In just a few weeks Barack Obama becomes President and as the president-elect’s anti-Israel stance becomes more obvious every day, Israel realizes if something is going to be done about Iran’s nukes it must be done before inauguration day….Or does it.
If Israel attacks now it will be done without the US’s help and the IAF would need to complete the mission via a dangerous 5,500 mile route with in air refueling. If they wait until Obama takes office they will have to do it without the US’s help and the IAF would need to complete the mission via a dangerous 5,500 mile route with in air refueling. So what is the deciding factor? Israel has to figure out when Iran will be able to purify their Uranium from the present 3% to 90%:
If they have to, you betcha. But a couple of problems inherent in a positive response to that query is the question of what would be meant by “have to” and the notion that the Israeli Air Force has the ways and means of being successful in any such attack in the first place.
War monger George Bush has apparently rebuffed the Israelis when the Jewish state asked for American cooperation in attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities last May. I frankly don’t understand how that’s possible, considering that Seymour Hersh and many others on the Left assured us that Bloodthirsty Bush was itching for war with Iran in order to bring about the end times and fulfill the prophecies of the Bible.
Over the last four years, Lefties like Hersh have predicted a U.S. strike on Iran (or our tacit approval of one by the IDF) so many times I’ve lost count. Is there a faction in the Administration that would love to see us level Nantanz and a few other installations? Absolutely. But there has always been opposition to this move by the real politik crowd who, since getting burned by going along with the neocons on invading Iraq, have asserted themselves on Iran and it appears they have convinced Bush that only in the most dire, last resort circumstances should such a shattering attack be approved.
We won’t go into the pros and cons now. I summarized most of them here if you wish to revisit the familiar. Suffice it to say that attacking Iran would be a monumentally bad idea, a disaster for Iraq, a disaster for the region, and a potential disaster for the world. The only possible justification would be if Iran is on the cusp of constructing a bomb and would have perfected a delivery system – something they are at least a year away from the former and several years away from the latter.
The news reports about Iran having enough nuclear material to build a bomb have been incredibly misleading. There is no evidence that Iran has any facilities to enrich their uranium from its current 3-5% to the 85-90% necessary to make it go boom. The problem is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Even IAEA lickspittle ElBaradei is worried that he and his group of nuclear enablers cannot guarantee Iran doesn’t have some secret installation that can complete the enrichment process and build a bomb. What is known, however, is that they are not doing it at Nantanz where the centrifuges keep whirling merrily away, creating the raw material of Israel’s destruction.
This, of course, is the $64,000 question and is the reason Israel is so nervous. Another unknown is how far along Iran is in perfecting their plutonium manufacturing process at Arak where there is a heavy water facility. The IAEA inspected the plant last year while it was under construction. Once operational, that plant alone could produce enough plutonium to make five or six bombs a year – if the Iranians could master the extraordinarily difficult task of fashioning a weapon from the more efficient nuclear material. Most experts say the Iranians are at least five years away from getting the Arak facility up and running and another few years from being capable of building a plutonium device.
But the Israelis are looking at the 250 pounds of enriched uranium sitting in storage knowing it would take just a few months to continue the enrichment process and make Iranian dreams of a bomb come true. That’s if the Iranians had a mind to do so and if they had a facility or facilities that they could keep the prying eyes of the world from discovering what they are doing.
As for the former, the only people willing to debate the “no” position are either still in diapers or are liberals. The latter supposition is a lot trickier and depends on both what we know from history and what we can assume from Iranian statements on their nuclear program.
As for history, we can consider ourselves lucky we can prove the Iranians have a nuclear program at all. We only uncovered its scope when we unmasked the nuclear black market being run by A.Q. Kahn, the “Father of the Pakistani Bomb” who not only supplied hardware to states wanting to get their hands on nuclear weapons but also expertise in the form of rogue nuclear scientists who were assisting several states including North Korea, Iran, and Libya.
What makes Khan’s assistance so significant is that he was not helping these countries to build power reactors or submarine power plants or even really cool experimental stuff that might unlock the nature of the universe. He was helping these nations for one reason and one reason only – to build an atomic weapon. Much of the equipment he loaned or sold these nations – not to mention apparently selling the actual design for a bomb – reveals an unmistakable desire on the part of these nations to acquire nuclear weaponry.
As for statements by the current regime in Iran speaking to their intent; while mouthing nonsense about using their knowledge and technology for “peaceful purposes” they have, out of the other side of their mouths, been a little more forthcoming in their desire to “wipe Israel off the map” and make Iran “a great power.”
Put one and one together and you are left with the unmistakable impression that Iran wants to build a nuke. It would be the height of folly and wishful thinking to believe anything else.
That said, whither Israel? If an Obama Administration will not authorize an Israeli strike or go after Iran itself, where does that leave the Jewish state?
From the Jerusalem Post:
The IDF is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the United States, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said Israel is preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.
“It is always better to coordinate,” one top Defense Ministry official explained last week. “But we are also preparing options that do not include coordination.”
Israeli officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without receiving codes from the US Air Force, which controls Iraqi airspace. Israel also asked for the codes in 1991 during the First Gulf War, but the US refused.
Several news reports have claimed recently that US President George W. Bush has refused to give Israel a green light for an attack on Iranian facilities. One such report, published in September in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, claimed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requested a green light to attack Iran in May but was refused by Bush.
Just looking at a map will show the difficulties for Israel in attacking Iran without permission to traverse Iraqi airspace. The IAF would have to fly over the entire length of Syria and part of Turkey in order to reach Iranian territory. From there, it is another long leg to hit the main Iranian nuke facilities in central and southwestern Iran. The Israeli air force has the capability but the mission would be incredibly dangerous – virtually a one way trip considering everything. That is – unless the U.S. gave the IDF permission to fly over Iraq.
(Note: An e-mailer points me to Ed Morrissey’s piece positing another route for the IAF to Iran – down the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden around the Arabian Sea and finally flying into the Persian Gulf. That means going around the entire Arabian peninsula just to get to the Gulf where there are two good targets; Bushehr and Shiraz – the latter is a missile testing site while the former is the site of a Russian built light water reactor.
But this would really be stretching Israeli refueling capability not to mention that it is a 5,500 mile round trip. That much flying time is almost guaranteed to alert Iran to the sortie. As for any other route – flying over Jordan and Saudi Arabia for instance – both nations possess sophisticated air defenses courtesy of Uncle Sam. Without U.S. approval, it is doubtful the Saudis would appreciate so many Israeli planes flying over their territory.)
Would Obama consent? During the campaign he made the right noises about not taking the military option “off the table” on Iran but realistically, I don’t think an American attack or a green light to Israel are in the cards when he takes office. The downside to an attack is so bad that perhaps the prospect of Iran with nukes wouldn’t look as bad – at least, that will probably be the advice he will be getting from everyone but Hillary.
So the question of whether Israel feels it will “have to” bomb Iran will be extraordinarily difficult for the Livni government to puzzle out. Given all that we know about the difficulties facing Israel in carrying out such an attack, the prospects for limited success, the blowback in the form of Hamas and Hezbollah increased terrorism, and the certainty that it would further isolate the Jewish state and perhaps even drive a wedge between them and their #1 ally – all of this would lead one to believe that Israel has no intention of attacking Iran and that these leaks are, for all intents and purposes, just for show.
At least that’s the impression one gets from this piece in ToL:
However defence officials played down the reports today, telling The Times that an attack by Israeli forces alone would probably fail to take out all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, which experts say are scattered across several sites, some deep underground.
“That would leave us open to a nuclear attack from Iran’s remaining weapons stock. Israel would likely need the support, the backing, of forces from a Western ally to successfully carry out the operation,” he said.
Except the existential threat to Israel may be so great that they may feel compelled to attack anyway – alone if absolutely necessary.
They and the rest of the world have time, but not much. Postulating that Iran has someplace they could enrich the uranium they already have to bomb making levels, it would still take many months at their current level of technology to accomplish the task. Unanswered questions are whether they have a workable bomb design and more importantly, have been able to configure the bomb to fit atop one of their Shahab missiles. But I doubt whether Israel is going to wait to discover the answers. More likely, once the Iranian nuclear program has passed a certain point of no return, they will consider acting.
Right now, Israeli intelligence pegs that point as the end of 2009.