Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran--Or Not

English Language Israeli news sources are abuzz over comments from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s president Elbaradei--who is about to step down--that for Israel to attack Iran would be "utterly insane."

A recent report released by a US based think tank explaining how such an attack might work certainly does make any attack on Iran sound like it comes out of an ambitious Tom Clancy novel. It involves overflights of hostile countries, mid-air refueling over some of these same places, striking multiple targets, scrambling the radars of even friendly states, striking targets buried deep underground with multiple, super sized bombs, fighter planes for escort purposes against Iranian defenses and a whole lot of other high tech military daring-do. It also looks at the possibility of attacking with long range missiles and not fighter planes. The conclusion of the report, however, is that the strike is possible but may not succeed and could result in losses to the strike force and retaliatory strikes both directly, and from proxies.

Reading about reports such as this one, it's hard to know what Israeli Military intelligence, or the Mossad or the CIA may know this is not privy to civilian experts. One would imagine that the world's spy agencies know more than most think tanks do and that there's yet a trick or two up their sleeves. On the other hand, one must admit that a strike on Iran does look like a serious gamble.

In the meantime, however, Israel has been asked by the US to tone down its tough talk on Iran with the premise that this sort of war of words pushes Iran into a corner and encourages their development of a bomb. Indeed, this was one of the purposes of a recent "secret" trip made by CIA officials to Israel. This may well be a valid argument. Nobody responds well to threats, but there needs to be a balance between explaining the consequences of a course of action which results in a different course of action, and threats which back one into a position where pride and a desire to assert one's independence result in a continuation of that course of action, even out of defiance.

Based on previous rhetoric from Iranian leadership and what is accepted not only in the western world but by many Arab governments as well to be an Iranian drive to produce nuclear weapons Israel is justified in fearing an existential threat from Iran. Many Arab regimes also fear a shift in hegemony in the region should Iran become a nuclear power. This means that there is more global support for bringing Iranian nuclear aspirations to a halt.

So far, sanctions on Iran have not been very helpful. Diplomacy has and is sort of being tried, but it's unsure that will get anywhere either. The military option is very risky business, so what's left?

Good question.

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