Israel versus Iran?

 There is a lot of babble today about Ephraim Sneh's oped in Ha'aretz in which he implies that Israel must prepare to go it alone "when Israel is forced to attack Iran this year…"

He also says that Israel should accomodate Obama by putting in place an open ended freeze on Jewish constructionin Arab East Jerusalem.

I know Sneh slightly, have talked to him a few times and listened to him make presentations.  He is described as a "liberal."  I suppose so but more importantly he is a very tough minded, logic driven soldier and planner who speaks dispassionately even when the subject is repellent.  He is a lot like Ehud Barak, but perhaps more so.  He is someone to take seriously.

His statement raises the question once again of an Israeli attack on Iran without US acquiescence, and therefore the question of how they would do it.

They have about 350 fighters. All but 30 or so are F-16s.  These aircraft require a lot of aerial refueling, or "up close" refueling bases.  It's a long way from Israel to the scattered, often hardened sites that would be the targets.  The IAF has what? 40 tankers, most of which are C-130s.  What are they going to do, loiter over Iraq to refuel going in and coming out?  Land on Iraqi bases?  One recent fantastic scenario at a non-government war game in Washington featured the construction (without Saudi knowledge) of an F-16 capable secret Israeli temporary airstrip in NE Saudi Arabia that would be used to make up their shortfalls.  The air guys will correct me but I am under the impression that this would have to have a long, FOD free runway with a hard surface.  My impression is that the author of the scenario was desperate.  So, I still don't know how the IAF gets to more than a few targets with a handful of aircraft.  A handful in this context would be a hundred airframes or less.  If they do that they can "dig" some holes once or twice.

Then, there is the ballistic missile force (Jericho).  OK.  They can make the ranges, but the "bird" only flies once.  How many do they have and how big are the conventional warheads?  What is the CEP at range?  Would be the result be a few dozen holes in the ground, many of which would hit nothing but stony earth?

Then, there is the navy?  What?  Cruise missiles with conventional warheads fired from the northern Gulf?  Once again, how effective would the strike be in terms of accuracy and weight of explosives delivered?

And then, there is this:

"In a recent report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), military analyst Anthony Cordesman concluded that Israel will have to use low-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapons if it wants to take out deeply-buried nuclear sites in Iran."


So, what is Sneh talking about?  pl

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78 Responses to Israel versus Iran?

  1. Lysander says:

    I think it was 2005 when Seymour Hersh wrote about the possibility of a nuclear strike on Iran. I believe he was referring to the US IIRC.
    These days I rule nothing out, so maybe the Israelis would do it. If Israel and the US were the only countries that could make nukes, they probably would do it. But in the here and now, I doubt it.
    What would be the consequences? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. But once it becomes clear that Israel and the US (there is no way for the US to escape involvement) will use nukes as an instrument of convenience, the world will change for the worse.
    My guess is every nation that can make nukes, will make nukes. Brazil and Argentina? Almost certainly. And they can make ICBMs that can reach us. Chile? Maybe. Venezuela? They probably can’t now, but who knows the future.
    What of China? They seemed content with a small deterrent. Now they will want several thousand ICBMs and subs and a second strike capability. Japan? Of Course.
    But all those are far from Israel and they probably don’t care. What about Turkey? I’m sure they can build nukes if they put their mind to it. Will Israel nuke them too? Does NATO membership mean much?
    Anything else? Oh yeah. Pakistan. They already have nukes. Will Saudi Arabia make an offer they can’t refuse?
    And of course there is Iran. Does Sneh propose to annihilate the whole country? He’d better, otherwise 70 million people will be plotting revenge for centuries. Even if it is beyond their means at the moment, times do change.
    None of this is to suggest the Israelis won’t do it. Maybe they really are that self absorbed. But I doubt it.

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    The US is not interested in attacking Iran with nuclear weapons for the very reasons that you cite. We do not need to do so. Our hole digging capacity is much, much bigger than Israel’s. pl

  3. b says:

    “low-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapons” are the way to create as much toxic radioactive air as possible.
    This would make Geiger tickers all over the world go into some frenzy.
    But the “moral” fallout would come down over Israel in a way that the “Jewish people” would not survive.
    I guess people in Israel know that.
    I also think that the whole “nuclear Iran” nonsense coming from Israel is just to distract from its colonization of the West Bank.
    For the U.S. the issue is also not a “nuclear Iran”, it had no problem with the Shah going nuclear, but an independent Iran that might incite others in the area to be less accommodating to U.S. rule in the Persian Gulf and over its resources.

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    This is a joke, right? I mean the thing about the shah “going nuclear” and American “colonial” rule in the Gulf.
    Is this a belated April Fool’s thing? Do you like sounding like a stereotypical ’60s German lefty? pl

  5. Cold War Zoomie says:

    If Israel threatens to attack Iran with any hint of using nuclear arms, then Iran’s argument for a defensive nuclear capability is justified! It really is disconcerting to watch this stupidity in slow motion.

  6. curious says:

    hey NYTimes already have nice graphic depicting israel air attack on iran last week.
    Israel is rapidly approaching deadline with that iranian S-300 coming online. Their air game will become exponentially harder once Iran has proven working s-300 missiles. f-16 won’t make it out alive period. My guess, Israel is watching libya-iran s-300 transfer, and they are freaking out.
    Israel wants to land empty f-16 on Saudi’s highway for refueling? Not after google earth. All the Iranian has to do is look up the map, find Saudi northern highway with straight half mile stretch. Send a guy and gouge a couple pot holes every 400yards. Then they have to deal with arab world outrage finding burning israel planes on Saudi highway with israel flag. (Saudi gave permission for israel to enter airspace and land?) That type of scandal is enough to have the king head removed by angry mob if he doesn’t do something big. How crowded is highway 85,86, and 80 during lowest traffic hour anyway? what about Jordanian airspace?) Taiwan (f-5/f-16) and Pakistan (f16/mirage) have plan to use higway for runway. I think Korea design part of their highway for this purpose too. These countries need backup plan for when their country is 80% destroyed. Saudi arabian sand on engine intake is not part of the exercise. I know the people who plan crazy shit like this. stay away from their drinking party. I think I still have the hangover.
    clip of highway landing.
    Low yield earth penetrating nuclear whatever… Unless Iran is dumb enough to construct their bunker like it’s 1942, in which they deserve to get ‘penetrated’, earth penetrating whatever weapon is a big joke. It has to be designed specifically to match the characteristic of substrate to be penetrated. (Think modern RPG design vs. tank hull except the tank is now a concrete bunker that can support unlimited amount of cleverly layered cake of active skin.) Somebody has to go down to get basic feel of bunker protection layers then design a weapon to penetrate that. A good engineer with bunch of empty barrels, cements, explosive, and computer can defeat things like GBU-28 handily. Israel can’t even make their own standard precission weapon fer gawd sake. It is beyond Israel technology to design, test, load it up on a plane and fly it to target. If they have enough technology to do that, they wouldn’t bother discussing rube goldberg scheme like landing f-16 on Saudi highway after bombing mission. Just nuke entire isfahan with MIRV and deal with Iran nuclear retaliation later. Trivial.
    Israel balistic missile is not problem. They can’t use it. Israel submarine nuke cruise missile? (heh, … shouldn’t they try that first at least? possibly losing a submarine in gulf naval war due to thhe launch? What they gonna do aftrward? Ask Merkel for another new submarine in exchange for not whining about holocaust reparation? Merkel just gonna say, you don’t worth that much)
    More importantly, once Israel using nuclear, their deterrent through ambiguity magic is gone. As a result of unilateral nuclear attack, all their rival will get nuke overnight. Then they better get ready to be at the receiving end of nuclear weapon. They are opening the pandora box. Haifa and all their seaports will be toasty and radioactive for sure. (easy target from lebanese coast)
    Tho’ I for one would op to irradiate huge swath of northern agriculture and settlement land, to make sure the liveable territory left will be even harder to defend. Low casualty and get the arab what they really, Israel can’t sustain itself militarily.
    ps. whatever happen to landing the f-16 in georgia? lol. I still think their best emergency bet is ditching the plane in the persian gulf and swiming home.
    also. what’s with russia suddenly turning pouty and supplying china with s-300 and venezuela with nuclear reactor?

  7. John Badalian says:

    Colonel Patrick – what is this so-called “S-300” missle defence system that the Persians purchased (?) from the Russians? Has it (even) been delivered in whole or in part to Iran? Is it a formidable system or a glorified 4th of July display? Thanks JB

  8. walrus says:

    “Does Israel have the capability to destroy Irans nuclear program?” Probably not.
    I think the more important question is: “Does Israel have the capability to make the United States destroy Irans nuclear program?”
    Could an Israeli attack on Iran be used to trigger an American attack? Perhaps in response to perceived Iranian retaliation against American assets in the region?
    What would the President do if, shortly after an (relatively ineffectual) Israeli attack on Iran, Two (allegedly Iranian) cruise missiles hit an American carrier with great loss of life?
    The consequences of all this are unclear, but my concern is that Netanyahu knows the end state that he wants to create: Iran in ruins and all Palestinians expelled from “Greater Israel”.
    A rise in world anti Semitism? Why that just fuels more Jewish immigration to Israel and solves our demographic problem!

  9. b says:

    “This is a joke, right? I mean the thing about the shah “going nuclear” and American “colonial” rule in the Gulf.”
    1. On the Shah going nuclear:
    Nuclear Ambitions Aren’t New for Iran

    Before he was overthrown by an Islamic revolution in 1979, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran said that his country would have nuclear weapons “without a doubt and sooner than one would think.”
    In the late 1970’s, in fact, Iran and Israel discussed a plan to adapt for Iranian use surface-to-surface missiles that could be fitted with nuclear warheads, according to documents discovered in Tehran after the revolution.

    Nuclear program of Iran

    “President Gerald Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete ‘nuclear fuel cycle’.”

    2. I did not say ANYTHING about American “colonial” rule in the Gulf.
    I wrote about “Israel’s colonization of the West Bank” and of Arab states “accommodating to U.S. rule in the Persian Gulf”.
    The second is obviously something different from “colonizing”. Accommodating to XX rule” is not “being ruled by”.
    Still what please is the biggest (naval and air) power around the Persian Gulf? And who is accommodating it and who is not?

  10. Nancy K says:

    Uri Avnery has an interesting take on Israel vs Iran in his column this week.
    Happy Easter Col Lang.

  11. JMH says:

    Umm? What about Pakistan? How are they going to react to their next door neighbor getting the treatment? How would you? How would I?

  12. shanks says:

    & why would you find that difficult to believe, Sir? The ME has had one or more colonial countries (GB,FR) replaced mostly by the USA; the ops may have changed but the results in terms of getting the resources you want (Oil) are the same.
    What other reason is there for the constant meddling in Persia/Iran? I don’t know.
    Or is it like those stories of ‘Jew behind the curtain’ who are pulling strings and the USA is acting on their behalf? This entire train wreck of illegal international meddling is for the sake of Israel?
    Wait…, the US is doing a favour for the Sunni countries against a Shia one?
    I’m not being sarcastic, it seems clear that there are lots of actors who want Iran done in but the reasons are a bit deluded, IMO.

  13. FDRDemocrat says:

    An attack on Iran by Israel would be treated whether we liked it or not as a US/Israel attack. The immediate consequences, no doubt well-coordinated given the time Iran has had to anticipate this, would be:
    – Iranian sympathetic or proxy armed forces in Iraq and Aghanistan “going kinetic” which would bring to a halt any US withdrawals and likely cut our supply routes
    – a rallying around the regime by Iranians of all stripes
    – a halt to Pakistani cooperation; they would see this long term (correctly) as the beginning of the end for the US in the region and plan accordingly;
    – a heavy blow to the tattered US image across the Muslin world; Arab/Muslim regimes are going to go into survival mode, which means distancing themselves from us at the very least publicly
    – end of US-Fatah project in West Bank, maybe WB falls into halds of Hamas
    – Hezbollah in Lebanon uses to their advantage
    – a shot in the arm to Jihadist recruitment worldwide
    – turmoil in Turkey, as the government there accelerates a shift away from the US
    – if nukes are used by Israel, both Israel and the US become Pariah states; Israel would get sanctions from world bodies
    – China gets to eat our lunch even more globally in trade and econ matters, as the developing world recoils from Israel/US actions
    – oil prices go through the roof, which is not good news for any sort of US economic recovery; it will also bring smiles to the faces of people like Putin, Chavez; the Saudis and GCC elites will use the money to continue to feather their mansions in Europe as part of their potential future escape plans
    – end game? what end game? if you thought we had lacked a long term logical strategy for Iraq when we went in in 2003, this will make the Neocons look like Einsteins; the US does not have a real ground war option to deal with Iran barring a WW2-style mass mobilization which will not happen; best case we have a super-Vietnam on our hands criss-crossing a vast swathe of the Middle East and Central Asia; worse, it will be a religiously-tinged war
    I had to shake my head about the idea of the “secret” Israel F-16 strip in northern Saudi Arabia. It fails the laugh test, seriously.
    Obama may have to take one for Western Civilization here. Meaning, he is in the unenviable position of being the US President in office when Iran goes nuclear. He will keep the peace, but end up defeated by a right winger. Said right winger will run an Attilia-The-Hun style campaign threatening sturm und drang if he/she gets elected. Once in office, and confronted by the sober realities, one hopes the rightie will confine his/her self to verbal warfare.
    Unfortunately, the genie was let out of the bottle on non-proliferation long ago, and Mr. Khan of Pakistan became a road map for other states who want to join the club. Humanity seems doomed to live for the foreseeable future on a knife edge, hoping that our hard-wired stone age mentalities can be held in check by reason.

  14. Patrick Lang says:

    Do you object to US companies buying resources at market prices in the Gulf? That is what we do whether in spot markets or in long term contracts. so far as I know we have not “ruled” anywhere but in Iraq and that was not because we wanted to steal their oil. We are leaving. right? Did we “get” the oil? I continue to be surprised by you economic determinist types who don’t understand motivation in terms of aything else. pl

  15. Patrick Lang says:

    Now that is a good question, especially in terms of Israel’s extreme vulnerability to single aircraft low level attacks. pl

  16. jonst says:

    Your phrase, ” But once it becomes clear that Israel and the US (there is no way for the US to escape involvement) will use nukes as an instrument of convenience, the world will change for the worse.” is certainly a candidate for the understatement of century.
    It seems inconceivable to me that Israel cannot see that to use nuclear weapons against Iran in the name of stopping Iran obtain nuclear weapons is to sign its own death sentence.

  17. Patrick Lang says:

    The Ford nuclear deal is of interest. I thought that was specifically about electricity generation. Iran is not as oil rich as many think and needed to make electricity from something other than oil even then.
    What the shah and his Israeli allies said had nothing to do with us.
    And why would we not want countries to “accomodate” us? pl

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    You are right about the “death sentence.” I think that a lot of the heat and light in the present Obama tussle with Natanyahu reflects a division of opinion in American Jewry over where Israel’s best chance of survival lies. pl

  19. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    If you rely upon the analytical assumptions given to us by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, then how it is otherwise? Cordesman is about four decades behind the curve, but better late than never.
    If Rabbi Teitelbaum is proven correct about Zionism, and so far, his accuracy is unsurpassed, then Teitelbaum was a Jewish mystic of the highest magnitude and remains an extraordinary moral force. Glad he called the USA his home.
    But, alas, progressives and think tank people, and certainly the Pentagon crowd, have shunned the wisdom of Teitelbaum and his colleagues. You get the sense that these people think Teitelbaum is beneath them. Maybe they didn’t like the way he dressed. Maybe they get bent out of shape because, at least from what I can tell, Teitelbaum would have found the Studio 54 lifestyle ultimately selfish and certainly anti-child. Maybe it is because, like the Amish, I suppose, the Satmar community likes to keep to themselves.
    Regardless, I doubt Teitelbaum ever made it on the a-list with the enlightened Manhattan crowd.
    At some point, progressives who are reexamining Zionism (and I put myself in that category) are going to bump up against Teitelbaum. It’s as if the deeper one goes into Zionism, the more one hears Rabbi Teitelbaum saying, “You see, I told you I was right.” Even the great one – Phil Weiss – is starting to rely upon analytical assumptions that arise from Rabbi Teitelbaum.
    Will they recognize him or simply steal his analytical assumptions without giving him credit? The Huffington Post crowd will recognize him only if it increases one’s status or makes for career advancement. Same with the think tank, DC crowd. Same with the Pentagon crowd.
    Those progressives with moral courage, like Weiss (and I think some guy named Jack Ross) already have recognized the Teitelbaum approach to a certain degree.
    So what to do? Well, when it comes to strategic intel analysis, all that them fancy schmancy government people (carrying tax payer sponsored credit cards) and high falutin think tank people (carrying a lot of academic hubris), have to do is ask the following, which is an adaptation of the words I see on t-shirts, mainly in the shunned hinterlands.
    What would Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum do?
    As for myself, the more the GOI agrees to the 67 borders, the more I will rely on the analytical assumptions that arise from the Leon Uris school of thought. The more that the GOI strives for a greater Israel, with ample documentation of ethnic cleansing, then the more I will rely on the assumptions of Rabbi Teitelbaum. It’s really up to the GOI, as I don’t oppose Zionism per se. But accuracy, I would hope, should always be the number one priority.
    And at least I gave the man his richly deserved credit before it is cool to do so.

  20. d nolan says:

    In the belief that all this stuff is interrelated, here’s an interesting piece at the Daily Beast by none other than Judith Miller:
    Makes me recall the case of Mordechai Vanunu.

  21. R Whitman says:

    There is bound to be considerable damage to Israel if they attack Iran. In addition to Iranian missles fired at Israel (a nuclear dirty bomb attack on Dimona is a certainty), we can expect a full bore missle attack on air centers in Israel by Hisbollah. If there is enough damage and dislocation inside Israel you can expect riots by Palestinians and a move toward reclaiming the Golan by the Syrians.
    The Israeli ports and air terminals, if operating, will be clogged with visitors and people with dual citizenship tring to leave. The Israeli government will be hard pressed to keep domestic order.

  22. JLCG says:

    It seems to me that any territory may be made uninhabitable by simply spreading radioactive material over it. Some missiles loaded with radioactive material can create extensive Chernobyls. No need for deeply penetrating anything.

  23. Arun says:

    Is it beyond the Israelis to run a suicide mission?

  24. Green Zone Cafe says:

    If there was a low-yield nuclear strike, wouldn’t there be plausible deniability in that radioactive release could be (falsely) attributed to the facilities themselves? Nuclear yields can be at least as low as 10 ton TNT equivalent (vs 14000 ton in the Hiroshima bomb).
    By the same token, if nukes were not used, Iran could claim they were, I suppose.
    It doesn’t matter that the experts won’t be fooled – they’re the same crowd that believes in global warming and evolution, for God’s sake.

  25. zanzibar says:

    Is there any possibility that we do not get involved militarily in the event Israel attacks Iranian targets?
    What would such a scenario look like?
    My naive feeling is that the neocons and their fellow travelers will get all the media driven hysteria to scare our people and pressure the administration to complete the job on Iran. I don’t believe (hope) that many Americans will fall for the propaganda and in fact there would be vociferous opposition to our military involvement to “save” Israel’s bacon. I would expect folks like Gen. Petraeus counseling against such stupidity in public.

  26. Colin Laney says:

    Surely this was written in order to goad the US or the Europeans or the Israeli public into doing or supporting some lesser action. Surely.
    Otherwise that rough beast, its hour ocme at last, is slouching our way.

  27. Walter says:

    Col. Lang, you are shockingly naive when it comes to US oil, oil service, engineering companies making billions of dollars in ME. and US military ensuring flow of oil to USA as motivation for military intervention in ME. I think you need to think this one through more carefully.

  28. curious says:

    Strong earthquake in CA. I told you so. I hope the clown in charge is ready. This is going to move up north as well.
    A powerful earthquake southeast of Tijuana shook Southern California on Sunday afternoon, damaging buildings in border towns and rattling a seismically-sophisticated population as far north as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas as chandeliers swayed, homes shook and the earth seemed to slide under the feet of people emerging from Easter church services for well over a minute.

  29. Trent says:

    Arun, I think it is. I think their sense of self-preservation will prevail if POTUS calls their bluff. (My uneducated opinion.)

  30. bubba says:

    I’m always skeptical of reports that Israel will strike Iran in X months. I mean, what? is it Tuesday already?
    But, some considerations to make this latest bout of speculation interesting, if we may inflate our importance:
    1) no more US in IZ by August;
    2) US elections in November.
    So, even if nothing ultimately materializes, I expect we’ll hear many more serious sounding warnings after August leading to the US midterms. The opposition party is fast running through their cache of bogey men so I’m sure they’d be happy to play along.

  31. bubba says:

    And, echoing Colin above, keep in mind that we’re heading into UN negotiations on Iranian sanctions here, so the op-ed is likely contributing to that effort as well.

  32. EL says:

    Since the Golden Cliche is all wars go haywire, I confidently predict that all predictions of the Best and the Brightest will prove totally stupid. That was easy.

  33. Patrick Lang says:

    Sigh. And you are yet another boring economic determinist. pl

  34. Paul Escobar says:

    Mr. Lang,
    Since you bring up “economic determinism” & the mideast…
    Have you read “Sleeping with the devil” by Robert Baer?
    Obviously, this isn’t the medium for a detailed book review.
    But I’d like to get your general reaction to his arguments.
    For those who don’t know, I’ll provide a summary (LIKELY BUTCHERED BEYOND RECOGNITION) of his arguments.
    His core concern is the hand that controls the Saudi spigot (currently the Al-Sauds).
    He goes into detail about the many ways that (corrupt beyond belief) family has helped us.
    He sounds apocalyptic when discussing the prospect of even the most benign “nationalist” regime taking power in Saudi.
    To get a sense about how concerned he is…the book ends with a fantastic contingency plan involving a combined Shia/American military alliance replacing the crippled Al-Sauds…all towards the goal of ensuring “friendly” hands on the spigot.

  35. Jose says:

    Economics will prevent a nuclear strike, just imagine trying to market Israeli products after using nuclear weapons on Iran.

  36. LeaNder says:

    Kristol: ‘Better’ for US to attack Iran than if Israel did
    Do you like sounding like a stereotypical ’60s German lefty? pl
    I wonder why the Germans are in your mind some kind of prototypical lefties when it comes to Iran. What exactly do you have in mind? From my perspective the protests during the Shah’s visit over here, which you may have in mind, had been heavily influenced by Iranian students and exiles, so no, it surely wasn’t a specifically German “lefty” view. Was the left ever that national on topics? …
    I was admittedly influenced by one of these Persians a little later, and I still think this “king of kings” was pretty nuts, and his “CIA trained” (?) SAVAK was feared in exiles’ circles, I vaguely remember.

  37. LeaNder says:

    And still concerning the Shah.
    Do you think in hindsight the return to monarchy was a timely decision? Nevermind the fact that Mossadegh irritated the West. He surely wasn’t a communist, as I remember it, although he may have appeared as one from a cold war perspective and wasn’t his nationalization of oil an important factor in the larger scenario?

  38. JustPlainDave says:

    Re. the Ford nuclear “deal”, a summary of the negotiations can be found here: Burr, W. (2009). A brief history of U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 65/1:21–34. The characterization of the 1976 draft agreement in the wikipedia cite would not appear to be the most complete depiction possible. Short form: A view that sees the USG as simply “handing over the fuel cycle keys” to the Shah lacks a good deal.

  39. As I have noted for a number of months, one plausible scenario would be the “Suez option.” That is, back in the Suez Crisis era, Israel, UK, and France all conspired to “get” Nasser. Israel was to go first in order to arouse world sympathy and public support.
    So the US and Israel would make prior arrangements for the war. Israel would go first, US would follow up. US media in a pro-Israel frenzy. US Congress, if in session, in a pro-Israel frenzy and if not in session countless statements of support etc.
    The “go-it-alone/drag the US in” option, would perhaps be possible. But do we know whether or not Israel has that “earth penetrating nuclear weapon” capability? Or other such ordnance which would be necessary? On the other hand, does Israel really need this if it thinks it can drag the US in resulting in Iran getting pounded hard?
    On the Suez Crisis, the best book IMO is Donald Neff, Warriors at Suez (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981).

  40. Neil Richardson says:

    “Col. Lang, you are shockingly naive when it comes to US oil, oil service, engineering companies making billions of dollars in ME. and US military ensuring flow of oil to USA as motivation for military intervention in ME.”
    If the primacy of US oil industry were the predominant factor in our Middle East policy process, I suspect the United States would’ve limited our relationship with Israel some time ago (e.g., Eisenhower).

  41. Bobby Murray says:

    Would a strike by Israel jeopardize US forces in Iraq?

  42. Neil Richardson says:

    “Economics will prevent a nuclear strike, just imagine trying to market Israeli products after using nuclear weapons on Iran.
    Posted by: Jose | 05 April 2010 at 01:24 AM”
    I think we have to be careful here. Economic considerations are important but IMHO (borrowing from the rich tradition of realist thinkers) security concerns trump them far more often in international affairs. Given Israel’s historical legacy, I would think they’re more than capable of seeing the life in the anarchical international system to be “nasty, brutish and short.” It was more than foolhardy for Israel to consider retaliating in 1991. (From what I understand the IAF would’ve been no more effective at searching for Scuds than the coalition forces. As for retaliatory strikes, it would’ve been silly to imagine that they could’ve done anything better than what nearly 1800 strike aircrafts could’ve and were accomplishing at the time.) Thankfully, the Bush administration rebuffed their requests for deconfliction codes. Psychological dimensions of security considerations defy “rational analysis.”
    Prior to World War I, liberal thinkers had openly declared that war was no longer a possibility (they meant a general war on the continent) as states were increasingly becoming economically interdependent (the level of interdependence hadn’t reached the same rate again until the 1980s). To go to war would cut off one’s nose to spite his face as they’d explained. Well, aside from the joyous marches to the front in the summer of 1914 (and this was in every state that had entered war), the solidarity of working class across states hardly stemmed the huge tide toward a general war. What is economically “rational” tend to get shoved below when one factors in fear, pride, anger (See how the Japanese leadership as well as the Nazis misjudged the United States prior to WWII), etc IMHO.

  43. confusedponderer says:

    Re: Do you like sounding like a stereotypical ’60s German lefty? pl

    I wonder why the Germans are in your mind some kind of prototypical lefties
    Posted by: LeaNder

    Nah. Can’t speak for Mr. Lang, but having met for tea and chat some old school 1960s lefties, I think the sentence is simply referring to stereotypical German 1960s lefties, who tend to view the world through a Marxist lens. If they’re not smoking weed at the blessed age of 65 that is, they are harder to follow then. Mind, you we’re in the stereotyping business here.

  44. Andy says:

    I can’t seem to find the oped, if anyone has a link, please post it.
    I don’t think Israeli attack planning is anymore viable than it was six months or a year ago. As Col. Lang notes, Israeli options are limited and risky due to distance, geography and the small size of the Israeli Air Force compared to the task. They can conduct one-time raid on a small number of targets and that’s about it.
    In my opinion, this oped likely represents another example of an unstoppable force (Israeli strategic doctrine) meeting an immovable object (the limits of Israeli military power).

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    Andy et al
    Will provided the link.

  46. WILL says:

    i couldn’t post for a minute then it cleared up?
    “Surely this was written [Sneh, i presume] in order to goad the US or the Europeans or the Israeli public into doing or supporting some lesser action. Surely.”
    Of course
    When friends are mad at you By Ephraim Sneh Haaretz Fri., April 02, 2010 Nisan 18, 5770
    Efraim proceeds in the manner of Euclides by outlining 10 premises one of which is the November Israeli-Iran strike which he says is absurd then posits the necessary conclusion (which is just as absurd).
    ” These 10 assumptions show how complicated the situation is. Weighing them up with each other begs a single solution to the crisis with the United States: quit building. Israel should enact an open-ended freeze of settlement and outpost expansion, refrain from building new neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and stop construction for Jews in Arab neighborhoods.
    The United States, independently of the UN Security Council, where sanctions would be shorn of any teeth, would implement its legislation on sanctions against Iran (an embargo on the sale of fuel and on investment in and upgrades for Iran’s oil and gas industries, and a total boycott of its banking system). In so doing, it would be joined by its natural partners and important European states.
    Only such an integrated solution would meet both America’s and Israel’s security requirements. The prime minister would find a majority in the Knesset that would rather have cooperation with the United States on this matter of survival than please the extreme right wing.”

  47. DanM says:

    Israel can not (and therefore will not) stop Iran’s nuclear program by force. A first nuclear strike by Israel would make it a global pariah and see US support withdrawn (so it won’t happen).
    They think they can manipulate the US into going to war with Iran on their behalf; all of this talk is an information operation with that objective.
    Will they be able to bend the US to their will? Certainly have in the past, but i doubt they will this time.

  48. N. M. Salamon says:

    As an outside observer of USA poltics, esp Congress], it is inconcveivable that Israel would attack Iran without USA consent, for the fleet in the Persian Gulf is capable of stopping any and all Israeli planes flying toward Iran, especially so due to USA mlitary presence in Israel, no plane or fleet of planes can take off there without USA knowledge.
    Thus ANY ATTACK on IRAN is a de facto [though not necessarily de jure] USA attack, with the consequences thereto.
    With respect to the cited Haraatrz article, there is far too much optimism with respect to probable consequences of the war, both to what is achievablke by Israeli attack and what the consequences maybe to Israel..

  49. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Intent and capability. Or is what the leaders of an attacking nation believe they are capable of doing? So then you factor in the psychological profile, one would think, certainly more than economic determinism.
    Bibi Netanyahu doubts the Jericho III capabilities? Unlikely.
    Many times conflict in the ME takes three steps. A provocation, usually downplayed in the msm. Followed by a response. Then a massive retaliation that allows the GOI to achieve its goals. Operation Cast lead followed the pattern.
    As Professor Kiracofe mentioned, the Suez Canal conflict mirrors the same approach. Segev’s work on the Six day war documents the same.
    As for an attack on Iran, an identical intent was unmistakably reflected in the Wurmser option that Cheney attempted to employ, where the USM would take the lead. The 07 NIE blocked it. Now the GOI is attempting to manifest it in a different way.
    One reasonable question to ask is whether or not the GOI is continuing to adhere to the three step approach, hoping that US would lead the way with step three, the massive retaliation. Or, alternatively, simply start with the Jericho III, believing, either rightly or wrongly, that it could do the job and all is well in the Holy Land and if not, then the US will intervene to protect the GOI.

  50. LeaNder says:

    Thanks confusedponder, that helps me understand. As it isn’t that far off the reality as I remember it. But you have to keep in mind the continuity between Nazi members and postwar Germany. Quite a few in the most diverse fields of university too. Students simply shifted to the side of the Nazi’s former enemies. Too easy it felt then, but understandable in postwar Germany.
    One of the later targets of the Red Army Fraction is clearly related to this continuity:

  51. Phil Giraldi says:

    Much of the above assumes that the Israeli government headed by Bibi and including FM Avigdor Lieberman will behave rationally. It might not. Should one assess the invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and last year’s onslaught against Gaza as appropriate and measured responses? A hubris driven Israel has a history of doing things without any thought for the likely consequences.

  52. GregB says:

    I would caution against applying the concept of rational thought when discussing this issue.
    I thought that rational discourse would have exposed the fiasco in waiting that was the 2003 Iraq invasion. The consequences seemed apparent to me and I’m just a mook from NH with a few years of college education.
    I am afraid that there quite a few people who live in their own self sustaining ideological information loop.
    They believe the claptrap that emanates from their think tanks and they believe that they can create their own reality.
    I’m afraid the world and the region in question are waiting for their Archduke Ferdinand assassination moment to get the ball rolling.
    America is in bad shape right now. The one thing that many of the tea-partier lunatics would probably love is to watch some American style shock and awe unleashed on our arch-enemy Iran.
    Unfortunately that will also likely be the last straw for the rest of the world.
    It will be a disaster that only Rev. Hagee could love.

  53. GregB says:

    there ARE quite a few…

  54. N. M. Salamon says:

    Please study the second graph in this EIA article:
    Therefore there will not be war with IRan, as the oil picture is already too scary according to best guess of USA Government – DARE NOT CHANCE ANY DAMAGE TO ANY OIL INSTALLATION, IRani or other in Opec land. Remeber WAR caused Iraq to fall below pre invasion production and still there]

  55. Secretarybird says:

    From this interesting debate, I conclude that a conventional air strike is beyond Israel’s capability. A conventional missile strike would be ineffective. A nuclear missile strike is possible, but the political consequences for Israel would likely be catastrophic.
    However, given that the current Israeli government consists of a coalition of nationalist and religious extremists (very reminiscent of the Serbians after the break-up of Yugoslavia), how likely is it that they will attack Iran? They, and the neocons in the USA, show every sign of believing their own BS about Iran being an “existential threat” to Israel. The question is not how viable is an Israeli attack on Iran, but how can anyone halt this “march of folly”.

  56. J says:

    Neocon fool Bill Kristol was on Fox hyping that it would be better if Iran was attacked by the U.S. as opposed to his Israel.
    Too bad that somebody can’t strap Mr. Kristol’s backsides to the back-end of a 130 low-level and dump him in the middle of Tehran, where Kristol could witness first-hand the carnage he desires upon others.

  57. Ken says:

    One desperate scenario that might work involves Israel somehow provoking or threatening Iran to the point of it openly initiating an attack on Israel’s territory (an embassy or Israel proper), in hope that it will rally American, European and Suadi support or, at least, acquiesce for an Israeli counterpunch via an air strike using otherwise restricted airspace.
    Of course, the attack may not be truly by Iran. A well-executed “false flag” operation would serve as well.
    Having said this, there still remains the problem of getting through Iran’s air defense, and then being able to create holes deep and wide enough to actually destroy the targets.

  58. Patrick Lang says:

    CP & Leander
    Yes. I was stationed in Germany for a year in 1969-70 and the country just reeked of half-baked marxism. I suppose that is what I was referring to. pl

  59. Fred says:

    I certainly agree that ‘These crises are harmful to our national interests and a true, enduring solution must be implemented.’ Perhaps that is exactly what Obama told Bibi, these actions are harmful to US national interests; which would certainly explain the PM’s feeling ‘slighted’

  60. reader says:

    Greg B raises the interesting point of the role of US domestic politics on Iran. If the US continues its economic downturn, can we expect more aggressive religiousness and more clout for the likes of John Hagee? I personally don’t believe this “recession” is going to improve, or it will only improve for those least likely to be counted amongst Hagee’s flock. We can’t all work for the government and trade stocks. So barring limited plumber and electrician jobs, what is there for average folk to do? KFC or McDonalds? That’s a recipe for disaster, not crispy chicken. These people, angry and hurting in their personal lives, will respond to a leader who will inflict pain on an external other. We’ve already seen the ability of the Americans to blame others for their social and economic woes. I can think of two glaring example, first, gays for the destruction of marriage; because no fault divorces never played a role, nope. Second, the Chinese and Mexicans are at fault for lost jobs. Who is to say that if things get really bad, a Likud-affiliated nut like a certain friend of Lindsey Graham’s might take advantage? And whether related or not, it just so happens that Israel is now being run by a bunch of Jabotinskites. Worrying, very worrying.

  61. elkern says:

    I lived in a US university town in 1969-70, and that place just reeked of half-baked marxism too. I thought I was a communist for a few weeks, until my almost-girlfriend discovered anarchism…
    “b” is a leftist, and god bless him for it. I’m glad there are still a few around. I found his website informative – if occasionally wrongheaded – and I miss it. I understood the angle, and could adjust for it. (b? got a new site yet?)
    I consider “marxian” analysis a useful explanatory tool – sometimes. But it’s painfully obvious that humans & societies often make choices which run counter to their obvious economic interests.
    Religion & race can be powerful forces; Israel is blessed/cursed with both in one package. India is too; why does it play out so differently there? Sheer size? (no chip-on-the-shoulder about religions/ethnicities which are dumber but bigger?)
    Or is it the acceptance of position which is built into Hindu? (you are what you’re born; patience is promoted).
    Sorry, I’m rambling.
    “War for oil” is a weak explanation of our (US) invasion of Iraq, but it is at least plausible – more than any of the evolving public explanations (WMD, 911, democracy, women’s rights, etc).
    Iraq was never a serious threat to the USA, and Iran will never be either. I don’t really think either was/is an “existential” threat to Israel, but I do think they were/are strategic competitors. I think getting caught nuking Iran would be suicidal for Israel. Persian Iran, like Turkey, should be a logical ally of Israel against the Arabs. Overtly burning Iran would be stupid; even getting us to pave it would be dumb.
    A rational Israel would want to “flip” Iran, not flatten it. Have they decided that’s impossible? Their bluster and ours can only make it less flippable (sp?).
    What bugs me is the feeling that Israel has determined that the USA is about used up, so they may as well get one more good shot out of us before we collapse. If it leads to WWIII, well OK, that would keep everybody distracted while they cleanse “Judea & Samaria”.
    God(s), I hope I’m wrong.

  62. jonst says:

    Interesting time for Obama to up the spotlight on first use of Nukes.

  63. LeaNder says:

    Sometimes the whole Israel – Iran issue feels like a huge diversionary tactic from these core matters:
    Ahead, ahead and never look back. It no doubt looks very dangerous again.
    Images from Iraq / Wikileaks:
    I remember well writing on Phil’s blog. Israel is safe as America’s partner.

  64. Patrick Lang says:

    Are you really this childish in your smug left wing post WW2 Germanness?
    Do you not understand that bad things happen in war no matter how much one seeks to avoid that?
    We should have left you to the Soviets. Ah, of course, we could not do that, we wanted your oil or Volkswagens or wurst, or… pl

  65. walrus says:

    “We should have left you to the Soviets.”
    The Soviets at one time had half of Germany…
    ..they gave it back.

  66. Patrick Lang says:

    Perhaps they showed good taste. pl

  67. Mark Gaughan says:

    Neil Richardson wrote:
    “If the primacy of US oil industry were the predominant factor in our Middle East policy process, I suspect the United States would’ve limited our relationship with Israel some time ago (e.g., Eisenhower).”
    Can someone tell me what the predominant factors in our Middle East policy are?

  68. Mark Gaughan says:

    “we wanted your oil or Volkswagens or wurst, or…”
    It was schnitzel, we wanted their schnitzel.

  69. Patrick Lang says:

    Me, too, especially the Holsteiner Schnitzel, and the women, Well, maybe not. pl

  70. Mark Gaughan says:

    Holsteiner is one of my favorites. Put it on top of some freshly made spaetzle. Have an ice cold beer with it. Life is grand.

  71. Neil Richardson says:

    “Can someone tell me what the predominant factors in our Middle East policy are?
    Posted by: Mark Gaughan | 06 April 2010 at 09:07 PM ”
    I won’t rehash what has been discussed here for years. The ME isn’t my area of expertise and I don’t think I can add to what has been posted here by others far more knowledgeable. However, the I am not convinced that the US oil industry dictates what used to be called the high policy in USG despite what took place shortly before 2003. I think there are ideological as well as geopolitical considerations that have been and will always dominate (e.g., the Cold War, post-imperialist considerations, or even what Col.Lang has called an “affair of the heart” namely the US-Israeli relationship). Many groups impact the US foreign policy process. Sometimes the interests of the American oil industry are same as that of the USG. Sometimes they’re not as it probably would’ve been easier for the former group had the US disavowed Israel as a client state in the past. As for the current process, I suspect the war against takfiri jihadis is the predominant factor right now.

  72. LeaNder says:

    Wonderful comment Colonel, “I smiled broadly” as we Germans would say.
    Do you not understand that bad things happen in war no matter how much one seeks to avoid that?
    I do, we have a big debate over here by now, it’s not that German soldiers are any better in the fog of war. How to tell who is the enemy and who friend, if they all look pretty similar and do not wear uniforms. …
    Look, as far as I am concerned, one of the things that bothered me about the ” smug left wing post WW2″ Germans was that contacts with GI’s were considered pretty similar to contact with whatever kind of “others” in Nazi times. Or at least, it felt like that. Some of them came straight out of Vietnam, which was soooo important after all, why was nobody interested in their experience. … But yes, it felt some of them were real human wrecks, while other GI’s simply wanted to escape the draft which was the sure road to Nam, so they thought. It’s long ago.
    The other thing that bothered me deeply was that art was reduced to “Kunst has to serve the people” cobbled with a rather limited agitprop vision among these circles. As the language of their diverse flyers was mainly rather crude. …
    And you are surely aware that wherever you were in 1969, Frankfurt?, Berlin?, other university town where still dormant. So your ’69 German experience may not be too representative. …
    My experience at Free University in Berlin (FU) in the early seventies was that the left leaders (I think especially they)and their sheep mainly wanted to gather with the same wisdom (Marx; Engels, Lenin) the largest amount of papers needed for their exams.* But, big but, I also met a few on the left that really studied hard and studied Marx in parallel private classes. Left wing politics felt too much of a pressure, a peculiar group dynamic were one HAD to belong. So I left.
    I didn’t like to surrender to the Zeitgeist then, but yes, my heart beats on the left.
    * Incidentially a Shakespearean prof here in Cologne, told me much, much later that this was his impression too and added quite a few interesting anecdotes from his perspective especially about the “leaders”.
    elkern, I like “b” too, but is it billmon?

  73. Patrick Lang says:

    “some of them were real human wrecks,”
    In 1969 when I was in German there were a lot of human wrecks among the drafted enlisted people in the ranks of the US Army, but few of them had been to VN. They just liked to tell Germans (especially girls) that they had been.
    Most of these guys were wrecks because American society was falling apart. Don’t kid yourself these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are not like that. pl

  74. fanto says:

    Colonel, I am wondering why did a lot of this thread involve Germany? What has Germany and their leftist ‘drall’ (‘spin’ for non german speakers)to do with Iran vs Iraq?

  75. confusedponderer says:

    greetings from a fellow Colognian.
    Let me tell you my favourite Sociologist joke: A sociologist goes to the supermarket. He buys a loaf of bread. He pays, and the lady at the counter wishes him a nice day. He stops and snaps at her: You only say that to make me come back!
    Long live monocausality.

  76. “these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are not like that”
    It may be that foreign observers are not up to date with the current younger generation here. My observation teaching in a civilian university and also at a military school is that today’s students have been impacted strongly by 911.
    There is much interest about the Middle East. There is openmindedness with respect to Arab and Islamic culture. There is deep concern about terrorism and violence in the world today.
    The young people at my military school are enthusiastic about military service and want to do a good job for their country. Many graduates and students in reserve units have been downrange; some have not returned alive.
    Many civilian students I teach have a strong interest in public service in various parts of our Federal government.
    This is NOT the 1960s/70s USA, IMO. 911 and many other factors make these quite different times.

  77. Maxtrue says:

    A few notes:
    1. How dirty are Israel’s low yield nukes? India and Pakistan have admitted these nukes (perhaps neutron bombs) are a strategic necessity given the proximity of their enemy. I mention this because there is quite a debate about how clean a nuke can be made. Some reports indicate little radioactive ejecta and no dangerous radiation within four days of ground strike. Of course a 20 ft tungsten rod dropped from an X-37 might have the same destructive effect in the .2 -.4 kiloton range. Armchair generalist ponders whether this would be a WMD.
    2. Obama appears to be moving more force into the Gulf accompanied by a German military ship.
    3. Does anyone take into account the strategic shift in the ME that will probably allow Israel to fly over the Saudis, or lead to a nuclear arms race should no one deter Iran?
    4. Do we really know the consequences of allowing a regime like Iran’s to have WMD materials (indexed signatures?), proxies, delivery systems (expanding every day) and a network that will provide plausible deniability?
    5. How many Dolphin subs has Germany delivered to Israel and haven’t they been allowed to transit the Suez as an Egyptian/Saudi signal to Iran?
    6. Colonel, I recently read a discussion ( ) you had in 2007 (where Iranian military power is belittled). Interesting predictions, don’t you think looking back? Do you think Obama is angling at a Grand Bargain, or given the mess, that such a move would draw too much fire from Republicans (except Paul), Israelis and Sunnis?
    7. The difficulty in seriously setting back Iranian nuclear facilities is that they are only part of the problem. Would you agree that Quds must be hit in order to topple the government?
    8. Why are so many comments here fairly pro-Left?
    As far as the trajectory of education, would you have to include this?

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