Will Israel Attack Iran?
There’s an article in the Times of London today claiming that Israel’s air force is on standby, just waiting for the order from Israel’s government before mounting an air assault against Iran’s nuclear development sites:
The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government
Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.
Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.
“Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” one senior defence official told The Times.
Is Israel’s new government daft enough to give such an order? The comparison of such an attack with Israel’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor more than 25 years ago is specious. Iran is significantly farther away from Israel, Iran’s nuclear development program is believed to be dispersed and hardened, and, well, Iran is not Iraq.
An attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear development facilities would give Iran every right to retaliate as they chose and I have no doubt that Iran would retaliate both by conventional and unconventional means. Could Israel survive a massive retaliation? And it would justify in the eyes of many any future development of nuclear weapons on Iran’s part.
The United States could not remain uninvolved in such a conflict. The attack would necessarily take place by flying through air space controlled by the United States. Whether we’d given an explicit or implicit go ahead to the attack or not, it would be assumed that we had. That’s mentioned in the article:
He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from America, which has struck a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.
An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.
Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said it was unlikely that the Americans would approve an attack.
“The American defence establishment is unsure that the operation will be successful. And the results of the operation would only delay Iran’s programme by two to four years,” he said.
Michael van der Galien correctly points out the likely reactions of other countries in the region:
If Israel attacks, the entire Middle East could turn against it. I would not rule out that even Ankara, Turkey, would side with Tehran. Erdogan would not order his country’s military to carry out strikes against Israel, but he could very well declare a war of words. And let’s not even mention Arab peoples. Most Arab rulers have no sympathy for Iran. They’ll quietly thank God Israel destroyed the country’s nuclear facilities. Publicly, however, they will have to rail against the Jewish nation-state, calling it anti-Muslim, and dictatorial. If they do not, their people will turn against them.
I’ve long held the position that, however loud its saber-rattling, Israel would not attack Iran, at least not without direct provocation, but since the recent election I’m not so sure. Nonetheless let’s consider the possible signalling functions that Israel’s new government may be taking by keeping the ball of an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities up in the air.
First and foremost are the domestic political considerations. The Netanyahu government is signalling to the Israeli people its resolve to prevent an Iranian attack against Israel. And it would be signalling both to the United States and to the Iranians the prospective consequences of a failure by the various parties to end Iran’s nuclear development program by other means.