As a rule, I don’t usually get involved in war scenarios, but after seeing the Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets put on their brilliant display this week for Israel Independence Day, I was inspired. I was thinking: what if they just continued flying southwest? There’s an important point that I want to make here.
Sooner rather than later, Israel will be forced to make that raid. You know the one. It’s the BIG one. It will make the 1981 precision strike on Iraqi’s Osirak reactor, otherwise known as Operation Raid on the Sun, look like a walk in the park. Back then (just like now), when some argued that the attack would alienate both the United States and Europe, Ariel Sharon allegedly quipped “If I have a choice of being popular and dead or unpopular and alive, I choose being alive and unpopular.” Prime Minister Begin ultimately agreed and the rest of the cabinet fell in behind him. The only question now is: when could an attack on Iran be carried out? At this point, Israel can’t afford NOT to make a strike, as the policy of the current nuclear negotiations with Iran has changed from prevention, to containment. Indeed, all have come to agree that if the military option isn’t utilized by either the US or Israel, a nuclear Iran is simply a fait accompli.
If a preventative strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is going to happen, it must be both before the P5+1 negotiating deadline of June 30th, and before the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles are delivered and setup on Iranian soil. Indeed, if and when that eventuality comes into play, Israel may be forced to destroy that weapons convoy on route to Iran. I’m pretty sure this threat has already been issued. Effectively, we’re looking at a window of opportunity of a little over 2 months to initiate an attack that could take many hours, if not days to carry out, with hundreds or even thousands of missile strikes per day. Simply put, if there is no attack now, Israel must prepare for the day after – a new, grim reality in the Middle East.
However, here’s an interesting point. If the arms shipment isn’t destroyed, there may be another answer to the S-300. Israel’s Defense Ministry sent a Letter of Request to Congress in 2003 asking for authorization to purchase “up to” 75 brand new, top of the line jet fighters that have significant new counter-missile capabilities. In 2010, it signed a deal with the US-based Lockheed-Martin aeronautical company for 19 F-35As, with the first few aircraft set to arrive in late 2016. The total cost of that deal was $2.75 billion, a spokesman for Lockheed-Martin said, out of which $475 million was for non-recurrent costs for the incorporation of upgraded Israeli technology. It’s interesting to note that the approximate cost of the aircrafts was (a staggering) $120 million. Each! These are stealth fighters with highly advanced radar, which will see its targets before it is seen. Armed with the intelligence of where the surface to air missile systems are located, the IAF will then take the necessary measures to first avoid the S-300 systems, then destroy them. What other choice is there – finding the Ark of the Covenant and using that, as in biblical times? True, the planes are insanely expensive, but obviously quite necessary!
On April 15 at Yad Vashem, and echoing his recent, now-famous address to Congress, PM Netanyahu said: “Even if we are forced to stand alone against Iran, we will not fear…” Well folks, I dare say that we have reached that point. Everyone knows by now that where the negotiations are concerned, the US no longer considers use of force in the cards, and quite the contrary, President Obama has indicated that even sanctions have become negotiable. People here in Israel feel that the State Dept. may even act AGAINST Israel if it unilaterally attempts a pre-emptive attack. Besides the obvious existential threat to Israel, one of the other problems is that Iran seeks to “dominate the region” (Netanyahu’s words), and impose a Khomeini-style revolution in the Middle East. We now see clearly that they are doing just that in places like Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and even here in Gaza. Whether Israel sees a right-wing government emerge in the coming weeks, or even a broad-based coalition with the Left, all agree at the end of the day that it’s just a matter of time before Iran breaches their side of an already bad deal, and action will need to be taken, whether backed by the US or not.
What most Israeli’s don’t realize is that once a breach in the agreement is discovered (publicly), there is simply no way the US will neutralize Iranian capabilities with a military strike. Obama won’t do it, and the reason why he won’t do it is because he is not prepared to cast and label Iran as an Enemy of the State. To him, those days are over and it doesn’t lie in synch with his doctrine. In fact, the US President apparently vetoed a potential Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities back in 2012. Is it so hard to see why? Back door negotiations were going on even then between the US and Iran, as Hillary Clinton recently admitted herself. It is crystal clear that the White House CAN forcibly bring the Iranian nuclear program to a halt, it simply chooses not to do so. Will this change after, let’s say – an Iranian nuclear test? Perhaps, but unlikely.
As such, practically speaking, can Israel attack Iran with any real success? Is it worth it? The following are some salient points to consider.
We know that Saudi Arabia has already given tacit permission for Israel to use its airspace to reach the Iranian military targets because as a Sunni Muslim state, they are considered as ‘infidels’ to Iran, who are Shiite Muslims. In fact, they have more to worry about than Israel does, and as a result of the framework agreement that was signed in Vienna, they are demanding the same rights to nuclear capabilities that Iran is apparently going to get. Credible sources state that Pakistan is now prepared to ship a nuclear package to the Saudis. As for Iran, it already has the ballistic missile capability that could hit Saudi Arabia with a warhead at the push of a button. And they know it. So does Jordan.
The truth is that Israel has sufficient nuclear and conventional power to destroy the Islamic Republic in one day in the event of any war. In this case though, we’re talking about a surprise attack (more or less). As mentioned above, Israel is believed to have a fully prepared plan to launch a strike, which by necessity, would likely involve some 80 planes, and perhaps up to several hundred aircraft according to some military experts. In reality, this has been in the planning for over 10 years. Israel possesses the advanced midair refueling capabilities required for carrying out sorties over multiple Iranian targets situated between 1,500 and 2,000 km away from home. Possible targets could include uranium-enrichment sites at Natanz and Qom, the uranium-conversion plant at Isfahan, and a heavy water reactor in Arak suspected of being used to pursue a plutonium-based nuclear arms program, as well as additional facilities. The mission would require the use of powerful, penetrating warheads, otherwise known as bunker-buster bombs, as well as possible repeated strikes to ensure success. According to a Newsweek article from September of last year, the US Congress signed and transferred 55 such bombs to Israel. Further, the attack would likely be coordinated with the assistance of Israeli intelligence satellites that could provide real time detailed images from the battle arena, as well as Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft. It could also involve the use of a fleet of giant Heron 2 drones, which are the size of 737 commercial airliners. The UAVs form the first line of defense against an expected Iranian counterstrike, involving the launch of long-range Shihab 3 missiles, or worse. These drones can reportedly reach Iran and hover over missile launch sites. Israel’s Arrow missile defense shield would undoubtedly also come into play to intercept missiles heading into Israeli airspace.
In terms of other forms of weaponeering capabilities, Israel maintains (at least) two elite special forces units dedicated to assisting with air strikes, one dedicated to laser target designation (Sayeret Shaldag/Unit 5101) and one to real time bomb damage assessment (Unit 5707). These units are extremely well-trained and could potentially be infiltrated to the target zone prior to attack. While it would be both difficult and risky to deploy these units inside Iran, they would be very useful in aiding the strike package, particularly in bad weather.
Obviously, such a strike would touch off conflict with Iran’s proxy in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah, which is armed with thousands of rockets, as well as Hamas in Gaza, and possibly with Syria. The resulting chain of events could easily lead to a major regional war and long-term instability, so much so that some senior Israeli defense figures have reportedly been rejecting the idea of attacking Iran for years. Assuming that a military strike is issued in the near future, Israel cannot hope to destroy Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure, as facilities are distributed across the country and there are simply too many sites to plan to attack them all. To have a reasonable chance of success, both in the mission and in the ultimate goal of rendering Iran’s nuclear program impotent, the target set must be narrowed to concentrate on the critical nodes in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which seems to be growing by the day!
The main focus of an imminent strike must be to target the Natanz facility first. Natanz is by far both the most difficult and most important target to destroy. The main enrichment facility apparently has two large (25,000-32,000 m2) halls located 8 to 23m underground and protected by multiple layers of concrete. The combination of large size and target hardening mean that only a very robust strike could hope to destroy or at least render unusable the centrifuges within. In order to ensure penetration of a target with these high levels of hardening, one technique is to use the bunker busters targeted on the same aimpoint but separated slightly in release time to ‘burrow’ into the target. What happens essentially, is that one bomb hits the crater made by the previous weapon, a technique contemplated by the U.S. Air Force in the first Gulf War. This takes advantage of the extremely high accuracy of bombs in combination with a penetrating warhead. The IAF appears to have purchased these with this technique in mind. In fact, Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, former commander of the IAF (and a participant in the Osirak strike), commented on this method of attacking hardened facilities in Jane’s Defense Weekly: “Even if one bomb would not suffice to penetrate, we could guide other bombs directly to the hole created by the previous ones and eventually destroy any target.”
Has the point been made yet? This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg on Israel’s military capability, and there is no doubt that the IAF can pull off an attack and get the job done. And let’s not forget about our Dolphins (nuclear subs) in the Gulf. The factor that complicates matters so much is that, unlike in 1981 where the mission was so secret that the pilots themselves only learned of their target the day before, the US government must be notified before an attack of this magnitude.
On that note, the Obama administration has been exerting great pressure in the back halls for some time now in order to convince (even by means of veiled threats to withhold their veto power in the UN), their Israeli counterparts to refrain from issuing an attack order on Iran. The only problem is that if Israel chooses again to wait it out and not attack, the world is bound to lie in dread of a new, powerful Iranian nuclear regime – to shake under their threat, similar to the way the world was just 70 years ago regarding the appeasement of Germany. Saudi Arabia will then look to the US for advice, and to provide an umbrella defense mechanism. Needless to say, a third world war might just emerge (heaven forbid). This scenario is actually already depicted in the Zohar, the Midrash and other traditional Jewish texts in reference to the future world war of ‘Gog and Magog.’ Let’s pray it doesn’t come to that! In our lifetimes, or our offspring.
What bothers me the most right now though, is that even as the West is negotiating with a fanatical, expansionist Islamic regime in those posh Viennese boardrooms, the people on Tehran’s streets are chanting: “Death to the US; death to Israel” (in that order). The recent military parade echoed the same rhetoric. HELLO…… isn’t someone paying attention over there? This is the reason why Israel shouldn’t just flex its military muscles for display to the Mullahs. It must attack. And it must attack now. This is precisely what the IDF was created for! Ben Gurion knew it. Menachem Begin knew it, and now Netanyahu knows it too. At this juncture in time, Iran cannot be trusted, and we know this to be an undeniable and unfortunately, well proven fact. Especially since, as of last week, the world discovered that Iran’s intent to destroy Israel is “non-negotiable.” I believe that the citizens living in Israel (like myself) should, and will, accept the inevitable consequences that come with protecting our beautiful country.
A raid on Iran? My point here is: The best defense is a good offense.