The Iranian nuclear program poses an existential threat to Israel but not to the US, and Jerusalem therefore has greater moral authority to strike nuclear sites in Iran, two senior Israeli and American defense analysts said this week.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, who is a former Military Intelligence chief, and Gen. James Cartwright, USMC (ret.), holder of the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, penned an analysis in The Atlantic on Tuesday, titled “Israeli or US Action Against Iran: Who Will Do It If It Must Be Done?” Yadlin and Cartwright note that “Israel’s military capability to strike Iran’s proliferating nuclear sites – especially those bunkered deep within a mountain, such as Fordow – is more limited than that of the United States. Israel’s window for military action is therefore closing, while Washington’s more advanced capabilities mean that it can wait, affording the West a final attempt to exhaust all other options.”

Despite Israel’s enhanced moral basis for an attack, the international community would grant greater legitimacy to a US strike, the authors said, as it is unlikely to support military action “if diplomacy or sanctions still have a chance of succeeding.”

The experts envisaged a decisive phone call between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in late 2013, in which Obama relays the fact that sanctions and negotiations have failed to swerve Iran from its nuclear drive.

Continuing with the simulation, the analysts said, “After agreeing to convene in Washington in one week to discuss strategy going forward, the prime minister and president each call a meeting with their national security advisers.”

The authors then pose and answer a series of critical questions aimed at clarifying what would occur should each country launch a strike.

In addition to Israel’s legitimate claim to acting in self-defense, an Israeli strike might also safeguard the US’s ability to act as a broker and negotiate a selfenforcing, permanent diplomatic solution to the crisis after a strike, according to the analysis.

On the other hand, “Washington’s ability to serve as an honest broker in negotiating a cease-fire would be diminished if it ordered the strike. For their part, China and Russia would be less incensed by an Israeli strike than a US attack, and perhaps more willing to play a role in post-strike de-escalation,” the essay said.

Operationally, there is little question that the US enjoys “superior capabilities – including B-2 stealth bombers, air refueling craft, advanced drones, and 30,000- pound massive ordnance perpetrators for the mission.

“Yet the United States has no operational experience in strikes against such facilities, unlike Israel, which successfully conducted similar operations against the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, and according to foreign press, against a Syrian reactor in 2007,” the authors added.

Any Israeli jets would have to cross the airspace of at least one Arab state, while the US can avoid this by launching an attack from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf.

“Assessments of the day after an Israeli or US strike range from limited Iranian retaliation that could be checked within days to full-scale regional war,” Yadlin and Cartwright said.

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