The New York Times reports that Israel has conducted a series of exercises which appear to be a rehearsal for an attack on the Iranian Natanz reactor:

WASHINGTON — Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said.

As the NYT notes, this is signalling behavior:

“They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know,” the Pentagon official said. “There’s a lot of signaling going on at different levels.”

I’ve treated this subject at length and I continue to believe that an Israeli bombing attack on Iran is extremely unlikely. It certainly looks, however, as though the Israelis were trying to convince the Iranians that an attack is much more likely.

Among its many bad consequences, such an attack would give Iran complete justification for a retaliatory attack on Israel. Worst of all, unless Israel’s human intelligence on Iran is significantly better than ours (it may well be—ours is awful), there’s no way of knowing how much such an attack would retard Iran’s nuclear development program.

The only sure way to end Iran’s nuclear development program is by striking at command and control and in Iran that’s likely to be as dispersed as their nuclear development program is. That will mean attacking population centers, e.g. Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and so on, with the intent of killing as many people as possible. Never again, indeed.

2 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    As you do, Dave, I continue to assert there will be no US or Israeli attack on Iran. I’ve said before and maintain that Israel’s military capabilities would only allow it to attack a very limited number of targets with no provision for a restrike capability. Additionally any attack would have to have a US green light since we control much of the airspace between the two (not to mention we would need to be warned in order to protect our own forces from an Iranian response).

    I’m sure Israeli planners are assessing the risks and costs of failure as well. Israel has long depended on at least the illusion of complete conventional military dominance. The 2006 war damaged that perception – a failed attack on Iran would destroy it – a risk that Israel will have to weigh carefully.

  • Here’s the thing. Go look up Israel’s air force, especially the number of aircraft and their ranges. Not a lot of ability to hit Iran over and over again, which would be needed to take out Iran’s nuclear development program in a conventional attack. In other words, if Israel attacks Iran to end or delay their nuclear program, it will be a nuclear attack, and since Iran has its nuclear project in many cases buried under large cities, the Iranian population could be decreased by a large percentage. Since Israel cannot accept an Iranian nuclear weapon (it would mean the literal end of Israel), Israel must attack Iran before Iran gains a nuclear capability. Since the Israelis obviously don’t want to use nuclear weapons except in extremis (they apparently came close with the handful they had in 1973), I suspect that the Israelis will not attack Iran unless the Iranian possession of a weapon is imminent. In other words, the Israelis are hoping we’ll hit Iran (conventionally) first. Otherwise, the Israelis will destroy Iran when they have no alternative, and with their missiles, they have no need to ask for US permission first.

    And in fact, we might even be so nice as to say that if only the Russians had let us put up our anti-missile shield, we could have avoided this terrible tragedy…

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