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December 28, 2005

Comments

dan

I wouldn't take this too seriously. The Israelis have been threatening to attack Iran's nuclear sites since 1995, and they repeat the threat at regular intervals, along with associated choice items of (dis)information designed to rouse Washington from its slumber. The Bush administration would like to attack Iran, but have 150,000 plus troops that are hostage to fortune on the ground in Iraq and around the gulf in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, that make the calculation impossibly delicate; worse still for Washington, nobody else wants a piece of this -as it is a recipe for catastrophe.

Mossad have been trying to persuade Washington to do something about Iran since 1992, when they were putting out the word that Iran had acquired nuclear weapons from FSU ( Ukraine to be precise ). It turns out that the Iranians had perhaps acquired some 12 rather nifty cruise missiles though.

Israel will never attack Iran; their policy has always been to get the US to do a desert storm for them, with week upon week of continuous bombing and cruise missile attacks. The Israelis cannot do the sustained long range air operations that would be required to counteract the retaliatory options that Iran has at its disposal.

It would certainly be interesting to hear from Dagan where he thinks Iran is producing this HEU - the Natanz site is currently mothballed, and all the critical technical information suggests that the Iranians have major problems with the production of LEU for their civil programme. El Baradei has estimated that IF the Natanz plant was opened then in two years time, if they overcame all their technical problems, they could produce HEU in about 6 months.

dan

I would also suggest that you check the following, more accurate report of Dagan's words at:

WWW.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/662683.html

The report you linked to is a highly selective misattribution of Dagan's position.

phil jones

Dan, that haaretz link doesn't seem to go where I imagine it should.

dan

Sorry

It's 663042.html. There is also more on this today at Al Jazeera.

John Robb

Dan, thanks for the additional link. I wouldn't discount this completely. As a former air planner, an attack is possible (although it would fall FAR short of what is needed to do the job).

If I was tasked to plan this (from an Israeli strategic level), I would make a superficial attack (provocation) and put the US in the position of having to finish the job in the next 48 hours.

dan

John:

Whose airspace would you use, and where would you position your refuelling tankers?

What happens if the recently-launched Iranian satellite picks up your attack whilst your planes are in transit, or worse still, what happens if the Chinese and Russian surveillance satellites are providing direct feeds to the Iranians?

John Robb

Small strike. We are talking provocation here. No forward positioning of refueling tankers. Ditch exit. Ship/sub pick-up. Satellites aren't a problem, particularly fast movers at LEO. Won't even know this op is in motion.

dan

Barely feasible, and high probability of failure, as the precise nature of the Iranian response cannot be predicted with any certainty. Political risk calculation is an order of magnitude greater than with Osirak, as Iran has some serious economic countermeasures it can play with, and the legitimate derogation from its treaty obligations under the IAEA. It's still utterly unclear whether the Iranians have actually committed to actualising the nuclear weapons option, as opposed to just having the option if the strategic situation requires it - an Israeli attack would definitively settle the argument.

Airspace corridor is still an issue - Turkey and Saudi Arabia cannot be forewarned as the Iranians will probably know within 5 minutes, and permission would be denied anyway, but there is still a chance of inadvertent interference if the Israelis try to just bust through - even with a small attack; US is widely believed to have nixed permission, for obvious reasons, for use of Iraqi air corridor. Iraqi airspace corridor might "open up" later.

Essentially, there is no "tactical" military solution to the issue, and this is recognised by some in the Israeli military; which is why they have been trying to get the US to make the strategic decision to wipe Iran out a la Desert Storm. This is the nub of the problem: until the US makes a strategic decision to choose direct negotiation over military action ( the only option that the Bush administration will not put on the table ) there can be no resolution other than a war. And its a war that no-one wins.

Issue is not relevant whilst Natanz remains dormant at any rate, although the possibility of any kind of future success dramatically reduces if Iranians take delivery of Tor-1 suite ( Spring 2006?).

Iranians wouldn't necessarily take the bait in the way that the Israelis would be banking on anyway - they'll respond, but it might be far more subtle, to begin with at least, than anyone anticipates, whilst reserving the option of firing long-range missiles at Dimona should they deem it necessary to make a point.

Probable "ditch" scenario would involve the Caspian Sea, as unlikely to have the legs to reach the Gulf from Natanz or Arak.

I don't really get the force the US's hand position. Either the US is fully in the loop and is an active participant, or it isn't. There aren't enough US assets in theatre to do the job in 48 hours unless they go nuclear ( and that's a Rubicon that would be resisted ), and the military/economic pain that can be inflicted on the US if the Iranians choose to go down that route is substantially beyond what is politically acceptable. And bombing large parts of Iran's infrastructure to rubble won't deal with the problem of tens of millions of very, very pissed off Iranians, who'll still have the weapons to make life hell for everyone in the region and beyond for decades to come.

Best chance that the Israelis have is hijacking a commercial flight from Turkmenistan, Pakistan or Azerbaijan and staging an AQ-style suicide spectacular. Transparent but deniable. Next best option is a missile strike.

John Robb

Tactically, it would work. Just trail the fighter/bombers behind tankers until launch point. Circumnavigate SA and strike from the south. It's only a six hour flight until launch. You could even formation fly the fighters on the tanker with IFF off and hide the combined target under a civilian cover.

In regards to strategy, the options are clear: provoke confrontation between the US and Iran or let Iran develop bombs. The dicey part is formulating what kind of attack it would take to get the US to intervene. I'm not recommending this, but it is probably an option that is being seriously considered right now while the US has enough forces in place to strike quickly (in two years that might now be the case).

dan

There is of course a third option, and that is direct negotiations between the US and Iran to address the strategic issues/strike the security bargains that render the logic of Iranian ambiguity redundant. Sometimes when you "lose", you "win".

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