A deal with Iran, be it bad or just somewhat bad, cannot change the fact that the only way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is to attack it — as a last resort.
Just as the Allies did the unthinkable, so too can Israel – Photo: Reuters
An attack is doable.
The United States and the West do not want to attack.
“This nation is sick and tired of war,” U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sept. 10, when he addressed the nation on the situation in Syria. He was quoting a veteran of the U.S. armed forces. He hoped that by harping on this sentiment he could explain his sudden decision to seek congressional approval for a limited attack on Syria.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and other senior officers have leaked to the press that an attack on Iran would be dangerous and problematic and would not get the job done. At most, they warn, it would delay Iran’s nuclear program by a few years. This, they warned, was not worth the cost.
Israel has an entire gang of Dempseys of its own, including former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, former IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and their chorus of supporters in the press and in the halls of the Knesset. It cannot be done, they say. Israel cannot handle a mission of such magnitude all by itself, they warn. And besides, this is the world’s problem, have trust in the Americans, they plead.
Well, it appears that the U.S. cannot be trusted, and that there is no such thing as “it cannot be done.”
The 1982 Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands — which wrested control of the disputed territory from the U.K. in a mere few hours — had British officials deliberate among themselves what could be done to liberate the islands. After holding several sessions to discuss the unfolding situation, the U.S. Navy concluded that a British campaign 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) from home “would not be militarily feasible.” Even the U.K.’s defense secretary, the high command and the Royal Air Force were convinced that there was no viable military option. But then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was determined; she dispatched the Royal Navy to the southern hemisphere and it did the “impossible.”
No two historical contexts are exactly the same. But human beings have acted and behaved in very similar ways throughout history.
On June 5, 1967, the Israel Air Force launched Operation Moked, essentially neutralizing the threat posed by Arab air forces. It didn’t destroy everything and the Arabs still had some airplanes, but the mission’s goals — achieving air supremacy and removing the threat on Israel’s population centers — were accomplished.
History teaches us that bombing campaigns have both benefits and drawbacks. During World War II, the Allies bombed Nazi Germany for several straight years. Heroism abounded. But studies conducted after the war raised questions as to the air raids’ true efficacy. That said, there was one statistic that could not be refuted: The decision to focus the bombing on the German petroleum industry toward the end of the war proved to be decisive and precipitated Germany’s collapse on the battlefield. The Allied Powers conducted their raids with slow-moving, vulnerable aircraft manned by brave crews that flew directly into the anti-aircraft inferno. Among the famous sayings of that era was “on a wing and a prayer” — an eternal homage to those brave crewmen.
Today’s air forces have so much from which to pick and choose. Jets usually fire their munitions in “standoff,” meaning, they are safely out of the reach of the surface-to-air missile batteries. The precision-guided munitions, despite being fired from afar, can hit their intended target with an accuracy of a few meters, if not better than that. The aircraft have decoy flares, jamming devices, and stealth technology; they can fly in almost complete silence. PGMs are much more effective than iron bombs (the so-called dumb bombs). Sometimes, though, aircraft must carry a heavy payload.
Massive, penetrating bombs were developed as early as World War II. When such “earthquake bombs” hit the vicinity of a target — such as an underground facility used for the production or launch of missiles — it would often suffice. The intended building would suffer cracks in its walls and just crumble because of the shock waves. The Americans have such bombs, and their sophistication and precision has improved exponentially since the 1940s. Their numbers are not great; they lie in storage. They get dropped from Hercules transport aircraft or other cargo planes; it is difficult, but not impossible.
The Iranian nuclear program is not limited to a single installation. It is all over; some of it is concealed underground. This does not necessarily mean that all the facilities would have to be targeted. Just like the Allies focused on German fuel, the firepower should be directed primarily at the most crucial sites. A direct hit is also not a must. The centrifuges, for example, are extremely delicate. If the nearby bombs create fissures and send shock waves, wouldn’t they be rendered obsolete? And I haven’t even begun to talk about cyberwarfare capabilities, which add an entirely new dimension.
An attack would not end with a single sortie. Anyone who strikes Iran would have to commit to a protracted campaign. And of course, the attackers would have to counter Iran’s capacity to launch long-range surface-to-surface missiles. According to various estimates, it has hundreds of such projectiles.
They can be destroyed on the ground but also through Israel’s Arrow Weapon System — an anti-missile interceptor. Israel’s homefront may be hit — but the damage would be of the same scale as that inflicted by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War. It would be unpleasant, surely, but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be that bad.
What could be achieved through such an attack? A lot. Many things.
It took Iran almost 30 years to become a nuclear threshold state. Throughout most of this period it faced no sanctions and could import anything it desired. A meaningful attack on Iran’s nuclear program would reverse many years’ worth of progress.
What would the regional implications be? What would the Israel-U.S. relationship look like? It won’t be the apocalypse. Quite a few Arab states would breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of Iran losing its most prized bargaining chip.
The Iranian street would rally behind the regime, outraged over the attack; going back to the lessons of World War II — it is worth recalling that the bombing campaigns, however brutal, failed to shake the confidence of the people in their leaders, on both sides.
As for the Americans, it all depends on the ramifications. If the price of oil skyrockets and then nosedives, that won’t be too bad. If the world sees an economic meltdown, it won’t be pleasant, and many accusatory fingers would be pointed at us. But even Obama has stated time and again that “Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
If we are left with no choice, we will defend ourselves. True, it is much more convenient being an armchair strategist. It is also much simpler to take the easy way out by stating that “the mission is impossible,” or by trying to accuse Israel’s leaders of pointing an “unloaded gun.” The U.S. has awesome power that could be used for an air campaign. But it has not shown any willingness to tap its resources. The U.S.’s order of battle dwarfs that of Israel; but the quality of Israel’s forces matches or even exceeds that of Uncle Sam’s.
The capabilities exist; they have been drilled. It is just a matter of willingness, determination, leadership and above all — a deep conviction that the butcher’s knife is at our throats. We cannot trust anyone but ourselves.
Amos Regev is editor-in-chief of Israel Hayom.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=13245