Friday, March 02, 2012

israel's last chance to strike iran

NYTimes | ON June 7, 1981, I was one of eight Israeli fighter pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. As we sat in the briefing room listening to the army chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, before starting our planes’ engines, I recalled a conversation a week earlier when he’d asked us to voice any concerns about our mission.

We told him about the risks we foresaw: running out of fuel, Iraqi retaliation, how a strike could harm our relationship with America, and the limited impact a successful mission might have — perhaps delaying Iraq’s nuclear quest by only a few years. Listening to today’s debates about Iran, we hear the same arguments and face the same difficulties, even though we understand it is not 1981.

Shortly after we destroyed Osirak, the Israeli defense attaché in Washington was called into the Pentagon. He was expecting a rebuke. Instead, he was faced with a single question: How did you do it? The United States military had assumed that the F-16 aircraft they had provided to Israel had neither the range nor the ordnance to attack Iraq successfully. The mistake then, as now, was to underestimate Israel’s military ingenuity.

We had simply maximized fuel efficiency and used experienced pilots, trained specifically for this mission. We ejected our external fuel tanks en route to Iraq and then attacked the reactor with pinpoint accuracy from so close and such a low altitude that our unguided bombs were as accurate and effective as precision-guided munitions.

Today, Israel sees the prospect of a nuclear Iran that calls for our annihilation as an existential threat. An Israeli strike against Iran would be a last resort, if all else failed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. That moment of decision will occur when Iran is on the verge of shielding its nuclear facilities from a successful attack — what Israel’s leaders have called the “zone of immunity.”

Some experts oppose an attack because they claim that even a successful strike would, at best, delay Iran’s nuclear program for only a short time. But their analysis is faulty. Today, almost any industrialized country can produce a nuclear weapon in four to five years — hence any successful strike would achieve a delay of only a few years.

What matters more is the campaign after the attack. When we were briefed before the Osirak raid, we were told that a successful mission would delay the Iraqi nuclear program for only three to five years. But history told a different story.

After the Osirak attack and the destruction of the Syrian reactor in 2007, the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs were never fully resumed. This could be the outcome in Iran, too, if military action is followed by tough sanctions, stricter international inspections and an embargo on the sale of nuclear components to Tehran. Iran, like Iraq and Syria before it, will have to recognize that the precedent for military action has been set, and can be repeated.

Others claim that an attack on the Iranian nuclear program would destabilize the region. But a nuclear Iran could lead to far worse: a regional nuclear arms race without a red phone to defuse an escalating crisis, Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, more confident Iranian surrogates like Hezbollah and the threat of nuclear materials’ being transferred to terrorist organizations.

Ensuring that Iran does not go nuclear is the best guarantee for long-term regional stability. A nonnuclear Iran would be infinitely easier to contain than an Iran with nuclear weapons.


John Kurman said...

Here's my problem with this guy's reasoning. He has completely misread history.

He thinks (as in Osirak) that this will be just another Taranto. (the 1940 battle when the British severely damaged the Italian fleet, from which they never recovered). Instead, an attack on Iran may end up being Pearl Harbor. (Israel fails to get the "carriers" - the weapons-grade enriched materials that are already stashed in the mountain fastnesses outside of Quom). Clearly, in the Middle East, Israel, with what? some 30 Dolphin class submarines bristling with nuclear tipped missiles cruising off the coast of Iran, is the 500lb gorilla. My suspicion (suspicion? I'll wager money) is that an attack will do little more than piss off the Iranians, and they will convert a sickly monkey into a rabid baboon. After all, all it takes is one warhead on Tel Aviv to get Shoah II in gear, and this Israeli dipshittery pretty much guarantees a nuclear Iran.

CNu said...

Personally, I'm very hard pressed to imagine that somebody won't slip somebody a weapon and just take care of that piece of piece of business anyway..., {Turkey and Iran have a great deal more in common with China, Russia, and Pakistan than with the U.S. and its increasingly problematic little garrison state}