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January 07, 2007



This report would explain by Olmert "accidentally" "almost" dropped the facade of Israel's nuclear ambiguity last month. Of course, it's not clear that Olmert deserves any more credit for strategic thinking vs out-and-out bungle than does the Bush adminsitration.


I'd think they'd consider an Israeli attack as an attack by the US. 200000 US troops (including mercenaries) in Iraq might be considered Iran's best defense.

Larry Dunbar

"Iran has made a Saddam level miscalculation: they are putting existential pressure on nuclear power without nukes of their own."

I don't know, except for the possibility that they miscalculated how much control they had over Hezbollah, Iran doesn't seem to be doing too bad, if you look at their movement inside Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. The trouble with war is that one side can only assume they know the other side's cards. If Iran really wanted nukes, given the problem of testing, it may be easier to buy them than build them. I think the USA has been a little distracted in their control of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Perhaps Israel has been doing better, but after the last Lebanon war, I have my doubts.

"I'd think they'd consider an Israeli attack as an attack by the US. 200000 US troops (including mercenaries) in Iraq might be considered Iran's best defense."

Of course if a Middle East "9/11" took place it would greatly increase the momentum of our war in Iraq. I suppose even a dove such as Pat Buchanan would want to increase our forces in Iraq after the loss of most if not all of our forces deployed in Irag. But as you say, alive, it could be that those forces are Irans best defensive weapon.


Methinks John has, at some point, interacted with the IDF. Yes?

Psychology is an important pasrt of nuclear deterrence posture and operations. The Soviet leadership in 1983 managed to convince itself, through self-corrupted stovepiping, that an American first-strike was imminent. To the great alarm of KGB and diplomatic pros who knew better, the Politburo edged dangerously close to initiating a nuclear war with the United States.

We hear Ahmadinejad's blustering lunacy about Israel and think he's an evil fool. The Israelis don't have the same psychological margin for error that Americans had when we once entertained the reckless nuclear threats of Khrushchev and Mao. They hear an entirely different message.

John Robb

Zen, you are right on every point.


A couple of observations:

There's something of a logical disconnect here - Iran is putting "existential" pressure on a nuclear power, without nukes of their own, and without which it cannot actually pose an existential threat.

As regards the Sunday Times reporting - well this is the latest in a long sequence of detailed reports regarding "secret" Israeli military planning. Clearly there are huge problems with Israeli internal security, and these reports constitute major breaches of national security. The IDF and the intelligence services tend to be very severe on those who do this kind of thing, so I'm looking forward to reading details of the mole hunts and prosecutions when the perpetrators are finally discovered. What is also surprising is that Haaretz was able to recycle the Sunday Times story without falling foul of very strict military censorship regulations. A cynic might actually conclude that these articles are not what they seem - but are part of the standard propaganda/psyops pattern of putting pressure on the US to do what the Israelis cannot.

Then again a cynic might conclude that the IDF target list which constitutes a building site, a near-empty enrichment facility at Natanz and a conversion facility which can easily be reproduced is on the totally pointless side.


Israeli military censorship has always allowed local recycling of foreign reports, certainly as regards to the nuclear issue.

A dozen years ago, Yitzhak Rabin was citing fear of nonconventional missiles from Iran and Iraq as a reason to make peace with Syria and the Palestinians. (To my knowledge, no one has yet analyzed the central failure of the strategy -- namely, the (tacit?) decision by Saudi Arabia to support fundamentalist Hamas rejectionism rather than use the cover of Arafat's acceptance of Israel to join Egypt in the detente camp. False signals from a weak and divided Saudi government? Or anti-Clinton moves from Saudi connections whose primary loyalty were to the Bush dynasty? I'd love to find out.)


Why would Israel go through the trouble of inciting global ire using nukes (however tactically benign in comparison to historical use) when they could take the long form strategy of accepting global ire and defenitively destroying their opposition in targeting Iranian oil infrastructure through non-nuclear conventional means? An effective wave of conventional airstrikes would accomplish their goal wouldn't it?
Both cases would likely foment the end of a regime, stability within Iran (not to mention the middle east)and a global tremor many states would quickly revile.
Why take the hard course of action in regards to "soft nukes" when the same could be accomplished in a much more fastidious fashion without the stain of nuclear attack? So long as we're discussing Israeli "premption" isn't the Iranian oil infrastructure a more feasable target?



I dimly recall Saddam Hussein doing something similar during the Iran-Iraq war - didn't really work out that well for him and had no discernible effect on the Iranian polity. Of course the Iraqis had the advantages of sharing a common border, minimal flight times and easy missile range for their targets and undertook them at a time of internal political turmoil in Iran - the Israelis have some very serious operational obstacles and the prospect of robust opposition from a stable and well-established opponent to contend with.

I doubt that the US government ( or Israeli strategists for that matter ) would be that happy with the outcome of even marginally successful attacks on Iranian oil infrastructure: particularly if US voters start connecting the dots between their having to pay $5+ per gallon of petrol and Israeli aggression.


"Iran has made a Saddam level miscalculation: they are putting existential pressure on nuclear power without nukes of their own."

Not really, no.

First of all, Iran aren't threatening the Israelis with an existential threat (there's this thing called "deterrence" and the Iranian's have generally conducted quite a restrained foreign policy).

Secondly, a raid on Iranian nuclear facilities is hardly an "existential" to the Iranian regime. If the Israelis *were* to use nuclear weapons, this would make the Iranian regime more secure, not less: there's nothing like an external enemy to rally support.

And this, of course, is the key to the Iranian's stance. If Israel and the US do nothing, they show them to be impotent and progress steadily towards getting nuclear weapons, securing their national security against a US that increasingly seems like the ultimate rogue nation. If the US and Israel bomb, they shore up the theocrats - and quite possibly, even with nuclear bunker busters, don't do significant damage anyway. Even with nuclear weapons you have to know here to put them, and our intelligence on Iran would have to be much better than that we had on Iraq for this to be true, especially if their program has been designed with decoy bunkers and redundancy.

So there's no existential threat to either side, just a cunningly constructed you-lose-either-way decision for Israel and the US to make.

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