Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Getting to Iran, Revisited

According to a report in today's edition of The New York Times, Iran is beginning to enrich uranium on a much larger scale than previously thought, putting Tehran on a faster track toward obtaining nuclear weapons. Officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tell the Times that a recent, short-notice inspection of the enrichment facility at Natanz revealed that the Iranians now have 1,300 centrifuges in operation, with the capability to increase that number to 3,000 by the end of June, and 8,000 by the end of the year.

The 3,000 centrifuge array would represent an important benchmark for Iran, because it produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for one bomb a year, assuming that Tehran can attain the 90% purity level required for nuclear weapons. IAEA tests indicate that the Iranian centrifuges are now producing material with a purity of only 5%, sufficient to fuel a nuclear reactor, but hardly weapons-grade.

Reports that Tehran is moving ahead with its enrichment program have renewed speculation about a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Over at Contentions, senior editor Gabriel Schoenfeld reexamines the question of whether the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has the resources to mount an effective attack against the four main nuclear complexes in Iran. As Mr. Schoenfeld notes, any strike against Iran would be far more complex than the successful 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak reactor. In a nutshell, an attack against Iran would require more aircraft flying longer distances, and dropping more weapons against targets that (in some cases) are hardened and buried. Needless to say, the IAF's chances of achieving complete success--as it did at Osirak--are slim, at best.

In his assessment, Mr. Schoenfeld notes a recent analysis of Israeli's military options by MIT military analysts, Whitney Raas and Austin Long. I've read their assessment, which appeared in the spring issue of International Security. In some respects, their analysis is quite good; Raas and Long do an excellent job in discussing the "weaponeering" aspects of an Israeli raid, describing the types of bombs that would be used and delivery techniques. Raas and Long believe that the IAF would use a technique called "burrowing" to broach the underground facilities at Natanz; burrowing entails a sequenced drop of multiple precision-guided munitions against the same aim point at pre-determined intervals. The result is a steadily-expanding blast hole that eventually reaches and penetrates bunkers that house the centrifuges, allowing the final bombs to destroy them. Burrowing also allows the IAF to forgo the use of tactical nuclear weapons in striking Iran--a critical political and diplomatic consideration.

Along with their weaponeering assessment, Raas and Long also offer an excellent discussion of potential flight routes for the Israeli strike package. Their analysis essentially mirrors what we've published in the past; the most likely options would carry Israeli fighters (and possibly, support aircraft) along a northern route (through Turkey); on a "central" route (through Iraq), or along a more "southern" corridor, following the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The MIT analysts note the importance of in-flight refueling in supporting this option; however, Raas and Long believe the tanker rendezvous would occur over the Mediterranean--during the early stages of the mission. Conversely, they don't envision the KC-707s accompanying the fighters along much of their ingress and egress routes, a tactic postulated in several western military assessments. Using that approach, the strike aircraft could "hide" in the radar shadow of the tanker, which would probably pose as a civilian airliner or cargo aircraft, allowing the formations to maintain tactical surprise as they approach Iranian airspace.

If there's a flaw in the analysis of Raas and Long, it's their failure to consider the IAF's long history of tactical deception in key operations. In the past, the Israelis have gone to great lengths to mask operational intentions and deny early warning to their enemies. Before the 1967 war, IAF formations routinely flew to the edge of Egyptian airspace before turning away at the last moment. The Egyptians became so familiar with the pattern that they eventually stopped responding. On the day the war began, IAF squadrons thundered down the Nile Valley unopposed, because the Egyptians were expecting the Israelis to turn back.

Before the Bekka Valley campaign in 1982, the Syrians decided to quit wasting AAA rounds on Israeli drones that flew over their positions daily. Many of their gunners paid for that mistake with their lives; when the air campaign began, some of those drones--attack models rather that reconnaissance versions--dove on Syrian air defense positions, destroying a number of guns, radars and surface-to-air missile sites. The IAF also masked its 1995 long-range strike against PLO headquarters in Tunis, hiding its jets behind commercial jet traffic flying across the Mediterranean. See a pattern?

It's almost impossible to imagine that the Israelis wouldn't use some measure of deception in their planning against Iran, but Raas and Long don't factor that into their analysis. The need to maintain an element of surprise--over extended distances--virtually compels the use of deceptive measures, which (in turn) would dictate smaller attack formations and fewer weapons. The MIT assessment suggests that the IAF would assign as many as 50 strike aircraft--an equal number of F-15Is and F-16Is--to the mission, but most USAF experts believe the actual number would be only half as many. Our own analysis tends to mirror that of the Air Force; the requirement of getting strike packages to targets 1,000 miles away--without tipping off Iran's air defense system--will restrict the number of strike aircraft, as will the limited number of KC-707s available to support the mission.

The MIT team is correct in its bottom-line; the IAF does have the ability to strike Iran, and inflict significant damage to its nuclear program. But whether Israel has the political will to mount the attack remains to be seen; the Olmert government remains in crisis, and support for the prime minister is at/near an all-time low. Those facts have not been wasted on Ahmadinejad, who is pressing ahead with his enrichment program while Israel is preoccupied with domestic politics. And that, of course, raises the other scenario, involving a possible U.S. strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities. But there are no signs that an American attack is in the offing, either. As we've noted before, the window for action--hitting Iran before it can start building nuclear weapons--is closing fast.

Previous on the subject:

Getting to Iran
Can Israel Strike Iran
Israel's Military Options, Revisited
What the "Beeb" Doesn't Tell You


DebbieKinIL said...

After reading this, some questions -Can the US help refuel IAF from the fleet in the Gulf? Bases in Iraq? How will the US help? Or our we prohibited by law, policy, equipment?

Unknown said...

From what I've learned (officially and unofficially) there is no way the U.S. can provide direct support to an Israeli strike against Iran, particularly with troops on the ground in Iraq.

However, this leads to some interesting suppositions. The most direct route from Israel to Iran is through--you guessed it--Iraq. The Iraqis no longer have an Air Force of any consequence; their air protection comes from us, and to a lesser extent, the Brits.

Would the USAF attempt to intercept Israeli aircraft heading east, or simply ignore them as they fly by in the middle of the night? I'm guessing that we probably wouldn't. And, BTW, the Israelis don't have to worry about a surface-to-air threat in Iraq, either; we pulled our Patriot batteries out a long time ago, and our AWACS orbits are north and south of the possible flight path. That gives us an element of deniability--we didn't see it coming, and we couldn't react fast enough.

As far as refueling from our fleet, the tankers on the carriers are too small to help the Israelis, and they use the probe-and-drogue method of refueling, not the booms utilized by the IAF (and the USAF, among others). For a small strike package, the IAF has the tanker assets to support a long-range strike, assuming they don't have 1 or 2 KC-707s turn back with mechanical problems.

The dicey proposition is what happens if an IAF jet suffers battle damage over Iran and has to make an emergency landing in Iraq. However, I've also been told by reliable sources that the Israelis have said (informally) that the U.S. doesn't need to worry about that scenario. That would suggest that the Israelis have made arrangements for emergency airfields somewhere else in the region, perhaps Turkey or Kurdistan.

There's no official "law" that would prevent us from helping the Israelis, but existing policies would definitely prohibit direct support. Incidentally, our Air Force KC-135 tankers in the region can refuel the Israeli aircraft, but there's no way they would support an IAF package heading to/from Iran.

Anonymous said...

READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).


Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link


Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:















HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122

101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"

103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

104. We called out to him "O Abraham!

105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

106. For this was obviously a trial-

107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"

110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"

121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

122. For they were two of our believing Servants.

Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.

Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.