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20 June 2008

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TomB

FB Ali wrote:

"But the key domino is Pakistan...."

I think Ali touches on a helluva point here that's worried me, even if perhaps he raises it in a different, narrower context that may or may not be specifically correct.

That is, in saying that Pakistan is kind of *the* issue that should be considered vis a vis a strike on Iran he might be right or he might be wrong.

But it has struck me that anyone thinking carefully about the entire Middle East and its most likely potential to cause really really huge undeniable problems for the U.S. might well regard Pakistan as a far more worrisome place than Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, and perhaps more worrisome than all of them rolled together. (Regardless of—but not ignoring either—what action is taken or not against Iran.)

After all Pakistan already has the bomb, and delivery systems, and it seems that the extremism of the early Iranian revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah has burnt itself down to at least a signficant degree. And certainly there seems to be strong circles there who are in favor of stability and etc. So at least as it's presently constituted, one might not like the idea of an Iran with nukes but I don't know that if it came to pass anyone should feel that an apocalypse was necessarily imminent either.

On the other hand though I don't know if that wouldn't be the case if Musharaff was overthrown and radical Islamists took over in Pakistan.

Firstly, and almost certainly, it would of course seem to be nothing for such Paki radicals to immediately throw open their gates to encouraging and supporting their Northwestern Frontier brethren to go over to Afghanistan or Iraq to fight like hell and etc.

But even more alarmingly of course, turning over bomb technology to al Queda or whomever might well sound just dandy to 'em (with A.Q. Khan handy to give 'em some help of course), and a fight with India over Kashmir, even a nuke fight, might not faze those kinds of folks one bit.

(And then of course even before any of that actually happened the U.S would simply have to consider taking some action to at least deny the Paki nukes to its new rulers, and certainly India would have to consider some preemptive action as well, either of which would no doubt set the moslem world ablaze.)

Not only that, but moving then from the consequence side of the equation to the risk-possibility side, look at the chances: Just how many assassination attempts has M. survived, many of which seem to have been inside-job attempts involving his own security and perhaps military people? And regardless of that isn't he just hanging on by a thread politically now anyway? With none of his challengers seeming to me at least to be promising to be more of an obstacle to the Fundies over there than he has been?

I.e., for all the talk of Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Lebanon and the Saudis and Israel and etc., especially given the overheated rhetoric about how genuine a U.S. problem they really are, to me maybe the *really* Big Lebowski to constantly keep in mind isn't any of them at all.

Cheers

GSD

The full might and fury of the vaunted Israeli air force was unable to destroy Hezbollah's missile capabilities and was unable to decapitate their leadership. That was all next door to them in Lebanon.

It seems sure to me this is a nuke plant too far.

Still, it seems the lunatic fringers that are running America may want to play one last hand of poker before the casino closes.

-GSD

londanium

Arbogast

I'm well aware that Israel and Turkey have good mil-to-mil relations, but an article about drone cooperation for TURKISH operations in Iraq is not the same thing as effectively declaring war on your second largest natural gas supplier via aiding and abetting a third party to bomb a neighbour that you have normalised diplo-political-commercial relations with.

One of the legacies of Turkey as a NATO frontline state in the cold war is that they have a decent airforce and air-defense network, so selective blindness arguments regarding violation of airspace aren't applicable in this instance. I'd also note that whilst the US is a key strategic ally, this didn't prevent Turkey turfing the US out of non-Nato bases in the 1970's, or denying the use of Turkish territory for the invasion of Iraq.

Turkey has multi-dimensional interests that are quite capable of encompassing a military supply relationship with Israel, tactical military cooperation with Iran in specific areas, and a long-term strategic energy relationship with Iran; for Turkey, as with most states, it's not an either-or zero-sum game, with the Turks playing the role of happy-smiling passive instruments in third-party games.

The key issue with overflights is not whether a country ( Syria, Jordan, Saudi, Iraq ) can prevent it per se, but whether the Iranians get sufficient advance warning ( ie 30 minutes ) to turn the whole shebang into a fuel starvation nightmare for the IAF - trying to dodge interceptors or evade SAM's on the way to/from the target involves killer fuel-burns, especially when you're already operating at the extremes; if you haven't already secured blind-eye cooperation in advance, and the Iranians get a break, then you run the risk of either a seriously humiliating abort, or, worst case, you're sending your pilots into a trap.

What never gets reported are the scenario-planning assumptions, and the IAF simulations where everything goes tits-up -which is surprising given the fantastically large number of leaks from within the Israeli military establishment about how they're gonna do Iran if....

Clifford Kiracofe

1. "Downed pilots"?

Presumably locals would execute them on the spot and we will see grisly body part pictures gratis Al Jezeera.

2. Iran is not a banana republic. They would have a range of responses, particularly heavily on the asymmetric side, that could be undertaken over a period of time at places around the world of their own choosing. Is the US mainland going to escape asymmetric responses? And what about our deployment in Iraq..tripwire/sacrifice for a larger conflagration?

3. Such an Israeli-American strike would add to the already catastrophic mess created in the area. The consequences of this, economic in particular, will start to cause more pain in the US. It is perhaps logical to assume that the attitude of non Christian Zionist gentiles toward AIPAC, and the American Jewish community generally, will harden adversely. This has happened in the past in a number of settings with a range of consequences.

4. The Iran "Cyrus" option for Israeli strategists against the Arab world recedes further decades into the future. By that time anyways, without a mass expulsion of Israeli Palestinians, Israel will be a majority Palestinian state in demographic terms. What "Jewish" state then?

5. While the "deep state" in Turkey may be wedded to Israel for various esoteric reasons, is public opinion militantly pro-Israel? Perhaps not, perhaps the opposite.

Kieran

Keeping in mind that the real purpose of an Israeli strike would not be to shut down the Iranian nuclear program but to bring the US and the West into deeper confrontation with Iran and lock the US into Iraq... I can see a limited military operation against a few key targets 'succeeding' in terms of the political repercussions.

Something I have not seen mentioned in the discussion of all these strike options and overflight issues (the Jordan/Iraq route sounds most feasible, and I'm optimistic about the abilities of the parties concerned to fudge the matter) are Israel's Dolphin-class submarines. These can apparently carry as many as 16 land-attack Harpoons or some Israeli variant each. If the objective is a symbolic 'responsible' strike on one or two targets such as Bushsher 'as a warning to the Iranians of the consequences of continuing their nuclear program', is it possible that a couple of Dolphins in the Gulf would suffice or heavily contribute?

londanium

Kieran

Considering that the Dolphin fleet home port is Haifa, this might be rather awkward - transiting into the Red Sea via the Suez Canal would be somewhat public, and the long-route round Africa would take the subs past their known endurance limits without a logistics/basing arrangement on the way.

There are "stories" about an Israeli sub-launched 1500km missile test in the Indian Ocean, but it's impossible to determine whether said stories are disinformation or not. My money is on disinformation.

More generally, Bushehr is not a critical target in any putative strike - and the downside of attempting to hit it might be the suspension of discounted Russian oil deliveries that Israel depends on, especially if there are Russian casualties.

Of course, it should be mentioned that any Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will likely result in Iran's derogation from the NNPT, and more broadly, will kill the non-proliferation regime as it currently stands. I very much doubt that this is a palatable outcome to Western countries - and that even includes the US.

Carl

How about this as a possibility: The real Israeli plan is not to strike the Iranian nuclear facilities unilateraly, but to create the conditions by which it can goad the US into doing it. Afterall, it certainly seems that a 900 km helicopter SAR mission from Israel to somewhere near Tehran is a bit too outlandish to be seriously considered. Helicopters fly slow and would have to be accompanied by C-130 tankers. As the Iraqis proved in the early days of the US invasion in 2003, all you need to knock down helicopters is lots of well coordinated lead.

Curious

6 land-attack Harpoons or some Israeli variant each.
Posted by: Kieran | 21 June 2008 at 11:14 AM

They are short range weapon (~150m) Not very accurate either.

So Iran can then definitely track the attacking submarine. (Close down persian gulf and start scanning the entire area) Sacrificing a nuclear reactor building is well worth it. Israel has no submarine building capability.

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/agm-84.htm

jonst

Israel does not have to "sneak into Iran". It only, in theory, has to 'sneak into Iraq', perhaps American bases in Kurdistan. From there it can sneak into Iran. And back. Don't get me wrong...I think it will be a major disaster for the West. But that is the way I suspect it will go. Plausible deniability (all things relative) built in.

eakens

I suspect Israel won't do anything. They generally do what they don't say, and don't do what they say.

Getting the US into a confrontation with iran is a different story, however.

And I agree the unknowns in any military strike would be shiite groups across the ME, plus Pakistan. I would also include Russia in the group of "unknowns", though I am not implying they would get involved in a direct military confrontation.

FB Ali

TomB

I don't think an Islamist takeover in Pakistan is likely under present conditions (though it cannot be ruled out completely; their infiltration into the military is an unknown factor).

However, if anti-US public sentiment (inflamed by an attack on Iran, or some such aggravation) were to force the government to stop aiding the US/NATO war in Afghanistan, and stop operations against al-Qaeda, this whole area (Afghanistan and the tribal territories) would become a formidable jihadi base. Then Pakistan, and its nuclear weapons, would be at serious risk. To say nothing of the attacks that would be launched from this base against the US and Europe.

Dana Jones

Israel really only has three routes it can take into Iran: (open Google Maps in a tab so you can switch back & forth)
The Northern one thru Turkey, then down thru the Northern tip of Iraq, then thru a LOT of Iranian airspace. This is the longest and with a high risk of detection too.
The Southern one thru Jordan, then a LOT of S.A. airspace (which I do not think the Saudis would grant permission to).
In any case I think the risk of someone tipping off the Iranians is likely, they are talking of over 100 planes here.
The Middle one thru Jordan and Iraq.
Going thru Iraq, how do the Iranians tell the difference between U.S. F-16's & IDF F-16's coming out of Iraqi airspace? And would it matter when they start shooting back?
After the bombs fall, what to do if a number of IDF F-16's are shot down in Iran? The pilots will be a grand prize in any Iranian press show. I don't see the IDF planes returning without a stopover in Iraq at U.S. airbases, which means that we will be willing accomplices.
Personally, I don't see such an operation happening without U.S. air suppression of Iranian air defenses in the first place, in which case we might as well do the whole sheebang and do all the other bombing as well.
Israel dreams of another Osirik (sp?) strike, but this isn't the '80's, and it isn't Iraq, Iran has some pretty good air defenses, and all they really have to do is be watchfull, detect the IDF planes and force an aborted mission.
Someone above mentioned how this might just be Israel trying to pressure Bush into doing the job for them anyway, and they may well be right. I have a bad feeling that Georgie may do their bidding though and it will turn out to be a real mess with the U.S. fully involved in continuing air strikes against Iran, and Iran doing everything they can to shut down Gulf oil shipping.
You think gas & oil are expensive now, just wait.

Curious

AIPAC is busy pushing Resolutio. 362 calling for naval blockade.

so far we have:

1. July cheap oil
2. Israel talking peace to Hamas/Syria
3. Aircraft military exercise
4. Olmert trying to fight "corruption charge" (aka. State dept. change on Isrel)

I guess they have to pull that "heart attack" again.


http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/21/144412/857/181/539848

Over the last three weeks 77 House Democrats and 92 Republicans have agreed to cosponsor a new resolution against Iran that demands that President Bush "initiate an international effort" to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on Iran to prevent it from importing gasoline and to inspect all cargo entering or leaving Iran.

Such a blockade imposed without United Nations authority (which the resolution does not call for) would be widely construed as an act of war. Some congressional sources say the House could vote on the resolution, H.Con.Res. 362, as early as next week.

In late May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly urged the United States to impose a blockade on Iran. During a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Jersusalem, Olmert said economic sanctions have "exhausted themselves" and called a blockade a "good possibility."

William R. Cumming

Iran will look like a completely irrelevant issue after Saudi oil conference this weekend and OPEC actions to deter oil future speculators. Much of this triggered by US oil companies getting no-bid contracts in Iraq. Iraqi will void at first opportunity if signed and hold Iraqi signers fully accountable. Connect the dots everywhere but in US foreign policy circles. Executive Branch only has oil information furnished voluntarily which is almost nil. Interestingly, possibilty of full-tilt draw down of SPR in next 180 days to avoid domestic market collapse.

Jose

Col. Lang is better informed on the Tanker Wars phase of the Iran-Iraq war than I am but an attack on Iran by anyone will result in total chaos in the Persian Gulf.

IMHO, the U.S. will not allow anybody to attack Iran because it will cause a Global Depression when the price of oil hits unbearable prices.

Arun

Congress is set to vote next week, we are told, on House Resolution 362, which has 169 co-sponsors. The corresponding Senate resolution 580 has 26 co-sponsors.

Links can be found from here:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/21/144412/857/181/539848

The House resolution 362 asks the President to "initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program;".

I believe such an embargo is an act of war.

I do not know if the resolution is binding on the President; but he will be, by end of next week, free to start his next war.

anna missed

Something tells me this whole thing is just a lame attempt to sell somebody a bug infested SOFA.

condfusedponderer

Jose,
in AIPAC/ WINEP land your concerns are irrelevant.

According to the masterpiece "The Last Resort - Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran" by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt from WINEP, previously linked, the economic price is worth the benefits gained (all emphases mine):

To be sure, in a tight world oil market, attacking Iran’s oil infrastructure carries an obvious risk of causing world oil prices to soar and hurting consumers in the United States and other oil-importing countries. That result, however, need not be the case if sufficient excess capacity existed in countries ready to increase output to compensate for the loss of Iran’s exports. Moreover, if the choice is between higher oil prices and a Middle East with several nuclear powers, higher oil prices and reduced economic growth are not clearly the greater evil.
Assertions, false dual choice. What if it is not, as it apparently is? But of course, it is all about the dire threat from Iran, not about, say, regime change. How could I doubt their sincerity.

Also, in to the authors what limited strike means depends on what you define limited as:

Imposing Costs by Striking Iran’s Infrastructure
(...)
Strikes that flatten its nuclear infrastructure could have a demoralizing effect, and could influence Tehran’s assessment of the cost of rebuilding. But the most effective strikes may not necessarily be against nuclear facilities. Iran is extraordinarily vulnerable to attacks on its oil export infrastructure.
Practically, they cheerfully prescribe nothing less than a campaign:
In sum, there may be no optimal moment to strike at Iran’s nuclear infrastructure; rather, a successful policy of prevention could require successive military strikes against a number of targets, in tandem with a variety of non-military measures, carried out over an extended period of time.

With an interesting point on the legitimacy of the strike:

Force can only be effective if its legitimacy is widely acknowledged. Central to its success must be a considerable measure of acceptance - by the American public, by key U.S. allies, by the international community at large, and even by important political currents inside Iran. These key publics must believe that the Islamic Republic is refusing reasonable diplomatic proposals; that no good prospects exist for stopping Iran’s nuclear program short of military force; and that a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable threat to its people, the region, and international peace and stability - if not the global non-proliferation regime.
I read that as a slip of the tongue.

condfusedponderer

PS: The remark by the authors on the necessity of making the others believe in the case against Iran suggests to me that the so-called diplomatic effort is to the authors in fact nothing more than the PR required to sell their product to a global audience.

That means, in their militaristic view of foreign policy, diplomacy is a mere enabler for military action, and not an alternate path.

Between Wars

Please see my commment of Jun 20 at 11:44pm and see the following:

'Olmert met with Osirak attack planner'

Jun. 22, 2008
THE JERUSALEM POST

The same day that the New York Times broke a story about what it claimed was a massive Israeli air force drill meant to simulate an attack against nuclear installations in Iran, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Colonel (res.) Aviam Sela, who is said to have been the architect behind Israel's attack against Iraq's nuclear reactor, Ma'ariv reported on Sunday.

According to the report, while government officials confirmed to the paper that Sela and Olmert met on Friday at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, they downplayed the importance of the meeting.

The paper reported that Sela was the brains behind "Operation Opera," which when carried out in 1981 resulted in the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. The report claimed that Sela was considered one of the foremost authorities on in-flight refueling for warplanes, and was even tapped to become the commander of the air force, but such plans were scuttled due to his involvement in the Jonathan Pollard affair.

The report speculates that Olmert invited Sela to the meeting to hear from the colonel his thoughts about the chances that Israel would succeed in attacking Iran following the report of the large-scale IAF military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that Israel carried out a major military drill over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June that US sources say was apparently a rehearsal for a potential attack on Iran's nuclear sites. According to the report, more than 100 IAF F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in the exercise

AnonAF

I see but one reference to Olmert, and it concerns his ability to depend on the Air Force.

What incentives might he have - or the troubled Kadima party have - to manufacture a crisis? If this is saber-rattling, *what* purposes does it serve? *Whose* purposes does it serve? Forget about actors as broad as "Israel." Does it serve the interests of key decision-makers within Israel - e.g., a crisis-ridden prime minister, an upstart centrist party?

condfusedponderer

AnonAF,
I am by no means an expert and this is just my best gut feeling: I get the impression that the Israeli sabre rattering serves the purpose of aiding the general casus belli that is being build by the proponents of such a plan in the US.

I don't believe the Israelis will do it themselves - they too know that their capabilities are limited and that there will be a massive backlash if they join in. I don't really buy the possibility of a concerted Joint US-Israeli strike either.

It is probably rather so that the Israelis, by planning so publicly, support the US case, while gaining some know how in the process that they can sell to the US, underlining their apparent usefulness as a partner.

In the end they might well get their war for free, and thanks to their aid, will be able to ask for some more.

XFSO

Shouldn't we take the US election cycle into account? Charlie Black has acknowledged the importance of a terrorist attack to the McCain candidacy. While our rulers might allow something to slip thru their fingers (or even manufacture an incident), doesn't another overseas escapade make more sense, given their track record?

Patrick Lang

Rick

The Iraq reactor strike 30 years ago would be child's play compared to this. It was made against one above ground building. The route was over Jordan and into the Baghdad area.

This would be much farther, against a massive complex of hardened and underground structures and is likely to be a one way trip for many. pl

David Habakkuk

Rick:

You estimate the Israeli nuclear arsenal at "past 400 & counting".

You then suggest "theres only a small time frame left to destroy Irans nuclear programme before its used on Tel-Aviv."

Are you suggesting that the Iranians are not only on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability, but of acquiring one sufficient to enable them to calculate that they can effectively neutralise an arsenal of 400+ nuclear weapons?

Or are you suggesting that the Iranian leadership are suicidal fanatics?

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