In light of news making its way across the globe that Israel is considering an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations, it’s worth looking back 30-years.
It was thirty-years ago this past June, when Israel alone took out Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear site. In an operation codenamed Operation Babylon, the attack squadron consisted of eight heavily armed F-16As, each with two unguided Mark-84 2,000-pound delay-action bombs. Also, a flight of six F-15As was assigned to the operation to provide air cover and fighter support.
The attack lasted less than two minutes and the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein was set back decades. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of this secret operation, the world condemned Israel.
The United Nations Security Council issued a stern condemnation, while the U.N.’s General Assembly called it a, “premeditated and unprecedented act of aggression.”
France, which had sold Iraq the reactor, stated that the sole purpose of the reactor was for scientific research.
Even Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., described it as “shocking” and compared it to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t until years later, when the U.S. led a coalition in the first invasion of Iraq, under President George H.W. Bush, that the world realized how grateful it was to Israel. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a dictator, in the hands of a madman, are quite different than nuclear weapons controlled by a democratic nation. Had Saddam had nuclear weapons, the unimaginable might have taken place.
In an interview in 2005, even former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, expressed retroactive support for the attack: “Everybody talks about what the Israelis did at Osirak in 1981, which I think, in retrospect, was a really good thing.”
Now thirty-years later, Israel and the wider world watches as Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, violates countless U.N. Security Council resolutions and develops nuclear capabilities.
Along with its actions, Iran’s rhetoric is of immense concern. In speeches dating back to 2005, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made one entitled, “Israel must be wiped off the map”, he has often called for Israel’s destruction.
Since that time, the world has watched, waited and wondered if Iran’s intentions are as deadly as threatened.
Apart from toothless sanctions, a Stuxnet computer worm, which delayed progress, what is the world to do?
Last week Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea reported that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are trying to convince a majority in the cabinet to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Unlike thirty-years ago, militarily, the situation is much different. Today, Iran controls Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has some 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel. It arms Hamas in Gaza and supports Syria’s dictatorship.
Israel would suffer retaliation and it would be met again with severe worldwide condemnation. Unless, Israel were to enlist the support of the United States and allies (which is being reported on Jpost) in their effort, which does not seem likely, given the current administration’s stance, it would be taking a risk not seen since ‘67.
If it were to do it alone, all of these considerations would have to be addressed – meaning; Lebanon and Gaza would have to be controlled and their rockets eliminated. This would in turn open Israel up to an even wider conflict with its neighbors. Is Israel ready to do this?
Also, how effective would its offensive be? Unlike Osiraq, that lasted only a few minutes, this operation would conceivably take far longer, potentially lasting weeks, if not months based on the retaliation.
If Israel is indeed considering such an action, it must have something else up its sleeve. A straightforward unilateral attack, that’s now “out”, raises more questions than finalizes any answers.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at [email protected]