Clear and present danger

In an excerpt from his book, Hirsh Goodman analyzes the Iranian threat.

Iran president mahmoud Ahmadinejad Natanz 521 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran president mahmoud Ahmadinejad Natanz 521 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Of all the existential threats Israel faces, other than civil war, common wisdom has it that Iran is at the top of the list.
Iran is maniacally dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and says so in every language, at every opportunity.
By now even the parrots in the Tehran zoo can repeat the mantras of hatred calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, its people sent back to Poland, Palestine to be liberated, the cancer to be removed from Arabia, and for the West’s agent of evil, Israel, to be crushed and expelled.
Not since Hitler have the Jewish people faced such a threat. Half of the world’s Jewish population currently lives in Israel. Now, like then, the Jews actually have very little to do with the problem, but provide a convenient whipping boy for the Iranian regime and its aspirations of regional hegemony and control of the Gulf.
Israel has no unavoidable disputes with Iran once you get past its right to exist – no common borders or contested resources. The two countries’ armies have never clashed. Yet it is ostensibly because of Israel that Iran is rushing to attain nuclear weapons and expending considerable amounts on missile and satellite programs, among the other weapons it is amassing for its day in the field with the Jewish state. Or so Tehran says.
A nuclear Iran, it is now recognized, is not Israel’s problem alone. It possesses missiles that bring the Gulf states, Egypt, Turkey, Europe and Russia all within reach. A nuclear Iran would be transformative, a country not easily gone to war against, and one that would have considerably more power on the regional stage.
And if Iran goes nuclear, it is almost certain that Turkey and Egypt will accelerate their own programs and that Saudi Arabia would buy an off-the-shelf bomb from Pakistan.
Libya agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in December 2003. The international crisis that broke out with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in March would have looked very different had Gaddafi had the bomb.
A nuclear Middle East is in no one’s interest, therefore opposition to the prospect is wide.
The US, China and Russia have imposed sanctions on Iran in the hope of impeding the bomb. Israel and Saudi Arabia find themselves on the same side of the fence.
But Iran is Israel’s problem most of all. No other country is existentially threatened by Iran, in a position to suffer irreparable damage if attacked with nuclear weapons. Those imposing sanctions and locked in diplomacy to try to resolve the problem are involved in global power games, not a life-and-death situation.
Iran is not calling for the destruction of Turkey or Saudi Arabia, and if America, China or Russia loses the game, as they indeed might, it is not their heads that will be on the chopping block.
For Israel, there is no margin for error. Over 70 percent of Israel’s population, one-third of all the Jews in the world, and its ports, airports, refining capacities and industry are located along the coastal plain, 260 kilometers long from north to south and some 16 km. wide, about the size of an average game park in Africa.
Along the coast are the chimneys of power stations and desalination plants, ports and tourist areas. The highways to either side are packed with traffic and new office and residential towers have sprouted between Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan. In one glance you can see five of the country’s major universities, all of its ports, its major international airport, highways, railways and the center of its business life.
Imagine the devastation of a bomb five, 10, 100 times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an area as dense as this one, humming with traffic and life. If attacked with nuclear weapons it would be, to use a phrase attributed to Moshe Dayan, “the destruction of the Third Temple.” Everything would be lost. There would be no second chance.
The Iranians know this; hence the temptation, the dream, that it could be done, even knowing that Iran would suffer terribly as a result. But with a population 10 times that of Israel and a country 75 times as large, Iran reckons that no matter how harsh the punishment meted out in return for attacking Israel, it would be mauled, not killed.
In this context, none of the symmetry and deterrence that kept the Cold War cold applies, and there is none of the diplomatic pragmatism that even the most repressive Soviet leaders possessed. Iran’s regime is based on brute power; its calculations cannot be put into a rational context. From Israel’s point of view, it must be taken at its word. To do otherwise would be to invite catastrophe.
Yet of all Israel’s major problems, the Iran one is “simplest” to deal with. It carries none of the contention of a potential settlement with the Palestinians, or even with the Syrians if Israel has to give up the Golan Heights in return for peace. It is not an electoral issue, and it crosses all political boundaries. No pro-Iran lobbyists are to be found in the Knesset, even among the most vocal Arab opponents of the Zionist Jewish state.
What the Iranians may not know and appreciate is that, in a very strange way, Israel actually owes them a debt of gratitude.
Their threats and capabilities have forced Israel to focus its mind like never before, with an end result that keeps Israel at the cutting edge of technology, and its economy vibrant and productive, though poor in natural resources and even water.
Israel has deep respect for the Iranians. It has watched with awe as the regime has sent thousands of graduates through universities in the West, many returning to work in the Iranian military industries. Israelis have seen the Iranians dance around UN bureaucrats in Vienna and other locations, attempting to slow down their march toward nuclear independence through an inspection regime that was almost laughable. They have defied the “great powers” and thumbed their nose at successive American administrations, weaving and dodging and playing one side against the other.
They have overcome attempts by the Mossad, CIA and others to quietly sabotage their program, and have taken great care to make their assembly lines as protected as possible.
Even after the supposedly devastating Stuxnet computer virus attack that hit its enrichment plants, Iran managed to keep 5,200 of its 8,000 centrifuges spinning and producing fissile material.
The regime has managed to buy materials and components for bomb-making from an astounding array of suppliers, often without the seller knowing, or caring, who the end party was.
It has done this through a network of companies that make a spider’s web look uncomplicated.
It moves its secret headquarters around often to avoid detection by Western intelligence agencies, like in 2008 when the nuclear research center in central Tehran was leveled to become a public park, leading the CIA to announce that year that the Iranians had closed down their military nuclear program, and Israeli intelligence chiefs to pull out their hair in frustration, knowing that it had been reopened across town.
“Don’t they understand that while buildings can be destroyed, all they have to do is move the brains down the road in a bus and open up again?” commented then-Israeli intelligence chief Amos Yadlin.
There is also no question that the Iranians have parallel programs in operation. The world’s attention was, and is, focused on Bushehr, but in September 2009, a second nuclear facility was revealed to the world by Israeli intelligence, the evidence reportedly brought to Washington and Russia personally by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, which showed the enrichment plant deep in the mountains at Fordo, just 20 kilometers from the city of Qom, with the capacity to produce one bomb a year and growing.
“Have respect for your enemy” is one of the oldest maxims in the Israeli army, and Israel knows the Iranians well. Tens of thousands of Jews left Iran and now live in Israel, and, until the 1979 revolution that saw the demise of the shah and his repressive regime, and the takeover by the ayatollahs and an even more repressive regime, Israel and Iran had close ties.
The shah provided Israel with oil, and Israel provided him with military assistance that included conventional weapons, as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, code-named “Jericho,” and perhaps advice on how to develop Iran’s nuclear program, started under the American “Atoms for Peace” initiative in the 1950s, into something more “meaningful.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, is often portrayed in the Western media as an almost ludicrous figure, with his histrionic rants against Israel and risible efforts to prove the Holocaust never happened. But he is no fool. On his watch he has moved over Iran’s core assets to the control of the Revolutionary Guards, fervently loyal to the regime, including state-owned industries, key security units, and elements of the Iranian armed forces, like the nuclear program and the missile forces, which do not fall under the purview of the chief of staff.
The Guards also control the anti-aircraft units in case air force officers, considered generally more secular and educated and thus less trustworthy, decide to stage a coup. Ahmadinejad has managed to contain bread and fuel riots, and cut subsidies, something previously thought politically impossible, and steal an election in 2009, when his opposition disappeared into dark dungeons as the results came in.
Iran spends only 2.5% of its GDP on the military, yet it has managed to move into the space age with satellites and provide its military with an impressive arsenal of advanced ballistic missiles and sophisticated command and control systems, and its people with Soviet- style military parades from time to time, often accompanied by endless television footage of visits to the country’s nuclear facilities and the smoke trails of missiles as they streak off into the air.
This is a sinister regime that works in sinister ways. It uses terror, surrogates and subterfuge with impunity around the world.
It took 12 years but in 2006 it was conclusively proved that Iran was responsible for the attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. In this, Argentina’s most deadly bombing, 87 people died and more than 100 were injured, many of them passersby. The Islamic Jihad took responsibility, as it did for the March 1992 bombing in the same city that left 29 dead, many of them children at a school in a nearby church. The truth was known well in advance of 2006, but obfuscated by investigators of questionable reliability, some reportedly paid off by the Argentinean government itself, then deep in nuclear collusion with the Iranians.
Since then, however, Iran has developed ever more subterfuge.
It has created entire legions abroad, openly identified with the regime in Tehran and totally committed to doing its bidding.
Hezbollah in Lebanon is one such example.
Iran very neatly stepped into the vacuum created by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Tehran sent in a contingent from the Revolutionary Guards who with skill and dedication managed to train, fund, arm and bring together a political party, Hezbollah, the Party of God. Within a decade, Hezbollah’s own private army would become the most powerful force in a country once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, where Saudi princes came to gamble and whisper French into the ears of professional ladies, and eat forbidden fruits.
After years of tensions, cat-and-mouse games and mud-hurling, in 2006 Hezbollah provoked a war with Israel, both sides eventually coming off somewhat mauled: Hezbollah, and parts of Lebanon with it, were pounded into the ground, the south of the country left deserted, Lebanon’s oil and other infrastructure destroyed, and Hezbollah’s stronghold in the Dahieh quarter of Beirut reduced to rubble in which more than 1,000 people were killed.
The Israelis suffered many fewer casualties and physical damage, but the psychological damage was immense. Suddenly the whole country became a battlefield as rockets fell freely on major cities like Haifa and close to the country’s main petrochemical refineries in the Acre bay area. No longer was war a distant reality: Israel’s cities were now exposed to the whims of paramilitary forces controlled by an enemy thousands of kilometers away.
Lebanon is not the only country to feel the reach of Iran’s long arm. It is involved in Afghanistan, where its diplomats have been documented handing over wads of cash to the Karzai government through Umar Daudzai, the president’s most loyal aide, in the hope of driving a wedge between the Afghan government and its American supporters.
In March 2011, British special forces in Afghanistan intercepted a convoy of three trucks, deep in the Nimruz province, which contained 48 122-mm. rockets destined for the Taliban. This was the latest of over 60 such interceptions in three years, ranging from ammunition and small arms to mortars and rockets. And Iran’s involvement in Iraq is deep and consequential. In 2010, Iranian weapons and instructors were discovered hard at work in Africa. Major Iranian arms shipments were intercepted on their way to rebels in Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal.
But in Gaza, its takeover, through Hamas and specifically the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which reports directly to the Iranian secret service, has been total, creating an entire country, a mini-Iran, on Israel’s southern border, an ideal base from which to shell not only Israeli settlements to the east and north but also Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona, the symbol of Israeli survival and resistance, its doomsday weapon.
Though Gaza’s mostly Palestinian refugee population is Sunni, this has not stopped the Shi’a Iranians from striking a bond with them, using a system of orphanages, soup kitchens, free kindergartens, schools, universities and mosques to solidify Hamas’s control of the Strip. With its population at 1.5 million and growing fast, and strategically placed on Israel’s border, Gaza is an excellent base of operation for the Iranians.
So deep is Iranian involvement in Gaza that Iranian intelligence has set up its own units in the Strip, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who act independently of Hamas when Iran’s agenda and that of the Palestinians part ways. In March 2011, for example, when Hamas and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank began to think of reconciliation talks, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched dozens of mortars against empty fields in Israel to escalate the situation and send a clear message that from the Islamic Jihad’s point of view, conciliation between the warring Palestinian factions was not on the agenda at that time.
Since June 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza, Israel has had Iranian divisions on its northern and southern borders. The soldiers themselves may not be Iranian, though Iranian advisers were always there to help. Still, many of the men and all the senior commanders of these units have been trained in Iran, and recruits who are seen to have a future attend an Iranian surrogate boot camp just west of Tehran that is shaped like a round cake: one segment Hezbollah, another Hamas, then Islamic Jihad, Taliban, and others as needed.
Each group is trained separately to deal with the specific enemy and mission it faces, but they are also brought together to exchange information and views. They undergo conventional weapon and sabotage training, but more importantly are brought into the cyber age, given codes and intelligence methods to maintain secret lines of communication with Iran.
In this way, although there is no rational strategic reason for a quarrel between Israel and Iran, Israel now faces potential nuclear destruction in the worst case, or multiple missile attacks from Iran, Lebanon and Gaza in a time of war, threatening all of Israel’s cities, infrastructure and defense. The nuclear threat aside, its implementation being immensely complicated and highly unlikely, the presence of quasi-Iranian forces on two of Israel’s borders carries with it a host of tactical advantages for the Iranians, and serious disadvantages for Israel.
Hezbollah and Hamas are there as troublemakers and to keep Israel’s eye off the ball: Iran itself. They can be used to escalate the situation when needed, even to the point of all-out conflict and international crisis – as in 2006 and the Gaza campaign in 2008 – to force Israel to dedicate massive expenditures to fortify its northern and southern borders, and to find expensive solutions to stop primitive rockets from paralyzing entire cities.
For example, the Iron Dome anti-rocket system Israel deployed in March as a shield against incoming rockets from Gaza cost $250 million to develop and costs $40,000 each time it is used. A local joke is that if the Palestinians want to break Israel’s economy, all they have to do is fire several hundred rockets a day toward one of the country’s southern cities for several years. The Iron Dome, however, is built to discern which rockets are on a trajectory to cause damage and which are not, limiting this possibility.
Despite massive initial skepticism about the Iron Dome’s true capabilities and cost, in its first baptism of fire over the weekend of April 8-9, 2011, it downed eight out of nine rockets heading for Beersheba and Ashkelon, Israel’s two major southern cities. The ninth landed in an empty field, causing no damage. This success damped criticism but did not obviate the truth that the deployment of Iran-controlled rockets on Israel’s southern border is another factor that diverts Israeli strategic resources from pursuing the real objective: thwarting a nuclear Iran.
Also, with Israeli intelligence busy with Hezbollah and Hamas, it has fewer resources to focus on Iran itself.
There is a limit to how much the intelligence arm of a small country like Israel can deal with, how many spies it can field at any one time.
The damage to Israel from border wars is tremendous.
Already the country spends 9% of its GDP on defense, the highest ratio in the developed world. In 2010 defense expenditure reached a record high of 16% of the overall budget, just under $15 billion, and that was just for the military. The Atomic Energy Commission, the Mossad and the secret service are accounted for out of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the police have their own ministry and budget line.
On the military Israel spends around $2,300 per person per year, exclusive of the Prime Minister’s office. If you add the Home Guard, emergency services, public bomb shelters, Border Police, compulsory bombproof rooms built in every house, and every citizen, from babies up, provided with personal gas masks, Israel probably spends more per person on security than the annual earnings of most of the world’s population.
Now add to this the cost of the last war in Lebanon, for example, and defense outlays become atmospheric, stretching to the core the money available for research budgets and dealing with Iran. According to official Israeli figures, the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah cost the lives of 119 soldiers and 43 civilians, including 18 Arabs.
Hundreds more were seriously wounded.
The direct cost to the economy was $1.6b., or 1.5% of GDP. The total cost of carrying out the war was $5.5b.
For over a month, from July 12 to August 14, some 630 factories were closed and 300,000 people displaced. At various times one million people lived in bomb shelters, 6,000 homes were hit by rockets, and the damage to some of Israel’s most beautiful forests will take more than 40 years to repair.
The direct cost to Iran? Zero, other than the expense of replacing Hezbollah’s arsenals with newer and more sophisticated weapons for the next round.
Lebanon paid a heavy price with 1,300 dead, mainly civilians, and its airport, oil infrastructure and roads, particularly in the south, badly damaged. But Lebanon’s pain is not felt in Tehran.
In the ground conflict against Hezbollah, Israeli forces prevailed, but many failings were discovered in their operational capabilities, especially among reserve forces, which make up 80% of the military. The truth of the matter, however, was that the neglect in the ground forces was almost by design. The defense budget had been stretched by the second intifada and by trying to counter the Iranian threat.
The chances of a ground war were considered negligible since Iraq, once Israel’s deadliest enemy on its eastern front, had been destroyed in two American- led wars; there was peace with Jordan and Egypt; Lebanon had no army to speak of; and Syria had not invested in ground units for years, concentrating instead on rockets and missiles. Though Hezbollah was seen as a threat, it was not considered capable of fielding a conventional army.
It was a serious irritant that would be dealt with from the air and by other means. It did not have tanks or armored personnel carriers, but was built on stealth, rockets and infrastructure placed deep in the hearts of civilian populations.
But while Israel’s performance on the ground left a lot to be desired, there was one aspect of the Israeli military’s performance Hezbollah, the Iranians and others must have noticed: the total destruction of 59 long- and medium-range missile launchers supplied by Iran and Syria that Hezbollah had stockpiled and prepared for use. These were destroyed in 39 minutes in a stunning air campaign indicative of just how advanced Israeli’s ability to deal with sophisticated threats had become.
To do this was infinitely more complicated than Israel’s surprise attack on the Arab airfields in 1967, before the birth of the first computer in military service.
It required the orchestration of aircraft, drones, airborne command and control systems, satellites, precise and sophisticated deep-penetrating bombs, and more than anything else intelligence, which, judging from the results, was obviously brilliant.
What they saw in Lebanon was highly indicative of a supersmart military that had managed to integrate cutting- edge technologies into a powerful fighting force.
For those who analyze warfare, and surely the Iranians do, the destruction of the missiles in so short a time was a sobering lesson. The air force cannot deal effectively with individually fired 60-year-old Katyusha rockets being dumped over the border, causing relatively little damage, but give them an electronic, radar, or heat signature, and boom! – the threat is gone.
The more sophisticated warfare becomes, the greater Israel’s advantage. The more technology-dependent Hezbollah becomes, the easier a target it becomes. That is Israel’s cutting edge, the cornerstone of its defense policy, and the war in 2006 was but one tiny glimpse into it.
Israel’s greatest asset is its ingenuity. This by definition means a lack of discipline, behaving and thinking outside the box. To focus its mind, Israel needs a national project. In the 1980s it was the Lavi fighter jet, a beautiful aircraft designed by pilots for pilots with groundbreaking technology in avionics, electronics and aerodynamic design. The project was canceled in 1987 under pressure from the American government, which preferred that Israel spend its American aid dollars on American-made F-16s, not on an independent project in Israel.
The Lavi brought together some of the finest engineering minds in the country. They worked on information management systems, radar, communications, navigation, avionics, electronics, fly-by-wire systems, miniaturization, optics, metals, carbon compounds and aeronautics. When the project was canceled after hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, some 1,500 highly trained scientists and engineers were released into the economy and became the basis for Israel’s hitech industry.
Iran has taken over where the Lavi left off. Countering its threat is Israel’s new national project, keeping its only national resource, brainpower, working away at top speed. Obviously the world would be a better place with a democratic Iran, and for Israel that would be a double blessing, the removal of a threat and the renewing of historic ties. But in the meantime Iran should know that to a large degree it is the engine of Israeli industrial and scientific growth.
Israel's cutting edge is the key to its survival. It has to be one step ahead. In late 2010 the US was supplying Saudi Arabia with $60b. in weapons. The US also makes sure the Egyptian army stays well equipped, and there are advanced American technologies in Pakistan.
Many of these weapons are the same as those in Israel’s arsenal, like F-15 and F-16 fighters, as well as an array of air-, sea- and ground-based missile systems.
Advanced aircraft are worlds unto themselves, tiny packages of highly condensed technologies all bundled into one. If the Iranians learn the secrets of an F-15’s avionics package, or its radars and communications systems, this puts at risk Israel’s F-15s, and thus the country’s need to make sure the systems in its own aircraft are different and unique.
The dual challenges of facing the Iranians and having to improve the world’s most sophisticated weapons technologies are what keeps Israel on its toes, constantly having to feed the beast to maintain the leading edge.
But there are massive economic payoffs down the line in the educational system that supports it and the economic fruits later reaped. Iran may be a substantial challenge, but of all the others Israel faces, this one seems to be under control and, in a twist, actually benefits Israel.
When the scientists and engineers are released from the military, they become the next generation of Israel’s hi-tech industrialists, having had the benefit of a challenge, an education and generous research resources at their disposal for a decade or more. At home there is much criticism of Israel’s educational system, but the defense community can always find the several hundred exceptional minds it needs each year. If the country was not forced to find and nurture them, the chances are that many would be lost, or neglected.
For Iran to attack Israel is not a simple thing. First there is deterrence: Israel is known to possess an arsenal of several hundred nuclear weapons of various kinds, deliverable in a variety of ways, from submarines to drones, and one assumes that the Iranians have to consider that the punishment Israel alone can mete out, though not as severe or as existential as the blow Israel would sustain, would be “devastating,” to quote someone who knows these things intimately.
The Iranians also have to figure that if they attack Israel, the response will not be Israel’s alone. The US is dedicated to Israel’s defense, as are key states in Europe.
In weighing the cost of attacking Israel, Iran has to take into account the total response.
If deterrence does not work, Iran must factor in that Israel has a proven antimissile system, the Arrow, which allows the country two shots at an incoming missile far enough away from Israel to ensure that any nuclear fallout lands somewhere else. Of course the more missiles Iran can fire, the more problematic interception becomes, and since any one strike against Israel could be fateful, success for Iran is in the numbers.
Given the current production rates of fissile materials, Iran will take generations to produce enough nuclear weapons to circumvent the Arrow’s defenses, and by then who knows who the leadership of the country will be? So, given the Arrow, even if Iran has a bomb, or even three, it has to take into account that whatever it launches may never reach its target. Yet Israel is not going to wait for nuclear missiles to fall before it reacts.
Iran’s missiles won’t strike home.
For 20 years now, Israel has been trying to stop the Iranian program. In the early 1990s, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who was then head of military intelligence and went on to be chief of staff, said in private conversation that if the program went unchecked, the Iranians would have a bomb in eight to 10 years. It has taken them more than twice that time, fighting international sanctions, sabotage by the Mossad and CIA, pressure on suppliers, a series of crippling computer viruses, and ongoing harassment by the UN and its agencies.
The Tinner family from Switzerland, who allegedly worked for the CIA as early as June 2004 and were key to supplying gas centrifuge technologies to the clients of Pakistani nuclear renegade Abdul Quadeer Khan, including Iran, are suspected by some of having helped the agency sell the Iranians DUD centrifuges, which subsequently exploded in 2006, causing extensive damage to the country’s enrichment facility.
In February 2007, one of Iran’s top nuclear physicists, Ardeshir Husseinpour, a world authority on electromagnetics, died of mysterious radiation poisoning. It has long been suspected that it was fed to him by Israeli intelligence agents. Another top nuclear scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed in January 2010 in downtown Tehran when a motorbike exploded near him. Again the Mossad was suspected.
In November 2010 the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency, Majid Shahriyari, was killed by a magnetic bomb attached to his car, again in downtown Tehran.
Despite these and other mysterious accidents and deaths, in 2010 the formal assessment of Israeli intelligence and its allies was that once it made the decision to do so, Iran could have a testable nuclear device within “a matter of not too many months,” according to a top Israeli authority. It had two main parallel programs going at full steam, enrichment and weaponization, and enough fissile material for at least two bombs.
The country has installed new centrifuges at Natanz, the main enrichment facility, many times more effective than the old, and built new, deeply defended facilities, like the Qom project. The world will not know for sure whether Iran has a bomb until there is a test, and as Israel itself showed, there may never be one (though there were reports of a secret Israel–South Africa test way back during apartheid).
The suspicion is that Israel would like to attack Iranian facilities before they become fully operational in bomb production. It would act alone, as it did when Israeli jets destroyed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak in 1981, despite the opposition of the world (particularly the US, which was supporting Iraq in its war with Iran at the time), and as Israel did with a nascent Syrian reactor in 2009.
The Iranians know this option is on the table. The Americans have also repeatedly said that all options on Iran’s nuclear program remain open. The probability of a preemptive strike, however, is remote. The operational problems involved fill volumes. These include the distance to the targets, the way the reactors have been built and fortified underground, air defenses, the multiple targets that would have to be attacked and the need to spend long periods over Iranian territory to do the job efficiently.
It would require a spectacular range of deep-penetrating bombs to get the job done, and after all this, many experts say, at best Iran’s program will be regressed, not stopped.
Then of course, there’s the matter of Iranian retaliation, which could range from having agents poison the ventilator systems of subways around the world with biotoxins, to having a nuclear suitcase bomb delivered in a container to Ashdod port.
Others claim it is possible to deliver a deadly blow, depending on the weapons you are prepared to use, an obtuse reference to tactical nuclear weapons, a possibility no one dares whisper aloud.
Israel cannot attack Iran without some form of coordination with the US. The distances involved and technological advances made since 1981 in detection equipment will make it almost impossible for Israel to launch an attack without the US knowing about it.
Israel would also have to take into account international outrage, particularly by countries like Russia and China that have worked with the West, albeit reluctantly, to curb the Iranian program and are partners to sanctions on Iran, and by those who may pay the price through terror attacks by Iranian supporters and surrogates for Israel’s actions. So there are huge obstacles, military, political and moral, that make either an Iranian attack on Israel or an Israeli attack on Iran a last-resort scenario. The cost to both countries of such an attack would be vast and enduring.