A Calculus: Will Israel strike Iran?
By Micah D. Halpern April 26, 2007
For many countries, the threat of nuclear annihilation is a theoretical issue. For Israel, the threat of nuclear attack is real, palpable, a true possibility. Of all the countries plotting the demise of the Jewish State the country that is planning to use nuclear power as the weapon of choice is, of course, Iran. Which leads to an all-important, non-theoretical, set of questions.
Will Israel strike Iran?
Israel would prefer that Iran be struck and weakened -- by some other power. For Israel it would be best if the United States and a coalition of the West emasculated and neutered Iran of nuclear capabilities. Should that not occur, then yes, I believe that Israel will under certain circumstances strike Iran.
Under what circumstances will Israel strike Iran?
Israel's agenda is first and foremost the safety of its citizens and the sovereignty of the country of Israel. Next on the agenda comes the stability of the Middle East region. Israel is not alone in worrying about the region. The United States certainly shares those concerns and has made stability within the region a priority. But not with the same intensity. Not with the same immediacy. The United States is buffered by distance and size. Israel has neither.
Israel will strike Iran when one of three things happen:
#1: When the United States sees eye to eye with Israel on an assessment of the nuclear danger Iran poses.
#2: When Israel is faced with the imminent threat of a missile attack.
#3: After a nuclear attack on Israel by Iran.
How will Israel strike Iran?
When the United States agrees 100% completely with Israel's risk assessment, or if Israel has knowledge of an imminent attack from Iran, Israel will strike preemptively.
A preemptive strike by Israel against Iran would mean a three-pronged attack. Land. Air. Sea. Civilian casualties are an unfortunate casualty of war, but in this case, Israel would have the ability to keep them to a minimum. The model for this attack is taken from Israel's own handbook -- the 1982 bomb attack on the Iraqi nuclear power plant. This time, however, the attack would be far more complicated and far more sophisticated. This time, the attack would be a simultaneous, multi-geographical strike at the heart of Iran's nuclear program. The objective would be to knock out as many known and potential nuclear targets as possible. To be successful, the attack must render Iran's entire nuclear operation inoperative.
The result would be a decade-long setback in Iran's nuclear growth. The result would be a strong Israel thrust into a defensive posture, set to repel counter attacks from Iran and from Iran's Israel-hating cohorts and associates. The result would be an audible sigh of relief from the vast majority of the Muslim world cowered into paying lip service to the forces of power ruling Iran.
How will Israel strike back at Iran?
With their permission and more importantly without their permission and because of their opposition it is immensely important for us, the West, to keep careful and accurate tabs on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Eyes opened and wandering, ears and listening devices to the ground and operatives bringing back intelligence that is accurate and trusted.
It now seems that Iran is not as far along their nuclear path than as we originally thought. Technically, Iran's development of a nuclear missile as well as other top shelf nuclear weapons has not been completed. Iran does not now possess the ability to direct a full scale nuclear device at Israel. That does not eliminate the threat of a nuclear attack against Israel, it alters the threat.
It means that Israel now has to worry about an attack carried out by a dirty bomb. Carried out is a literal, not a figurative, term. The dirty bomb would reach Israel in one of two ways. It would be trucked out and delivered by a live walking, talking and probably disguised person to one of the most populated cities in Israel. Or it would arrive by ship, off the coast or into the port of one the most populated cities in Israel. The idea is to annihilate as large a population as possible.
What amount of force will Israel use to strike Iran?
I have thought long and hard about this.
Israel can go one of two ways. The first way is to consider any nuclear attack as a threshold issue that breaks the glass ceiling. That means that any use of any nuclear force against Israel or Israelis will be responded to with great force to make certain it does not ever happen again. Not by Iran. Not by anyone. The second way for Israel to respond to an Iranian nuclear attack against Israeli cities and civilians is to use the calculus of numbers, a hard, cold calculation based on the numbers of lives lost.
According to my best analysis, Israel's calculus will be as follows:
If the number of Israelis killed by a nuclear device tops 10,000 Israel will launch a significant counterattack against Iran. A significant attack would mean liquidating an entire Iranian city or two or three - depending on how far above 10,000 the actual tally went. Totally razing that city or cities to the ground.
If the number of Israelis killed by a nuclear device hovers between 1,000-3,000, Israel will have a much more measured response. That measured response will be the targeting of Iranian leadership and Iran's nuclear bases. Targets would include the air-force and other positions within the defense establishment. Targets would include political leadership and religious leadership.
According to my best analysis Israel is even now, when the threat is real but not imminent, leaning towards the glass ceiling approach. And when the glass ceiling is broken the rules are blown sky high.
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