During the Cold War serious protocols were set toprotect the Americans and Soviets in case of a first strike and evenmore 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 - theywill destroy all.
Therehas been a great deal of discussion on the prevention and deterrence ofa nuclear strike on Israel by Iran. Most assume the missile wouldoriginate from Iran. But with US airpower in Iraq and Afghanistan,multitudes of Awacs and electronics in Saudi Arabia and other Gulfnations, and with NATO ships with sophisticated electronics positionedin the Persian Gulf, it is doubtful that missiles could make their wayfrom Iran to Israel. However, missiles could easily be launched fromlocations much closer to Israel. There is so much instability in theregion that it would be easy for a rogue nation to entice one or moreproxies to act on its behalf.
While Iranian plans for nuclear self-sufficiency were born inthe early 1970s and are the focus of a great deal of national pride,achieving nuclear capability during President Ahmadinejad's tenure issaid to be a mandate of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). Withthe IRGC's significant influence and control over the Iranian economy,security, public policy and military, the goal will undoubtedly bereached.
We cannot ignore the potential uses for this nuclear capabilityonce it is developed. Perhaps one of the few things that could shiftIranian public opinion regarding weaponization of nuclear power, andcascade the current public opposition to the regime, would be alarge-scale accident in one of IRGC's many nuclear facilities. This isa significant risk as the IRGC is rushing to get there and may becutting corners in the process.
Operating a multibillion-dollar enterprise insideIran and across the globe, while directing nuclear research anddevelopment, the IRGC would have little interest in an Armageddon, atleast in the short term. Having said that, there is a significantdesire to cause turmoil and damage to those who are perceived asenemies of the state - Israel and the United States being at the top ofthe list.
WITH IRAN on a fast track towards military dictatorship andswept up in serious expansionist ideology, the prospect of being atarget for second strike as a direct result of attacking Israel wouldnot be very appealing to the IRGC.
Givenits significant investments in strategic planning in conventional andunconventional military engagement, and following established patterns(Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen), it seems unlikely that a IRGC wouldlaunch the first strike directly from Iran. It is more likely that thiswould be put into motion by an IRGC proxy much closer to Israel. TheIRGC could then embark on conventional warfare to cover its tracks.With media and public opinion generally unsympathetic to Israel, it isnot beyond belief that Iran could convince people or develop doubts inpeople's minds that the nuclear first strike was instead conventionalwarfare striking Israel's own nuclear war-heads and giving theimpression of a nuclear attack.
A first strike on Israel would also present aconvenient opportunity for Israel's enemies to engage in furtherdestruction. Israel, perceived as weakened and vulnerable, might beseen as ripe for a multi-pronged attack by those who want to see theJewish state destroyed. In fact it would be far easier for the IRGC tolet the Arabs finish the job all on their own. Strategically, theIRGC's expansionist strategies would work perfectly in the aftermath ofsuch events.
A first strike from a closer proximity would be devastating toIsrael, possibly irrecoverable, considering Israel's size versus thecoverage of the strike. Being somewhat larger, Iran would survive asecond strike by Israel quite well. Not only might a first strike onIsrael eliminate its capacity to launch a second strike from land, butIsrael might also find it hard to justify launching an attack on Iranif the first strike originated from a third country. That would onlybring more international condemnation of Israel. With any missilelaunched towards Israel from anywhere having potential to be "the one,"Israel's future military success will be defined by how well it canaddress incoming missiles of any kind. Investment in anti-ballisticmissile technologies will continue to be a priority.
A first strike on any location in Israel would have devastatingimpact on the Palestinian population as well, including those in theGaza and the West Bank. A strike on Tel Aviv would not be felt only inTel Aviv, but would have a much larger impact in the region, perhaps asfar as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
Whether the IRGC uses the nuclear threat as a bargaining chipto deter any military action against it, or to strengthen its proxiessuch as Hizbollah and Hamas in the region, they all point to anexpansionist agenda for the IRGC. Some may say that Israel, as thecommon foe, has united some Arabs with the Persians, and it wouldn'tmake sense to destroy the unifying force. On the other hand, the IRGCmight find delivering the first strike to the most powerful country inthe region an irresistible and impressive military demonstration of itsown power.
At the end of the cold war the two superpowers realized that nomatter how many nuclear warheads they aimed at one another,thermonuclear war would not be in their or the rest of the world's bestinterests. This realization resulted in further talks, and anunderstanding.
The Iranian administration will eventually realize thatannihilation of Israel and 7.5 million Jews would have reciprocalimpact on its own existence and that of its proxies, even if they useone of those proxies to launch the first strike.
The writer's name has been changed to protect his identity.