Target: Israel; Weighing Tehran's Nuclear Threat

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

Target: Israel; Weighing Tehran's Nuclear Threat


Byline: Louis Rene Beres and Thomas McInerney, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Despite a recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that says otherwise, Iran's plan to acquire nuclear weapons remains firmly in place. Israel has no legal obligation to sit back and wait to be annihilated - international law is not a suicide pact. A principal effect of the American NIE will be to inhibit any pre-emptive action against Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures. In the words of Maj.-Gen (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, former director of Israel Defense Force (IDF) military intelligence, " the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions without any interference."

Gen. Farkash's observation refers to Washington and Jerusalem. Both the United States and Israel would now find it more difficult to exercise "anticipatory self-defense" against Iran. Indeed, from a purely tactical standpoint, the United States Air Force (USAF) would still be better prepared to launch any pre-emptive strikes against Iranian hard targets than the Israel Air Force (IAF). The IAF is very capable, but it is also very small.

Unless either the United States or Israel remains willing to strike defensively against an openly genocidal regime in Tehran, Israel may have to resign itself to "living" with a nuclear Iran. Such resignation would be ill-advised, because Tehran is unlikely to satisfy the most basic assumptions of stable nuclear deterrence. Such coexistence could never resemble the earlier U.S.-Soviet "balance of terror." This would not be your father's Cold War.

Following the NIE, Israel may also choose to rely more upon its "Arrow" anti-missile system for active defense. But defending civilian populations from nuclear attack requires a near 100 percent reliability of interception, and the very best system of ballistic missile defense (BMD) could never be "leakproof." Even if Israel's BMD could intercept all incoming enemy missiles, Iran might still plan to share some of its developing nuclear weapons and technologies with Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon and/or with Hamas or Islamic Jihad surrogates in Gaza.

Terrorists would not need any missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. Trucks, boats and automobiles would suit them just fine. Should the United States decide to launch pre-emptive strikes against pertinent Iranian hard targets, its strike force could comprise approximately 75 stealth attack aircraft -- B-2s and F-22s. Also included would be some 250 non-stealth F-15s, F-16s, B-52s and three carrier battle groups. …

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