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20 June 2008

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Andy

Here's some additional information and analysis:

1. Sean O'Connor's excellent open source google earth SAM database which includes Syria.

2. Cordesman attack option analysis (PDF).

3. MIT attack analysis options (PDF).

4. Francona's analysis.

Here's my brief take on it all: The options for attack are limited, the effects of an attack are limited and transitory, the effects of failure are very great, and Israel cannot attack without US acquiescence. These factors and others indicate to me that Israel will not attack Iran (and neither will the US).

Binh

If I were the Israelis, I'd put my money on Bush attacking because he wouldn't trust that Obama would do it.

One obvious question about the Israeli exercises: they simulated flying the distance to get to Iran's nuke facilities, but did they simulate flying back the same distance?

Also, even if one of the countries in question or the U.S. grant access to their airspace, the hairier issue is what happens if an Israeli pilot is captured by by the Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Turkish, Kuwaiti, or Saudi military? Will they end up like the Blackwater guys in Fallujah if they're captured by civilians?

If Israel tries to do this without significant U.S. help, it'll make Carter's helicopters in the Iranian desert look like a success.

londanium

There is no chance as far as I can see that Turkey will grant the Israelis overflight rights for any such purpose, and, I believe, they have made explicit statements to this end. This is unsurprising given the growing importance of Iran as a natural gas supplier and a "tactical" partner in combatting the PKK.

It's very unclear what the Israelis could offer Turkey by way of compensation, or for that matter, whether the Israelis ( or even the US ) could actually stump up the earnest monies.

What "real" Turkish interests are actually served by giving Israel permission to do this anyway? In the longer term, Iran, with a very large consumer market, substantial energy resources and an eye on cooperation with Turkey for energy transit arrangements to the Med/Europe, is going to be a much more important strategic partner than Israel can ever hope to be - doubly so given the failure to advance the EU accession agenda.

One of the key elements for any Israeli attack would be that Iran had no advance warning - this is a tough one under any circumstances, especially when flying over at least two third parties before reaching Iran and then a trip over a large mountain range to get to the target. Given that the IAF would be operating at the operational extremes, fancy flying to evade SAM's or Iranian fighters would likely result in fuel starvation issues. The Iranians only need to have a workable target access denial plan to make the whole thing unrealistic for the Israelis to attempt to execute absent substantial US assistance.

IIRC, the Daily Telegraph published a very similar story to this last year - going in to great detail about how the IAF was practising long-range bombing missions on Iran by flying across the Mediterranean to Gibraltar and back. The one thing these articles NEVER really explore are the political and diplomatic complications that surround securing covert access to third-party airspace from countries that for the most part have normalised relations with Iran, not with Israel.

b

It was a 'report' by Michael Gordon, the same guy who 'reported' with Judith Miller on aluminium tubes in Iraq.

I don't regard this report as true at all. The sources are 'American officials'. Clearly the Cheney gang wants to keep the pressure up and get the public prepared.

On the actual flight plans. The government of Turkey is unlikely to allow overflight. The 'deep state' in Turkey may allow it but that would be a coup against the government.

All the possible flight routes seem to be too long and with all the tankers needed there is too little the Israelis can put on each of too many targets. It would be a useless endevour and could have, for Israel, very bad consequences.

So I doubt that Israel would really do this. Olmert has experienced in Lebanon that relying on the Air Force can-do attitude can bring much trouble.

No - the issue is that this is coming from U.S. sources with their own agenda. Who are these people and where is their office for imformation operation?

Does Gates allow this within the Pentagon or is it within the NSC?

Curious

Israel does not have the capability to completely destroy Natanz. It's in the middle of Iran.

They might hit Busher easy, a coastal facility.

my thinking:

1. Israel is talking peace with Hamas and Syria (obviously they are reducing hostile front and want to deal with bombing Iran first)

2. The only possible route: Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq. With US bases in Kuwait as primary search and rescue point.

3. Israel is banking heavily that AIPAC and US public will pressure congress to push US into Iran war once they pull the trigger. That Israel will not fight alone. Even if they re the only one who starts it.

--------

how it will unfold.

1. Israel forcing their way through and bombing Busher (success), natanz (minor damage)

2. Iran has to react.(Iran has to decide to use the element of surprise and massive retaliation before US military destroy their primary offensive weapons, or waffling and play diplomatic game)

I think their best bet is "use it or lose it" opening. They gonna get bombed no matter what anyway.

-Once Israel jet cross into Iran's airspace. All of Israel airports are a fair target. (including civilian international airports)
- attack Israel refinery (no more oil for Iraq)
- Israel nuclear plant gone.
- Israel seaports are gone.
- All expensive, high tech difficult to replace industry are gone. (desalination, chip fabrication, telcom switches, data center, satellite stations, etc)
- All of Israel underseas fiber optics will be cut off.

-Kuwait. (refinary, oil terminal, ports) all gone within the first 2 days

-Hezbollah and Hamas will start attacking Israel. Syria declare war.

----------

After that It's Iraq ground war and persian gulf tanker war.

after few days of war, Iran will declare they have nuclear weapon and ready to use it...

Then everybody really has to think hard ...

Whatever it is. Israel is finish. Permanent pariah state. one war after another continuously.

zanzibar

This seems to be a whole lot of propaganda aimed at the lay public in the US and Europe. The real question is why this propaganda now? And why are the usual corporate media hacks running it? Thats what I'd like to understand.

The folks who understand these issues - military and intelligence officials - know that this is not really plausible. Dropping a few bombs after all this publicity?? To destroy hardened and widely dispersed Iranian nuclear and military installations will require a massive and sustained air campaign. It also assumes that all Iran's neighbors will readily acquiesce by looking the other way. And it also assumes that Iran and its surrogates will just sit around passively. The only country that has the capacity to run such an air campaign as Pat has pointed out in the past - the thousands of sorties - is the US. Yes, Cheney and Bush are nuts but can they really pull it off??

This exercise with a couple hundred aircraft is a joke. Its all just another round of propaganda aimed specifically at the public. Why? Who gains?

Duncan Kinder

While the various nation-states -- Israel, Iran, and the United States in this instance -- are becoming increasingly dysfunctional, other forces are therefore seeking to make sense of things.

Consider Iran and religious diplomacy, an interview with Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane, who advocates religious diplomacy.

During the course of this interview, Chane addresses the criticism that he is naive. Of course he's naive. Anything new is naive.

But as the nation-state grows increasingly dysfunctional, strange episodes such as those we now are discussing shall become more common. This shall induce initially naive responses such as Chann's, until they become sufficiently robust to correct matters.

Mad Dogs

The only party whose "overflight clearance" decisionmaking is really susceptible to the entreaties of the Israelis, is of course, you know who: US.

Ain't gonna be no one else who publicly and explicitly collaborates. Not Israel's best Islamic buddies Turkey or Jordan, nor the Sunni-Firsters, Saudi Arabia.

That said, with each of these flyover countries, a case can be made for a "faux blindness" occurring on ingress and egress to Iran.

In the case of all three, their dependence upon US or West-provided early-warning and radar air tracking systems provides a wink-wink, nod-nod alibi that the Israelis, also users of the very same US or West-provided early-warning and radar air tracking systems, were able to somehow "trick" these poor ol' boys' systems into ignoring these flocks of Israeli-looking birds flying back and forth.

"Plausible deniability" is often the mandatory figleaf that covers many a ME horsetrades.

While this "faux blindness" may occur on the part of the Islamic flyover states, make no mistake that any path to Iran targeting will require the explicit approval and connivance of the US.

No one in the entire world would ever believe otherwise, and even Junya and Deadeye in their most ignorant navel-musing fantasy moments, wouldn't be able to come up with a fitting fig leaf.

My SWAG on routes?

Ingress via Jordan and Iraq.

Egress via multiple routes including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and even Syria.

Refueling tanker racetracks have to be Iraq and Persian Gulf. Unlikely to be Turkey.

Odds on happening before November? 65 v 35 and rising.

Leila Abu-Saba

Bearing in mind Tom B's warning that this is all vapor,
I must ask:

Why are they so dumb?

Before the 2003 Iraq invasion I was *certain* that they wouldn't be so dumb as to invade. Now my only question is - what is wrong with them? It has been five years and we have yet to see any positive benefit from this sort of game.

Unless the news about Exxon, Shell, BP et al getting no-bid Iraq oil contracts is the looked-for positive benefit.

arbogast

I believe that it is categorically impossible that the NYT would participate in a piece of misinformation.

Think of the integrity of Judith Miller for example.

Patrick Lang

Mad Dogs

I think you are really kidding yourself about selective blindness on the part of the countries over flown.

This will be a major political event in the Islamic world. pl

Stephen Calhoun

Just a trio of amateur questions for any takers.

1. Isn't it the strike to preempt Iranian retaliation after a (very) limited attack that surely requires massive U.S. force assets?

2. And wouldn't such a U.S. strike have to be 'fueled and idling' once Israel's force was airborne?

3. Sunni interests vis a vis Shi'a Iran suggest what kinds of attitudes and assistance might be put in play?

arbogast

There is no chance as far as I can see that Turkey will grant the Israelis overflight rights for any such purpose, and, I believe, they have made explicit statements to this end.

Le Monde:

Des agents israéliens aident l'armée turque dans ses opérations au Kurdistan irakien

DES AGENTS de la firme Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI, travaillant pour la défense israélienne), chargés de mettre en oeuvre des drones (avions sans pilote), participent aux opérations militaires menées par la Turquie dans le nord de l'Irak, rapportent, jeudi 27 décembre, le Turkish Daily News et le quotidien israélien Haaretz.

La Turquie, plus proche allié de l'Etat juif au sein du monde musulman, est un gros client d'Israël en matière d'armement.

Sorry, Turkey is a key ally of Israel in the ME...the key ally.

WP

If this happens, how many ships will be on the bottom of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea and what kind?

Alex

The problem with these wonderful Israeli attack plans destined to bring the US into the war, as detailed by Curious above, is that I would be highly surprised if Iran retaliated against a lightish attack, other than defending their airspace. A basic principle of Iranian strategy must be to avoid provoking a heavy US attack campaign. Even if the nuclear facilities survive, which they may do, the Iranians want to avoid the deliberate targetting of civilian infrastructure which will certainly accompany such a campaign. We've seen it all before, in Serbia, Gaza, Lebanon.... Said to be collateral damage, but actually one of the main objectives.

Still this affair is a scare story, put out by the war faction in Washington, as b says. The real question is what is the aim of the story? The anti-war-on-Iran faction is also strong; if not, the bombs would have dropped on Iran long ago.

I suppose that the point of the story is to convince the anti-war faction that Israel is capable of playing its part.

I do think that the only way that Israel could succeed in bringing the US into the war would be by the deliberate sacrifice of considerable numbers of their pilots on the Iranian defences, as the Iranians are not likely to retaliate against Israel. The Iranians are far from stupid. All in all an unlikely scenario.

Walrus

You might like to read Spinwatch where they keep track of the amount of messages being sent:

http://www.spinwatch.org/content/view/5023/29/


Then there is the Washington Institute For Near East Policy. An AIPAC spinoff, that has produced a handy little 45 page report this month explaining how bombing Iran is really a good idea with only very minor consequences.

It's main theme being promoting the false choice argument: Either we bomb them or they get the bomb.

Even the title contains the false choice.

Download: "The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran" here:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC04.php?CID=292

Mad Dogs

"I think you are really kidding yourself about selective blindness on the part of the countries over flown.

This will be a major political event in the Islamic world. pl"

No Pat, I don't disagree with your assessment at all. The "political" impact will indeed be a major event that dwarfs previous major events in this troubled region.

My point is that should the Israelis choose to move, overflights are the least of their "military" concerns.

That is particularly true of both Jordan and Syria. Neither state poses an effectiven anti-air threat to Israel. And overflight through Iraq can and will only be done with US acquiescence.

My statement that certain ME countries would wink-wink, nod-nod and turn a blind eye to Israeli overflights was a bit much hyperbole, but I would point to the recent strike on Syria's BOE (Building On the Euphrates) and the Israeli's reported egress via Turkey as one of many instances where public condemnation by Turkey belied their good relations with Israel that occur more in private.

So while the "military" aspects of overflight are doable in the minds of the IDF planners, the "political" consequences are an entirely diffent kettle of fish.

How much of the guaranteed political condemnation by the leadership of the Islamic states will be paying homage to their own Arab/Islamic "street"? That is something that ME experts like yourself have a better feel for than I.

I will say that given the times and the increasingly anti-Western opinions held throughout the Islamic world, and much of that as a direct result of almost 8 years of this US Administration's disastrous ME policies and actions, I would share the opinion that little good and much that is bad can come from this.

mo

a few red flags there for sure. Reports by "US officials" stating that the Israelis "wanted us to know"? The Israelis carry out an exercise on this scale and these "officials" want us to believe that the US finds out by happenstance? And if they "wanted us to know" why aren't they announcing it?

The big bad wolf is threatening to blow the house down (again), but he just can't figure out if the house is made of straw, sticks or bricks and would prefer not to have to find out.

But lets just say they did want to. On the question of overflights Iraq would be the only stumbling block. As eager as the Jordanians or the Turks would be to grant it, the Israelis would simply only need to fly over Lebanon and Syria. Without permission? What would the 2 countries be able to do about it exactly?
Convincing the Iraqis is never going to happen so it will be a case of the US saying "No, you may not use Iraqi airspace, especially not between 6 and 9 pm local time when we switch off our radar and ground all flights"

Helena Cobban

Certain circles in the Bush administration have quite evidently been involved in helping the Israelis organize this large-scale exercise as reported by those ever-anonymous "Pentagon officials" to M. Gordon and quoted now in his report. Timing of these controlled leaks is interesting, no?

The US would be even more implicated in any launching by Israel of an act of war against Iran, because of the airspace issues discussed here and many other ways in which the US has helped Israel plan the attack.

How about Israel using planes and other weapons given it by Israel "for defensive purposes only."

The US, with our 160,000 sitting ducks in Iraq, would certainly suffer the consequences. See more analysis on this over at this Just World News post.

">this Just World News post.

FB Ali

Colonel Lang is right that this will be a major political event in the Islamic world. The discussion has focussed on repercussions in the Middle East. But the key domino is Pakistan.

If the US or Israel attack Iran, the violent reaction in Pakistan will immediately force the government (politicians, Musharraf, the military) to end cooperation with the US and NATO in Afghanistan, as well as the efforts it is making in containing the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal territories.

The implications for the war in Afghanistan and the jihadis' war on the US could be devastating. Cheney and Bush can ignore them, but is the US military that dumb? Or that scared?

Curious

There is no way Israel can just "sneak into Iran"


Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, the persian gulf are all covered by our air defense and radar. Israel would need "friend or foe" key to pass through.

They might go "Syria/turkey " route, since they have minor air defense capability. (Was the Syria bombing a trial run of northern route to Iran?)

Question, Can those IDF F16 go through the northern route and back without running out of fuel?

F-16 extended range here (without refueling, everything barely cover)
http://www.defense-update.com/products/f/f-16-fuel.htm

kao-hsien-chih

It seems almost certain that Israel cannot attack Iran without at minimum passive cooperation from United States. Should that occur, I suspect that both populace and governments in the ME (and elsewhere) might as well consider that an attack by United States anyways. I don't think Israelis would go for it...and knowing this, they would expect the U.S. to launch the attack itself. (and they may be fully justified in expecting such an attack)

Between Wars

Look to the route taken in 1981 when IAF bombed Osirik. That corridor is even more feasible today with pro-US-Israel nations installed. Anyone have that flight path handy for review?

Between Wars

Covert NATO support will undergird US attack. After the fake false flag Hezbollah attack the zio-media has started warning of- Israel's ally the US needs no further justification. They are already ideally placed on all sides of Iran in Iraq, Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and the Gulf. All the carriers and needed operational assets are in place. US navy and air force can shoot from right next door. Israel's dual national citizens can fly and command American hardware already in place or have US do so.

Marcus

Just another desperate chest pump from the impotent twins, the US and Israel, and their conventional warfare.

Both are losing the propaganda war and both are being bled by rag-tag (fourth generation?) militias. Pathetic really, where's the imagination, where's the strategic vision?

Like the American economy (debt growing at three times the rate of production) sustainability is the operative word, and outside of a massive genocidal nuclear attack both systems are bankrupt.

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