Who will blink first?

Iran will realize annihilation of Israel would have reciprocal impact.

January 25, 2010 23:17
4 minute read.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard

revolutionary guards 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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During the Cold War serious protocols were set to protect the Americans and Soviets in case of a first strike and even more vigorous protocols were in place regarding how to respond to it. Unlike conventional weapons, nuclear weapons are countervalue weapons, which do not distinguish between civilian and military targets - they will destroy all.

There has been a great deal of discussion on the prevention and deterrence of a nuclear strike on Israel by Iran. Most assume the missile would originate from Iran. But with US airpower in Iraq and Afghanistan, multitudes of Awacs and electronics in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, and with NATO ships with sophisticated electronics positioned in the Persian Gulf, it is doubtful that missiles could make their way from Iran to Israel. However, missiles could easily be launched from locations much closer to Israel. There is so much instability in the region that it would be easy for a rogue nation to entice one or more proxies to act on its behalf.

While Iranian plans for nuclear self-sufficiency were born in the early 1970s and are the focus of a great deal of national pride, achieving nuclear capability during President Ahmadinejad's tenure is said to be a mandate of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). With the IRGC's significant influence and control over the Iranian economy, security, public policy and military, the goal will undoubtedly be reached.

We cannot ignore the potential uses for this nuclear capability once it is developed. Perhaps one of the few things that could shift Iranian public opinion regarding weaponization of nuclear power, and cascade the current public opposition to the regime, would be a large-scale accident in one of IRGC's many nuclear facilities. This is a significant risk as the IRGC is rushing to get there and may be cutting corners in the process.

Operating a multibillion-dollar enterprise inside Iran and across the globe, while directing nuclear research and development, the IRGC would have little interest in an Armageddon, at least in the short term. Having said that, there is a significant desire to cause turmoil and damage to those who are perceived as enemies of the state - Israel and the United States being at the top of the list.

WITH IRAN on a fast track towards military dictatorship and swept up in serious expansionist ideology, the prospect of being a target for second strike as a direct result of attacking Israel would not be very appealing to the IRGC.

Given its significant investments in strategic planning in conventional and unconventional military engagement, and following established patterns (Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen), it seems unlikely that a IRGC would launch the first strike directly from Iran. It is more likely that this would be put into motion by an IRGC proxy much closer to Israel. The IRGC could then embark on conventional warfare to cover its tracks. With media and public opinion generally unsympathetic to Israel, it is not beyond belief that Iran could convince people or develop doubts in people's minds that the nuclear first strike was instead conventional warfare striking Israel's own nuclear war-heads and giving the impression of a nuclear attack.

A first strike on Israel would also present a convenient opportunity for Israel's enemies to engage in further destruction. Israel, perceived as weakened and vulnerable, might be seen as ripe for a multi-pronged attack by those who want to see the Jewish state destroyed. In fact it would be far easier for the IRGC to let the Arabs finish the job all on their own. Strategically, the IRGC's expansionist strategies would work perfectly in the aftermath of such events.

A first strike from a closer proximity would be devastating to Israel, possibly irrecoverable, considering Israel's size versus the coverage of the strike. Being somewhat larger, Iran would survive a second strike by Israel quite well. Not only might a first strike on Israel eliminate its capacity to launch a second strike from land, but Israel might also find it hard to justify launching an attack on Iran if the first strike originated from a third country. That would only bring more international condemnation of Israel. With any missile launched towards Israel from anywhere having potential to be "the one," Israel's future military success will be defined by how well it can address incoming missiles of any kind. Investment in anti-ballistic missile technologies will continue to be a priority.

A first strike on any location in Israel would have devastating impact on the Palestinian population as well, including those in the Gaza and the West Bank. A strike on Tel Aviv would not be felt only in Tel Aviv, but would have a much larger impact in the region, perhaps as far as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

Whether the IRGC uses the nuclear threat as a bargaining chip to deter any military action against it, or to strengthen its proxies such as Hizbollah and Hamas in the region, they all point to an expansionist agenda for the IRGC. Some may say that Israel, as the common foe, has united some Arabs with the Persians, and it wouldn't make sense to destroy the unifying force. On the other hand, the IRGC might find delivering the first strike to the most powerful country in the region an irresistible and impressive military demonstration of its own power.

At the end of the cold war the two superpowers realized that no matter how many nuclear warheads they aimed at one another, thermonuclear war would not be in their or the rest of the world's best interests. This realization resulted in further talks, and an understanding.

The Iranian administration will eventually realize that annihilation of Israel and 7.5 million Jews would have reciprocal impact on its own existence and that of its proxies, even if they use one of those proxies to launch the first strike.

The writer's name has been changed to protect his identity.

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