Iran: we’re serious

By Vic Rosenthal

If the US or Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, it is expected to be soon:

Foreign sources say both the United States and Israel…want to give diplomatic efforts aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear drive the best possible chance to succeed.

But according to these sources, should the West or Israel feel that the time needed for diplomatic efforts is longer than the time it would take for Iran to obtain nuclear independence, they are likely to strike at Iran’s main nuclear facilities before the damage done by such an attack would cause serious radiation fallout…

According to this logic, the timing of such an attack would take place just before Iran has enriched an amount of weapons-grade material that, if damaged, would cause such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, it could be construed as a nuclear attack.

The assessments posit that Israel and the US will try to delay an attack until the last moment due to the expected Iranian counterattack and regional deterioration…

Should it be attacked, Iran is expected to launch missiles against Israel and an offensive against US forces in the Middle East. Teheran is also expected to activate Hizbullah in a full assault against Israel. Israeli security services also expect attacks on Jewish interests and institutions worldwide. — Amir Mizroch, Jerusalem Post

Such a counterattack would possibly kill thousands in Israel. So Israel is likely to attack only if she sees the alternative to be worse. ‘Worse’ would mean the high probability of a nuclear attack. How high? And how is such a probability estimated? Or is simple possession of the means to mount such an attack by a country like Iran sufficient cause? And could Israel deter Iran from a counterstrike by threatening to use her own nuclear weapons? I’m glad that I don’t have to make these decisions.

The US is a different story. US Troops in Iraq are less vulnerable than civilians, and Iran could not directly hit the US with any missiles that they will have in the near future. Of course, possibly a nuclear or chemical/biological weapon could be delivered by terrorist infiltration; but compared to Israel, the US is much less at risk — and has a very credible deterrent of her own.

However, the US President has problems which the Israeli leadership does not. A large proportion of Americans do not see Iran as a particularly serious threat to the US, even with nuclear arms. And the fact that the US went to war against Iraq in part because of an alleged nuclear program which did not exist is now being used to argue against intervention in Iran. Finally, the administration is under political attack for a whole range of issues, and is presently in a weak position overall. The tendency might be to delay, and then to delay some more.

In the final analysis, if Iran’s nuclear facilities are attacked, I think it will be Israel that does it, perhaps with American cooperation, even though the US air force has better capability for this kind of warfare — sustained bombing of hardened targets — than the IAF.

One thing that is certain: if such a mini-war (maybe not so mini) happens, there will plenty of death and destruction on both sides. No rational official here or in Tehran wants this. If we assume that the Iranians are rational, then if they believe that Israel and the US are truly determined to prevent them from getting the bomb, they will back off and take whatever incentives the West will give them to do so.

If, on the other hand, they believe that Israel and the US are not serious, then they will go forward with the project. So right now, the game is to convince them that we’re serious.

Unless of course the Iranian leadership is crazy. Then all bets are off.

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3 Responses to “Iran: we’re serious”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is an especially sane and balanced evaluation of the situation in relation to the Iranian threat. However the major point relates to the large number of unknowns involved here. Obviously Israel is more immediately threatened than the U.S. and for that reason may be the one who considers it necessary to act. But it is clear that the U.S. is in a far better position on the ground, has superior weapons-systems for doing the job than Israel. Also they will be better able to withstand the political fall- out of such an attack. It is preferable for them to do it, though I agree with the assessment that a hampered Bush Administration is not likely to risk it.
    I have been following the Iranian situation quite closely for the past four years and even the major experts on the subject are stumped as to where exactly Iran is in its nuclear weapons development. No one also seems to know if as Rosenthal say the Iranians are ‘crazy’ or not , whether they will invite massive destruction of their own people in their zeal to realize some Messianic scenario including destruction of Israel.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Another possibility that I didn’t mention in my original post: Ahmadinijad may not be crazy, but he may want us to think he is.

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    I don’t think Ahmadinejad is crazy at all. I paid attention to the way he spoke to a Die Spiegel interviewer. In both of these talks he focused on delegitimizing Israel. He appealed to the Germans desire to be free of blame for the Shoah. He is canny. Of course he may be nuts in another way in that he may well , and probably does believe in the coming of the Twelvth Mahdi, and the destructive scenario entailing this.
    In any case he is not ‘harmless’ and not ‘just talking’ and not someone ‘whose bark is worse than his bite’ as many European commentators have made him out to be.
    He is a mortal danger to Israel and to the wellbeing of mankind.