually impenetrable underground laboratory, and that it has ramped up production of nuclear fuel, officials and experts here say the conclusions may force Israel to strike Iran or concede it is not prepared to act on its own.

Whether that ultimately leads to a change in strategy — or a unilateral attack — is something that even Israel’s inner circle cannot yet agree on, despite what seems to be a consensus that Iran’s program may soon be beyond the reach of Israel’s military capability.

“It leaves us at this dead end,” said a senior government official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is involved in the decision-making process. “The more time elapses with no change on the ground in terms of Iranian policies, the more it becomes a zero-sum game.”

The report accentuates the tension with Washington during the hot-tempered atmosphere of a presidential election. President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu often say they have a common assessment of the intelligence about Iran’s progress. What they do not agree on is the time available.

American officials have repeatedly tried to assure the Israelis that they have the country’s back — and to remind them that Israel does not have the ability, by itself, to destroy the facility, built beneath a mountain outside Qum. The United States does have weaponry that it believes can demolish the lab, but in Mr. Obama’s judgment there is still what the White House calls “time and space” for diplomacy, sanctions and sabotage, a combination the Israelis say has been insufficient.

“They can’t do it right without us,” a former adviser to Mr. Obama said recently. “And we’re trying to persuade them that a strike that just drives the program more underground isn’t a solution; it’s a bigger problem.”

The report comes at a critical moment in Israel’s long campaign to build Western support for stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, which virtually every leader here regards as an existential threat. Military professionals concede the potential effectiveness of an Israeli strike is decreasing as Iran moves more of its operations underground. (Already, the best Israel might be able to accomplish, they say, is to close the tunnel entrances around the underground plant, called Fordow, rather than destroy what is inside.)

Politically, Israeli leaders are concerned they will lose leverage after the November presidential election — regardless of the result — but are also worried about a pre-election strike that angers Washington, whose support would be all the more critical in its aftermath.

A month after a blitz of visits by high-ranking American security officials, the frenzy of public discussion here over the imminence of an attack has quieted, as Israelis have returned from summer vacation and begun preparing for the High Holy Days. But several high-ranking government officials said the study, debate and lobbying in the tight circle of decision-makers has intensified, and Israel has taken steps to shore up the home front and prepare its citizens.

The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, passes along, obviously leaked word of a tense meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got into a diplomatic shouting match with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro over US President Barack Obama’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program, saying “time has run out” for diplomacy, Yediot Aharonot cited a source as saying on Friday.

According to the report, which The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify, the showdown took place as Netanyahu met with Shapiro and Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, who visited Israel earlier in the week.

A source that participated in the meeting said that a particularly angry and stressed Netanyahu began a tirade against the US president, attacking him for not doing enough on Iran. “Instead of pressuring Iran in an effective way, Obama and his people are pressuring us not to attack the nuclear facilities,” the source quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Angered about continued US rhetoric that diplomacy needs more time to work, Netanyahu said flatly: “Time has run out,”Yediot reported.

The American ambassador is said to have responded politely but firmly, telling Netanyahu that he was distorting Obama’s position. Obama promised not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, he explained, and left all options on the table, including military options.

At that point, diplomatic sources told the paper, “sparks flew” in an escalating shouting match between Netanyahu and Shapiro as the stunned congressman watched.

Not being at all an expert, or even very well-versed, on Israeli politics, I cannot say how much of this is bluster, how much of it is spin, or how much of it represents internal infighting among Israeli government insiders. From what I have read, it seems as though the person who is the strongest advocate for a relatively immediate strike on Iran is the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. Prime Minister Netanyahu, while his public rhetoric against Iran is quite strong, is reportedly more moderate than Barak on the issue and more willing to listen to those voices inside the government cautioning against a strike that is likely not to knock out the Iranian nuclear program, and could end up unleashing a torrent of retaliation from Iran’s allies in Hezbollah and Hamas. At the same time, if Israeli officials think that they are approaching the point of no return that they have talked about in the past,  and given that it’s unlikely that the United States would initiate any kind of military action with an election approaching, it’s hard to say what they would do.

That may be one reason why the United States seems to be taking steps that would make it more difficult to launch a unilateral premptive attack on Iran to begin with:

Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.

“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,'” a senior Israeli military official tells TIME.

The reductions are striking. Instead of the approximately 5,000 U.S. troops originally trumpeted for Austere Challenge 12, as the annual exercise is called, the Pentagon will send only 1,500 service members, and perhaps as few as 1,200.  Patriot anti-missile systems will arrive in Israel as planned, but the crews to operate them will not.  Instead of two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships being dispatched to Israeli waters, the new plan is to send one, though even the remaining vessel is listed as a “maybe,” according to officials in both militaries.

(…)

Inside Israel, reports persist that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense chief Ehud Barak are determined to launch a strike, and American officials continue to urge restraint.  Israeli analysts say Netanyahu wants Obama to send a letter committing to U.S. military action by a specific date if Iran has not acceded to concessions, but the U.S. administration does not appear to be complying.  U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters in London this week  that a military strike could damage but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, and added, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

But, what if Israel did attack Iran before the election? Presumably, it would happen without any advance consultation or warning to American officials, just as the 1981 Iraqi raid on Iraq’s nuclear plant did. We’d likely know it was happening relatively quickly thanks to spy satellites and such, but at that point, it would be too late to do much of anything about it. As I’ve noted before, it’s unlikely that any retaliation that might be unleashed after an Israeli attack on Iran would be limited to Israel.  No matter how much we deny it, the Iranians would believe that we were in on the operation in one way or the other, and it’s likely that American targets around the world would suddenly find themselves vulnerable to attack from terrorists sympathetic to, or directed by, Iran. Not to mention the fact that any attack on Iran would likely cause oil prices, and hence domestic fuel prices, to skyrocket.  It’s been quite a long time, since we’ve had a major international crisis in the middle of Presidential campaign so it’s hard to predict how that would effect the campaign.

As far as the “will they do it?” question goes, you’re guess is as good as mine. There’s a school of thought that says that much of what we hear from the Israelis is part of an elaborate “good cop/bad cop” game with the United States, but I’m not sure I believe that. At the very least, though, the Israelis have to be aware of the situation they face, and just how difficult it would be to pull off the kind of operation it would take to strike deep inside Iranian territory via a mission that would require them to either violate the air space of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, or send their planes on a long and dangerous route around the Arab Peninsula and up the Persian Gulf, and then repeat either of those routes for the return trip. Add to that the distinct possibility that Israel would not be able to do much more than launch a “pin prick” attack that would do little more than set back the Iranian nuclear program a couple years at best, and the retaliation that can be expected, then the rational decision for Israel would seem to be to refrain from attacking. But, of course, rationality an international politics don’t always go together, do they?

Prime Minister Netenyahu will be here in the United States in September for the U.N. General Assembly meeting and will be meeting with President Obama. Since it’s highly unlikely that Israel would attack Iran before then given that this meeting occurs right in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it seems unlikely that Israel would act before then. How that meeting goes may determine whether or not the world is thrown into chaos in October.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Intelligence, Middle East, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. george says:

    Nuclear weapons are now 70 year old technology. Think about that – it means its going to be impossible to keep countries from acquiring it. Its the way of science and technology; I read somewhere the quote that “what was once the work of genius becomes the work of craftsmen”. That quote applies to nuclear weapons as much as any other technology.

    I’ve no idea of what the solution is, but going to war every time some country we don’t like starts researching nuclear weapons is just not going to work.

  2. I think the interesting thing is that we’ve taken some fairly risky regimes off our radar, once they had nuclear weapons. Pakistan? Seriously?

    Each time a new country is on the brink, the case is made that this is the one mad state that can’t be trusted. By that they mean that this is a state willing to self-immolate to use their weapons. That’s what it would be, given the sort of massive retaliation a 3rd world actor would face with a single launch.

    In all its rhetoric, I’ve never heard Iran volunteer to wipe itself off the face of the earth.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    I think we should just tell Israel: if you attack, you’re on your own. No support from the US, no more military aid, no more cash, period.

    I’m sick and tired of having the US being tied to Israel. If they want to pound their chests, let them do it on their own dime. And with the increasing radicalization of the Settler movement and the increasing preponderance of the Ultra-Orthodox, I wonder how long we can really call Israel a “democracy” any more.

  4. @grumpy realist:

    I have a more moderate dream. The US should always say, in answer to any mid-east question, that it is “for peace.”

    What do you think about Israel? We are for peace.

    What do you think about Palestinians? We are for peace.

    Easy, and the high moral ground.

  5. TastyBits says:

    If and when Israel has the military capability to strike, they will. They have the ability to conduct clandestine operations, and they have without public threats. They do not have a military saber to rattle.They have a cow bell, and they are rattling it furiously.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I have a similar reaction to the politics of Israel. I’m nominally Jewish, have always supported Israel. But the settlers, the ultra-orthodox and Likud have come to dominate Israel. I find these groups repugnant.

    Further, it is clear that Bibi Netanyahu is attempting to interfere in US politics to an ever-greater degree. The disturbing alliance between Jewish fanatics and American Christianist fanatics is a corruption of our politics.

    So where I once would have given Israelis the benefit of some doubt, I no longer do. Likud has succeeded in decoupling me from my loyalty to Israel.

  7. Jeremy R says:

    Israeli analysts say Netanyahu wants Obama to send a letter committing to U.S. military action by a specific date if Iran has not acceded to concessions, but the U.S. administration does not appear to be complying.

    I would hope no US president, as the leader of a global superpower, would sign away their diplomatic flexibility and military autonomy, when the leverage being used secure that written promise is a likely pointless strike that our military brass believes would undermine our national security.

  8. bill says:

    @john personna: true, but pakistan doesn’t seem to be openly threatening anyone in particular. iran, usually blowing smoke but they’re actually threatening an entire region. i know they just want some respect and all, but it’s just not working to their advantage. maybe they should focus some energy on refining their own oil? i don’t think the iranian “green party” is protesting much.

  9. @bill:

    I think that’s wrong. What the Iranians want from nukes is what most people want, absolute safety from invasion.

    On the other hand, people who want to invade Iran see the pre-nuclear period as their last chance.

  10. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    I think the interesting thing is that we’ve taken some fairly risky regimes off our radar, once they had nuclear weapons. Pakistan? Seriously?

    We took Pakistan off our radar? How so? Which regimes exactly?

    I think that’s wrong. What the Iranians want from nukes is what most people want, absolute safety from invasion.

    On the other hand, people who want to invade Iran see the pre-nuclear period as their last chance.

    First, I don’t think anyone should assume that Iran wants nukes. Iran wanted nukes when Iraq was an existential threat. That threat is gone and now there is no one who wants to “invade” Iran. The strategic rational for nukes doesn’t exist anymore.

  11. Toto says:

    Why does everyone only talk of air strikes? Israel has plenty of effectively armed cruise missiles on its submarines that can do the job. And as for Iran never using nuclear bombs, it could get them to terrorists who smuggle them in containers for use that way. Plus only five nuclear bombs are needed to make the destruction of Israel a fait accompli. And say North Korea explodes a nuclear bomb in Seoul and then threatens the explosion of several more nuclear bombs unless its demands are met, from my assessment of the above commenters, they would all give into the nuclear blackmail rather than risk the deaths of hundreds of thousands of more people. Plus who above will escalate things to a full blown nuclear confrontation even if one of the parties uses one or more nuclear bombs? MAD is unacceptable, so whoever uses the nukes first will “win.” The only rational response is to then surrender rather than risk MAD.

  12. @Toto:

    I suggest you read the first linked article. As it states, Iran’s facilities are now deep underground, and going deeper. As far as I know, must non-nuclear cruise missiles are incapable of carrying ordinance powerful enough to penetrate that deeply. For that kind of fire power, you need to hit from the air.

    Of course, the other side of the story is that the Israelis also apparently don’t have the kind of airplane-delivered ordinance necessary to really penetrate the Iranian facilities. We do, but we’re not sharing it with them at the moment.

    And, before you mention it, no using nuclear weapons in this situation is not a viable solution. If Israel does that, they will become an international pariah.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yah, that’s why I think the cat is out of the bag already. Israel can’t attack Iran successfully without causing a sizeable loss of lives and doing it just on the possibility that Iran will have a nuke in the future will strike most of the world as being extremely premature. (Also provide a justification for all pre-emptive strikes in the future.)

    This is why I think Israel should be told in no uncertain terms that the US will NOT be bailing them out of any messes they get into if they give into their crazies and attack Iran.

    (My other feeling has been, hell, just drop an asteroid on the entire Mid-East and be done with it. Too many people there are nuts, have been nuts, and will be nuts)

  14. Chris Berez says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I think we should just tell Israel: if you attack, you’re on your own. No support from the US, no more military aid, no more cash, period.

    I’m sick and tired of having the US being tied to Israel. If they want to pound their chests, let them do it on their own dime. And with the increasing radicalization of the Settler movement and the increasing preponderance of the Ultra-Orthodox, I wonder how long we can really call Israel a “democracy” any more.

    Agreed 100%. That’s exactly how I feel too. I’m beyond sick and tired of this bullshit.

    Of course, as Doug pointed out, even if we don’t get involved, Iran and those that side with Iran will still be convinced that we are. So we’re going to have to deal with the consequences of Israeli action every bit as much as the Israelis. But the principle for me still remains the same: want to launch an attack on Iran that will not only not actually do anything but will also likely result in Iran and the rest of the Islamic world becoming even more hostile and militaristic towards Israel? Okay then. Have fun.

    I really, really desperately hope Israel doesn’t go down this path. But I’m terrified that they will. If they do, it’s going to be a nightmare.

  15. mannning says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my belief that Israel has a stockpile of several versions of “MOAB” bombs that could do a good job on underground facilities in Iran. Their problem is delivery by slow C-130 transport planes, which would be easily shot down if Iran’s air defenses are not fully suppressed. Which thus leads to the rather difficult problem of finding and neutralizing a large number of air defense sites in a very short time.

    That Israel would be castigated for using multiple EMP weapons to do this air defense suppression job is the common wisdom, but with their backs against the wall and with US support uncertain, the Israeli choice seems to be pariah or an eventual “poof”, and my contention all along has been that they would choose pariahship in order to survive. Thus a series of EMP high altitude explosions would be used, not to kill people, but to disable the electronics that control Iran’s defensive and offensive weaponry for a period of time long enough to hit the nuclear sites, if not a lot more.

    As I have said before, when Israel strikes, the big question is then will they manage to retaliate in a way that includes the US in a serious manner as they have threatened many times. If so, we would be dragged into the conflict simply to defend our people and places from attack. The decision whether we hit Iran may well be in the hands of Israel first, and then Iran, and not in US hands at all.

  16. TastyBits says:

    @mannning

    I do not think Israel has any aircraft that would be capable of carrying a MOAB, but the US has sold them smaller bunker-buster bombs. Israel does not have the long range bombers to make a round trip to Iran. Without refueling capability, the planes would need to be ditched.

    To my knowledge, there is no bomber version of the C-130, but you are correct that it is too slow.

  17. @Andy:

    First, I don’t think anyone should assume that Iran wants nukes. Iran wanted nukes when Iraq was an existential threat. That threat is gone and now there is no one who wants to “invade” Iran. The strategic rational for nukes doesn’t exist anymore.

    Seriously? You don’t think the Iranians would feel in a stronger position with respect to Mitt Romney if they were sitting on nukes right now?

  18. @mannning:

    As I have said before, when Israel strikes, the big question is then will they manage to retaliate in a way that includes the US in a serious manner as they have threatened many times.

    If Israel strikes, the big question will be whether they can avoid an ongoing exchange with Iran.

    The Iranian military has launched a barrage of missiles at “mock enemy bases” as part of a major war games exercise aimed at dissuading any potential outsider attack, the nation’s state-run media reported today.

    Iran: ‘Long-Range’ Missiles Attack ‘Mock Enemy Bases’

  19. tps says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There is a way. Take a standard bunker-buster, which Israel does have in the form of GBU-28’s, and put a 2kt nuclear warhead on it. Much of the blast will be contained in the ground and the shockwave will collapse the bunkers.

  20. nobody says:
  21. nobody says:

    The reason why the US has not committed is simple, they can’t attack aIran unilaterally or else the UN will frown upon the US. Russia also has a heavy investment with Iran, they could care less about the people. Once we can barter a deal with Russia and gain UN support, the US will be all in. It’s also a good beta test for Russias missile defense system to test its affectiveness.

    On the grander scale we have Syria and Egypt both knocking at Israels door. Egypt just struck a big deal with China to upgrade its military to be on par with the rest of the modern world. This does not bode well with the US, nor Israel. I have always felt Iran was really the US objective, while Syria and Egypt would be dealt with by Israel. Iran troops are already in Syria, as well as Egypt. It would be only natural that given an attack on Iran, both Syria and Egypt would be thrown into the fight resulting in legal grounds for Israel to attack.

    One thing that is obvious is that for Israel to attack, they had to first neutralize Gaza. This is currently being carried out, hence the recent seemingly overkill of their recent “retaliation” fort a few rockets. The rockets fired frorm Gaza are nothing unusual, however, the level of Israels retaliation is something to take notice. This was the tell tail event that (in my mind) says Israel is on the cusp of an attack. O believe the US also sees this the same way.

    Once Israel attacks, which I believe to be soon, the US will play its “we tried” card, and be thrown into the fight via Iran’s attempt to close the straight of hormuz. This will drag the US in, which will gain favor from the UN, and the US can then save face and attack.

    So then why the delay, because Russia hasn’t had its finances with Iran secured yet. Also, the US did want to gain more leverage with installing their missile defence shield in Europe, something Russia is highly against.

    So there you have it, Israel is getting an itchy trigger finger, the US will be involved no matter what, and weither Russia will be fully compensated for their financial loss in Iran is in limbo.

  22. mannning says:

    @TastyBits:

    The USAF used C-130s to drop MOABs and “Daisy Cutters” out of the rear end of these aircraft during Nam, and the technology was made available to Israel. The C-130 is just about the only aircraft in the Israeli inventory capable of flying a 20,000 lb or greater bomb. and then launching it and guiding it to the target with great accuracy. Israel had 8 of these C-130s the last time I checked. The first part of the bomb’s flight is by parachute to pull the bomb out of the C-130, and allow the carrier to get away from the blast. The bomb is released from the chute, and then an add-on laser guidance system takes over to home on the target using controllable fins and wings. GPS guidance can also be added, as in the GBU-43B MOAB. These are 18,700 lb bombs.

    During Gulf War I two such weapons hit the same point, one after the other and devastated an Iraqi air defense shelter at a depth of 250 ft and through quite a few feet of reenforced concrete. I believe the GBU-43 was sent to Israel in small quantities, but the big MOAB of 30,000 lb was not sent to my knowledge. However, it is quite possible that Israel has built it’s own big MOAB-type weapons in the past 5 or 6 years; it is well within their capability.

    One further speculation of mine is that if the Israelis use their EMP weapons, they would take the opportunity to wreck as much havoc on the Iranian military as they possibly could since they would be in a state of full war with Iran and the more or less stationary weapon systems existing from the EMP blasts would be excellent targets—tanks, transport, artillery, missile systems, troop carriers, barracks, C&C systems, comm, radar, AA, etc. etc.

  23. nobody says:

    Something to take notice also is that while the US is trying to pay the Russians off for their concent, which won’t happen publicly, the US must also make sure that they can fully secure the straight to keep the oil flowing. We aren’t quite 100% yet.

    The one fact I am 100% positive about is that Iran will not view an attack from Israel to be just Israel, they will attempt to close the straight and the US will not allow this to happen, nor the UN. Once Israel attacks, we will have to respond to this, and everyone knows it.

    Israel without the US will have to attack within a few weeks, before they move the enriched material deep underground. So if they don’t attack soon, the US involvement will be 100% needed in order to fully destroy Iran’s nuclear program. So if nothing happens via Israel the war will be stalled until all deals and UN mumbo jumbo has been fulfilled.

  24. nobody says:

    Israel has 2 weeks to attack, so if not in 2 weeks, war maybe months away.

    On a side note: the US Israel war game was not about the trial of their missile defence system, it was a legal way to station 5000 us troops in Israel. We are not allowed to just put our troops in such a hot area without using a grey area “war games” excuse.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    The insoluble problem for Israel is duration. They can’t do it quickly.

    They aren’t strong enough to go in and destroy Iranian air defenses reliably in a few days as we could. So any Israeli effort inevitably drags out, and that’s not good. They’ll have tacit support from the Gulf States but the longer it goes on, the more that frays. The longer it goes on, the more hits they take from Iranian missiles. The more time Iran has to disrupt shipping in the Gulf. The more time Hezbollah has. The more the Israeli arsenal becomes depleted. The more time for the UN to act against Israel. And on and on.

    Time is not on Israel’s side. Iran is a big, hard nut to crack. It’s a job for a superpower, not for a regional power.

    I suspect, bottom line, the Israelis can’t do it alone, and will rely on dragging us in. If they do that without our consent I think we need to be done with them. I mean: done.

  26. nobody says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree with you that Iran is the most formidable enemy the US may have to face, but I believe their capabilities have been exaggerated extensively. They are still a 3rd world army, using whatever Russia would allow them to have which is mostly outdated and worthless. Watching their military parades makes me laugh as they show off their mad max like dune buggies and drug runner speed boats which are zero match for anything the US and Israel has. Not too mention Iran’s subs are laughable. They only have missiles from Russia that are worthy of anything. Which will undoubtedly be a primary target for Israel.

    This will all play against Iran since this will be the first war the US and Israel will not go into being “half cocked”. Occupation wars are terrible for the US and Israel since we have to demonstrate constraint. Given the excuse to go all out will result in a ravaged country.

  27. matt says:

    @mannning: You’re forgetting that the MOAB are air burst bombs and completely ineffective at destroying underground targets. Look up the specifications of those type of bombs and you’d quickly realize your error.

    There is absolutely no reason for us to support strikes on Iran. The political radicals in the country are losing control as the Iranian middle class grows in size and power. The true power behind Iran also has no interest in destroying Israel. It’s much better to keep Israel around as the boogeyman to keep a hold of power for a little longer. On top of that the Iranian leadership knows that any nuclear strike on Israel will result in the assured destruction of most if not all of Iran in retaliation. They aren’t stupid and if you’re worried about Iran having nuclear weapons then why do you not care about Pakistan and their nukes? IF anything right now Pakistan is the bigger worry as the government there isn’t anywhere near as in control of their country as the Iranians are.

  28. nobody says:

    I am typing too much on here so I will keep this one short. Iran may gain weapons grade enrichment, but I still believe they are years away from the purity it takes to mount it to a missile. They may have a bomb, but it won’t be usable in anything efficient besides a large bomber for years. It will be nothing more than a north Korea situation without a neighboring south Korea to threaten it with. This is why I believe the US has shown relaxed urgency on this matter. I think Israel is not concerned with being “nuked” at the moment, but stresses dealing with it as soon as possible so they can focus on much closer threats in the near future ie. Syria, Egypt, hamass.

  29. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    Seriously? You don’t think the Iranians would feel in a stronger position with respect to Mitt Romney if they were sitting on nukes right now?

    If they were sitting on a nuke then maybe, but they’re not and they won’t be anytime soon. Attempting to gain the capability will ensure they are attacked, no matter who is President.

  30. nobody says:

    If given a nuclear weapon, Iran will have a more persuasive threat, shutting down the worlds oil supply while dangling a nuclear weapon. The UN won’t let them have that control. Unlike north Korea and Pakistan, Iran will have a huge advantage with its proximity to this channel. This is why they are a serious threat. One can only imagine what north Korea would do if they had the worlds oil supply within range, hence the global concern with Iran rather than Pakistan.

    The world would be giving Iran the ability to adhere to its demands. Countries like north Korea and Pakistan are closer to allies, but know it would be pure suicide if they used them. If Iran had the bomb there would undoubtedly be a constant monthly threat of market instability and agreements with an insane country.

    Nobody wants to have to deal with Iran and the thought of constant uncertainty with oil which they will undoubtedly use on a constant basis.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @nobody:

    Good grief. You laugh at their military equipment do you?

    They fought the Iraqis for eight years and took hundreds of thousands – estimates range from a low of 300k up to 700k — casualties. We lost 4500 in Iraq and freaked out. The Iranians are ready to fight. They aren’t Arabs, the Persians have a long history of fighting pretty damned well.

    They currently have a half million man army with almost two million reserves. They control Hezbollah. They own large numbers of small craft that as we saw with the USS Cole can play hell with shipping. They don’t need latest generation missiles, they’d be firing at civilian targets, at cities in Israel and oil fields in the Gulf — none of which takes pinpoint accuracy.

    What do you think three months or six months of disrupted oil coming through the straits of Hormuz does to western economies? Or to China or Japan? We can’t effectively stop Somali pirates, what makes you think we can stop Iranian Revolutionary Guard in suicide boats? How long do you think Lloyds will go on insuring tankers after three or four get blowed up real good?

    You want more fun? They have deep inroads in Bahrain, which we use as a base. They share a border with Afghanistan where — I know Mitt Romney forgot, but you may recall – we have a few men. They also share a border with Iraq which we are trying to stabilize.

    There is no evidence to suggest the Iranians are suicidal and Israel has the full array of sophisticated nukes with capable delivery systems. Not to mention that we have just a few nukes of our own.

    The Iranians don’t fundamentally give a sh*t about Israel, despite Netanyahu’s paranoia. The Iranians care about Saudi Arabia. Their struggle is not with Jews, it’s with Sunnis, and mistaking that is as dumb as our assumption in the 60’s that the USSR and the People’s Republic of China were natural allies.

    This is not a good war for us to have.

  32. matt says:

    @michael reynolds: As someone married to a woman with family in Iran I can only say you are very correct.

  33. nobody says:

    @michael reynolds: you are comparing the US to the Iraqi funded army? Really? The thing you seem to fail to realize is that we haven’t gone into a war with what we have to give since WW2. Our wars have always been occupation endeavors. The Israeli army will not hold back, nor will we. Anything they have can and will be destroyed. This will not cause WW3 despite what the conspiracy wackos believe.

    I am very happy the world believe a 3rd world army is even slightly up to par with a super power. This will give any attack the excuses it needs to level the enemy. Of you believe this will be anything remotely close to Afghanistan, or Iraq which had been reduced to nothing by sanctions you would be very incorrect.

    If Israel and the US get into a war we will not be the occupiers, we will be the bombing, stealth, havoc wreaking super power that the US has come to be. Our men are worth a ratio of 1 to 6 compared to anything the world has. The US is a nation that has more training in combat that any other nation that has come to be, despite being one of the newest. If you really believe Iran will be that difficult to bring to its knees then you must lose sleep at night from fear of the Russians and China. Something to mention here would be that Russia got its ass handed to them in Afghanistan as well.

    If the US decides to join in, which I feel they will be forced in, the Iran army will be reduced to nothing more than a few proud farmers. They really don’t stand a chance, of we wanted to decimate Afghanistan we could, but that’s not the mission.

    I honestly am wondering why the general concensus is that we can’t win a war or destroy a worthy opponent. If allowed to take out the enemy, instead of trying to change opinion and establish governments we would always win.

    The US will topple anyone that we deem a real threat and I’m afraid that the media has lead you to believe that Iran is some super warrior. With no real combat in the new generation, clunky Russia hardware minus the good radar and stealth capability, and like I said before…Zero experience, their only real power lies on the proud history and no experience…something even the Israeli army is well accustomed to.

  34. nobody says:

    When Iran gets destroyed and reduces to a country of proud people armed with a mere rifle you will understand. Years of war, strategy, and technology will ruin IRAN similar to Germany and Japan. I know if Israel decides to jump it will be far beyond overkill.

    I believe the Iranians to be a good people, if their leaders only cared for them they would stop. However, as close as they are to having the leverage they will gain on the world and its oil, I believe they will realize it was a huge mistake to allow their government to go as far as they did.

    We will not occupy their country so ied’s and urban warfare will be non existant. This will be a bombing campaign, let by missiles, planes, and key targets. We won’t enter another occupation, and Iran will be decimated.

  35. tps says:

    @nobody:

    Egypt already has a well armed military provided by the US. I think they have more F-16’s then just about any other country except for the US. Also Patriot missiles, M-60 & M-1 tanks, etc. In terms of hardware they are onpar with the rest of the world.

  36. nobody says:

    @tps: So did you miss the recent news about Egypt and China, and what they had to say about the future of Egypt and their China cohort? If they are so great, why seek Chinas military advancement?

  37. nobody says:

    Perhaps you should Google that little tidbit of info before you tout the Egypt army. If you took a second to realize that they have virtually a hollow shell of an f16 with zero of our electronics you would realize that they are a shell with a jet engine…

  38. Me Me Me says:

    @nobody:

    The reason why the US has not committed is simple, they can’t attack aIran unilaterally or else the UN will frown upon the US.

    That is just ridiculous.

    The reason why the US has not committed is that it is not in our national interest to do so.

  39. Armchair generals tend to plan wars where the enemy does just what they want.

  40. michael reynolds says:

    @nobody:

    As armchair generals go, you’re not very good. It’s not a question of “who’s got a bigger dick?” Can we crush Iran? Of course. We’re a superpower. Not the point. We’re about to sneak out of Afghanistan after taking on an “army” that isn’t even an army.

    If I had one wish for you and Manning and others like you it would be that you learn to read a map. Jane’s Defense Weekly is great. But if you want to understand these things, learn to understand the map. The map was great for us in Libya, and it was terrible for us in Afghanistan.

  41. TastyBits says:

    @michael reynolds

    I mostly agree with all of your posts. Are you stupid or insane?

    The one difference is the Straits of Hormuz and Somali pirates. I think it would be similar to the tanker wars of the 80’s. The US would do as little as possible while protecting the tankers. I think the US has other reasons for not getting involved with the Somali pirates.

  42. TastyBits says:

    @Nobody

    Gaining and holding ground is the method to win a war, but wars are won and lost on logistics. If you cannot resupply, you lose. Air capability will NOT win a war.

    Russia and China have global strategies and goals. Iran has regional strategies and goals. To the extent these align, Iran will receive their support. It should be noted that Russia and China have different strategies and goals, and they are not allies.

    Without refueling, Israel does NOT have the capacity to conduct an air war against Iran. Israel can only conduct a ground offensive as far as its planes can make a round trip. Establishing forward airbases requires security for the bases and logistics train.

  43. TastyBits says:

    To better understand Middle East conflicts, you need a map of the water resources. There was one on the internet, but I have lost the link. Superimpose the conflicts over the water resources. In arid climates, water is more valuable than gold or oil. This is one aspect that is usually not considered.

  44. mannning says:

    @matt:

    MOAB is a generic term, Matt, and there are versions of them meant to be deep ground penetrators, such as the GB-43 I brought up. Do you not recall the example from the Gulf war I cited? And those were just 1,000 lb Paveways. The latest are 30,000 lb monsters, and they are specifically designed to go very deep not to do the daisy cutter job. I do expect Israel to have manufactured their own version in all this talk-talk time.

    @michael reynolds:

    Your non-existant military experience clouds your judgement yet again. Perhaps you have paid no attention to the fact that the IAF has refueling tankers and conformal tanks on their F-15I and F-16I aircraft that gives then excellent range capability even without the refuelers. What the tankers do is allow them to loiter over the target area much, much longer and make multiple passes or air engagements before having to return. They will fly over Iran, not the long routes, and they have a tacit agreement with the Saudis not to interfere with the raids. It is also quite obvious that they will use their missiles as well to target AA sites and missile sites.
    The point being that suppression of the air defenses in Iran by EMP gives them a series of windows to roam around attacking and suppressing all threats to the C-130s, before they arrive to dump their MOABs on the nuclear sites. Indeed, they can take the time to reduce the weapon inventory of Iran to a very low level by flying multiple missions interspersed with EMP covering blasts, to hit as many as they can find over a week or two.

    This armchair general has at least been exposed to the IAF, to the EMP capabilities, MOABs, and the long range capability of their aircraft and missiles, and to the engineering prowess of the Israelis, as well as having flown over the area to pick sites from photographs for air defense radar, and seen the intel on Iranian emitters. Our Kuwaiti friends were obliging enough to provide high altitude oblique recon photos deep into Iran, since that was the threat they thought most important (they were wrong, of course) . To say that I have not looked at a map of Iran is just plain false; actually for the entire area, since we were planning the air defense of Kuwait from all threats, and plotting them on US Jet Nav charts.

    If the Israelis do not use EMP they will suffer terrible losses trying to take out just the key nuclear sites, and in my opinion will have wasted the effort for a measly few years grace, plus they will suffer significant retaliation, all of which makes the case for using EMP cover to help take out as much military stuff as they can up front.

  45. TastyBits says:

    @mannning

    If Israel had the capability, they would have used it, and when they have the capability, they will use it. Israel has a habit of doing something without notifying anybody before, during, or after. Israel has the ability to conduct clandestine operations, and they are. I have no doubt they have excellent intel in Iran and all the Arab countries, and they know where and what to target.

    I have not kept up on the Israeli air capability, but as of a few years ago, an Iran round trip was out of range. If I am not mistaken, extra fuel means less ordinance. Refueling was what the Azerbaijan leak was about.

    Assuming Israel had the capability for an airstrike, they are not going to have week or weeks to pick-off targets while the region sits around and watches.

    Israel manufactures what it can, but it is highly dependent upon the US for equipment and ordinance. If the US does not resupply them, they will not last very long.

    Any country not shooting down Israeli planes will get a visit by the Arab Spring. The House of Saud is in no position to be seen as Israel’s toady.

  46. matt says:

    @mannning: MOAB stands for Massive Ordinance Air Blast. The GBU-43 you reference is not meant for penetrative attacks. See Wikipedia for more details.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-43/B_Massive_Ordnance_Air_Blast_bomb

  47. Dazedandconfused says:

    @TastyBits:

    They will have months and months, and will need them. With nobody on the ground to verify, they will have to constantly re-assess and search for things they might have missed. We would have to do the same thing, and it would resemble the no-fly campaign of the 90’s over Iraq. Might well continue for years.

    The program was designed with this in mind from the get-go. I wouldn’t be so sure our intelligence is either complete or has identified everything correctly. I certainly would be excavating some fake sites to draw fire if I were them, anyway.

    There seems to be a lot of people thinking it’s a one and done kinda deal. Don’t think so.

  48. mannning says:

    @matt:

    As for the MOAB, It is all in the usage. This one from Lt.General Herbert Carlisle, USAF DCS-OPS:

    “The MOP also referred to as “The Mother of All Bombs” is designed to drill through 200 feet of reinforced concrete before detonating its massive warhead. It is believed to be the biggest conventional, non-nuclear, weapon in the American arsenal. In terms of destructive capability, it can be said to be the most fearsome explosive weapon among a range of massive-blast ordnance developed by the Pentagon ”

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-mother-of-all-bombs

    The GBU-43 MOAB was considered by the Israelis modified for ground penetration by fitting a steel nose cone on the missile, making the case more rigid, and revising the fusing. This route would have saved them money. It is my understanding that they, too, referred to this as the Mother of all Bombs, or MOAB at the time.

    However, I believe they did not receive permission to import it from the US, nor did they receive permission to import the 30,000 lb MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) mentioned by Carlisle above as a MOAB.

    I expect the Israelis will have solved that MOAB problem for themselves subsequently.

  49. mannning says:

    Catching up to the facts, it seems that the US has furnished 55 MOPs to Israel! a year ago!

    “According to a Tehran political science professor who spoke with the author on the condition of anonymity, the US’s “neutrality posture” rings hollow because Washington has supplied the “30,000 pounds deep-earth penetrators” that will likely be used against Iran. “During the Iran-Iraq war Iran made the mistake of not holding the Western suppliers of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussain accountable and Iran will not make that mistake again,” says the Tehran professor.

    Regarding those bunker-buster bombs, last September the US admitted that it had delivered 55 of those monster bombs (sure to inflict major “collateral damage”) to Israel, after being approved by the Obama administration in 2009. In effect, this means that by making the fateful decision to arm Israel with the necessary military muscle to initiate a unilateral attack on Iran,”the US has sealed its image as “complicit” irrespective of how its top generals want to create a safe buffer for their forces in the region; this is not to mention the likely US intelligence sharing with Israel that would go into preparation for any attack on Iran.”

  50. mannning says:

    The reference was the Asia Times, Sept 5th, 2012.

  51. TastyBits says:

    Israel has been going to bomb Iran in 6-12 months for years. I know it has been 2 years, but I think it has been 4-6 years.

    Israel’s military capability is beside the point. Military action against Iran “ain’t gonna happen”.

    Israel is coming to terms with a nuclear Iran. All this is bluster for when that day comes. Israel will claim they did everything they could, and ______ is to blame. (Fill in the blank.)

    Military action against Iran by the US “ain’t gonna happen”. A nuclear explosion in a major US city may cause the US to act. The US will keep the Straits of Hormuz open, and there will be minimal military action done. The US may even limit action to US flagged ships.

    Unless Russia decides otherwise, Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons, or it will be assumed they have them.

  52. mannning says:

    We will see soon enough. I know that Israel has spent an enormous amount of money to prepare for such an eventuality, because they felt that their very existence was at stake when threatened by the powers in Iran. The best of all worlds would have Iran and its surrogates stand down, Israel stand down, and the rest of us go on about our business. I wish we could believe in that outcome, and watch it come true. But, I do not believe in it, considering the history of that region.

  53. Dazedandconfused says:

    @mannning:
    I generally agree, but I believe it’s probably wrong to think of “Israel” as a monolithic block of like-minded people. His military and the public are against it unless we join in, and the office of Prime Minister in their system can not order the military to do this by himself.

    I am guessing, of course, but will opine this is about making our nominees publicly swear to back them up if they strike. Dan Senor made that statement to that effect while Mitt was in Israel and Mitt immediately walked it back. Failed gambit? Maybe. Anyway, my WAG is that walk-back, and the lack of comment during the Republican pep-rally on Israel, may have prompted Bibi to act in the way he is now. He surely wants this to be a question in the televised debates.

  54. mannning says:

    @Dazedandconfused:

    It is one thing to indicate support for Israel, and it is another thing entirely to commit to
    supporting a war begun by Israel. We may well have to defend ourselves if Israel does attack, because of retaliations involving us, and we may well decide to join them under some circumstances, but that depends on possible future hostile events by Iran. Prudence dictated Mitt’s walk back.

  55. Dazedandconfused says:

    @mannning:

    That’s what I’m thinking. That it made Bibi realize this guy is no Sarah or George, or even McCain. Mitt’s not a “true believer”, he’s a con man, not unlike himself.

  56. matt says:

    @mannning: Well you can sit here justifying your incorrect usage of the name of the bomb all you want but the GBU 43 that you listed is a Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb not a “mother of all bombs” or whatever..

    They have all kinds of names for every weapon system in the military but there’s only one official name.

  57. mannning says:

    @matt:

    Of course there is one official name, it is the name registered in their supply records, But men will take advantage of a nickname if they can, and they do. The familiar name for the class of weapons is Mother of All Bombs, or MOABs. When a Lt General uses the falimiar term, it locks it in for sure.