Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Today's Reading Assignment

From Tuesday's edition of the Glasgow, Scotland, Herald. The paper's defense correspondent, Ian Bruce, has details on Israeli plans to launch a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Sources tell Mr. Bruce that the raid could be carried out by early March--before the Israeli elections.

This story has made the rounds repeatedly in recent months. But Mr. Bruce's account appears more credible than other stories on the subject, most notably a recent report in the Jerusalem Post. For one thing, the Herald story doesn't appear to be based on second and third-hand information. Additionally, Mr. Bruce's report contains a key detail that mirrors recent intelligence reporting on the subject. And no, I won't say what that detail is.

However, I still believe the chances of an Israeli strike (over the near term) are slight, unless Tel Aviv receives clear, unambiguous evidence that Iran has--or is about to acquire--working nuclear weapons. The consequences of an Israeli attack would be monumental--for Israel, the U.S. and the entire region. An Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear sites could well be followed by an Iranian strike on Israel's population centers, using a SHAHAB-3 missile carrying biological or chemical weapons. Assuming that an Iranian warhead gets through Israel's missile defenses (and inflicts heavy casualties), the Israelis would likely respond in kind, or up the ante and go nuclear. The pressure on an Israeli Prime Minister to respond to an Iranian missile attack would be overwhelming, and quite likely, irresistible.

How would the U.S. respond to these events? Officially, we're still backing European diplomatic efforts, despite long odds against success. However, in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran may force our hand; many analysts believe that Tehran would accuse the U.S. of complicity in the original Israeli attack, and launch their own strikes on American forces in Iraq. At that point, the Commander-in-Chief would have no other option but to defend our troops and other interests in the region.

It's a sobering scenario, to say the least. One final thought: as I've noted before, the Israelis are accomplished masters of military deception. They are quite capable of concealing attack preparations, preventing us (or anyone else) from discerning their plans. Put another way: our first indication of an Israeli attack may not occur until things start exploding in Iran.


Epaminondas said...


But if one thinks it's a worse chance to do nothing...then any other risk is preferable.

And it is.

A.R.Yngve said...

In a phrase:
All bets are off.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, diplomacy in this matter is not dead. I still expect the Russians will try to resurrect their deal, with support from the Europeans and the United States. Iran will use this period to "study" the offer, while continuing enrichment activities at Natanz, Esfahan and clandestine locations.

Will this matter get referred to the U.N. Security Council. Probably--but I don't see that happening until later this year, and then, there's the little matter of getting the UNSC to develop a consensus, let alone a course of action. Meanwhile, the Iranians keep chugging along with their nuclear program. And, if the UN does act, I don't expect much more than mild economic sanctions; afterall, the Russians and Chinese are making billions in deals with Tehran, and they don't support anything that will jeopardize those deals.

Regarding Israel, we will have a much better picture of their intentions after the election. However, it's always important to note the distinction that some Israeli officials draw between "research" activity and actual weapons production. IDF Chief Halutz's remarks about Iran being "years away" from having a bomb are significant-assuming they're not part of some sort of strategic deception plan.

In sum, any UN action would happen later this year--late summer/early fall. A window for Israeli action opens later in the spring, when weather in Iran improves.

Pierre said...

The Tor missile system is impressive...on paper. Has it been used in action yet?

Great blog btw thanks for the effort!

Putting you on my Great links

Crescendo said...

Okay, this will probably reveal considerable ignorance on my part, but if the Israelis were to launch an attack on Iran, wouldn't the US know about it since the Israelis would have to come through restricted Iraqi air space?