Israel Attacking Iran? Five Reasons for Doubt

Is Israel planning to attack Iran sometime in the dying days of the Bush Error, I mean Bush Era? Speculation is rife. Laura Rozen has done a great job of reporting the bookmaking in Washington on this possibility.

There are very good reasons for thinking an attack would be ineffective, and that the talk about it is damaging. In a new article up at the American Prospect, I give the five reasons for doubting the wisdom of an Israeli strike, starting with this:

At first glance, the model for Israeli action is the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osiraq reactor. But striking Iran would be far more difficult. Former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, a hawk on Iran, told me to “assume that with ingenuity” Israel could succeed. Sneh cites the 1976 Entebbe raid — in which Israel flew commandos to Uganda to free passengers from a hijacked airliner — as an example of doing what appeared impossible. Sneh was the head of the medical team on that mission. Yet he is only underlining the problem: Entebbe, like Osiraq, was a pinpoint attack and totally unexpected.

Meir Litvak, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies, lists the differences between Osiraq and the current challenge. Iran, he notes, has spread out its nuclear facilities. They are “presumably buried very deep underground,” and Israel may not know where they all are. (Iran, after all, knows about Osiraq, and a tactic is only a surprise once.) Given the limited ability of the Israeli air force to strike at that distance, its planes would have to make more than one bombing run; on the return trip, they’d be expected.

Read the whole piece here.

So will the Bush Administration try what it truly loathes, and actually enter a diplomatic process? Laura takes a look at that question too, and so does Iran expert Gary Sick, at TonyKaron.com. Personally, my sense is that there are two barriers to diplomacy by the Bush team: They don’t like it, and they don’t know how to do it – but then most people would prefer not to do things at which they are awful. I don’t go bowling, and Bush doesn’t negotiate.

2 thoughts on “Israel Attacking Iran? Five Reasons for Doubt”

  1. Indeed, in order to mount an effective strike that may neutralize Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, Israel would need U.S. authorization to refuel over Iraq.

    Although Washington’s “amber light” for Israel may be a scare tactic to deter the Iranians for continuing its uranium enrichment program, an Israel attack would be utterly counterproductive to Israeli interests. If Israel does possess nuclear weapons, it may not want to expose it as an effective attack would require mini nuke “bunker busting” bombs.

    Physicians for Social Responsibility conducted a model using the Department of Defenses’ simulators and found that such an attack would result in over 2.4 million dead. For a copy of the report:

    http://psr.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=security_main_iranfactsheet

    Iran will surely respond to an Israeli attack of such magnitude and the Israelis understand this.

  2. There’s an old saying that, if you’re going to shoot the king, you’d better kill him. So even if we succeed in totally wiping out Iran’s nuclear capabilities (a long shot, to say the least), there’d still be an Iran, with Khameini and the other mullahs still in control. They’d retaliate against Israel and the U.S. if the U.S. had aunched the attack, and against the U.S. and Israel if Israel had launched the attack. And Europe too would become a target in both cases. Target for what? For continuing terrorism carried out by Iran and its sympathizers. I think we’d be sorry that we ever started it. A military strike, like the one against Saddam, that when the celebrating is over, would begin to look increasingly ineffectual, for forever and a day.

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