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04 February 2009

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doug

Since Israel simply does not have the wherewithall, absent Bernie Morris's "solution," to decisively confront Iran, the extant question is how they leverage other assets having that capability.

Bill

Hmm. "...deter foreign aggression against Iraq that..."

What happens when the US decided that the Israeli warplanes are not "aggression against Iraq" but self-defense against Iran? If the actual treaty contains as much wiggle room as the statement of principles, then I think Muslims have a right to be skeptical.

kao_hsien_chih

There is a disturbing precedence: USS Liberty. I don't believe in most of the conspiracy stories, but it does seem indisputable that the wave of fighters that were scrambled from the nearby carrier (USS America, I think) at the first report of the attack from the Liberty were called back at the order from the highest quarters. I suspect that the prospect of an open, deliberate combat between US and Israeli forces (let's forget the attack on the Liberty itself for the minute) and its political consequences, even in absence of a real "conspiracy," no doubt posed enough headache that whoever that gave the order decided not to take chances. If the Israelis were to unilaterally force their aircraft across Iraq, with or without prior announcement, will the US air defenses be allowed to engage them and shoot them down? Can anyone withstand the political blowback from something like that?

Mark Logan

Heck of a good (and hair raising) question. Would Israel try to bull past us?

I certainly hope we are crystal clear with Israel on this. Our interest is in a stabil Iraq. Iran can help
with that. We have to be very clear what we will and will not allow to happen.

PS:
Do NOT send April Glaspie!


Yohan

Would such an agreement require the US to interdict Turkish sorties against the PKK above sovereign Iraqi territory?

Another question: is there any unclassified info about Israel's submarine-based missile capabilities? I've read that they have the ability to launch nuclear-armed missiles from subs. Rather than flying F-16s(or whatever) accross Jordan, Iraq, and half of Iran, would cruise missiles launched from subs in the Persian Gulf be a more feasible avenue of attack? And/or sub-based commandos against coastal facilities such as Bushehr? Pure speculation on my part, I claim no expertise in any of these areas.

Allen Thomson


> Would Israel try to bull past us?

In that case, isn't the question simply whether the US would shoot down Israeli planes traversing Iraq on the way to and/or from Iran? What other choice would the US have?

What would happen if the US did? What would happen if the US didn't?

Matthew

Everyday, I have the same dream: I turn on the news and watch PM Bibi explaining to the Knesset why the USAF shot down 50 Israeli planes over Iraq. President Obama cannot be reached for comment because he's shooting hoops. VP Biden is, to use his word, "literally" glum.

Serving Patriot

Yohan,

Before the submarine cruise missile fantasy can be achieved, the submarine actually has to get to the Arabian Sea or Persian Gulf.

Any ideas how that might happen without anyone noticing? Covert transit of the Suez Canal is out. And it is one heck of a long way around the Cape of Good Hope and back! Especially for an air-breathing submarine like Israel's Type 212/214s.

And that does not even begin to get into the issue of Israel demonstrating a submarine cruise missile beyond Harpoon.

Now, as Iran approaches a breakout & satisfactory delivery capability (they're still pretty far off), then it seems likely that Israel would consider investing in a survivable deterrent force.... something like a ballistic missile armed submarine. They won't be able to hide that purchase/construction any better than the Indians are hiding theirs!

SP

Andy

"Would Israel try to "bull" its way past the US Air Force and across Iraq relying on a US "failure of will" to make the thing work? This would be a crazy thing to do, but many crazy things have been seen lately."

No, they would not, for several reasons, but the most important is the practicalities of planning a viable mission absent US support.

The Israeli officers who would actually plan and fly such a mission understand that doing so without US acquiescence is folly. There are many problems, but here are some of the biggest:

1. The danger is not so much heading east - it's heading west after the strike. Without coordination with the US, the US will not know which aircraft are Israeli and which are Iranian aircraft in pursuit. So even if the US just stood by, there is great risk the US would shoot down a lot of Israeli aircraft as they head back into Iraqi airspace. Israel would have to plan for that eventuality and decide what they would do - attempt to shoot back at Americans if they are engaged or something else. Israeli pilots would require very specific ROE for dealing with the Americans under a variety of possible US responses in a variety of situations. They would want to know under what specific situations the mission would be aborted and whether or not (and under what circumstances) they could/would engage US aircraft or missile sites in self defense. All those conditions not only complicate an attack, but greatly increase the risk of failure.

2. Without US support, the US could easily make the mission fail, even without firing at the Israelis. All that's needed is to make Israel burn up some time and jet fuel.

3. Most importantly, Israeli planners understand the Iranian's are not stupid. Iran's intelligence capabilities are undoubtedly monitoring a variety of intelligence indicators to provide warning of just such an attack. Suffice it to say that Iran will notice the American reaction to an Israeli incursion, draw the appropriate conclusions, and ready its forces. Raids against predictable targets without tactical surprise tend not to do so well.

There are many other military planning factors that greatly complicate strike planning absent US acquiescence - factors that Isreali aircrew will likely push back on. The flyers understand the mission would not succeed in such a scenario. Crazy or not, what Israeli politician will order an operation the military knows will fail?

mlaw230

Colonel Lang has described our relationship with Israel as an "affair of the heart." As we all know, such commitments are notoriously fickle.

Recently we have learned that the nation founded in large part by a combination of disregard for native peoples and genuine guilt for centuries of pogroms capped by the holocaust, have now embraced punitive military action against civilian populations.

An attack on Iran with the carnage, both human and geo- political that such and event entails, may very well advance the end of this particular romance.

I believe that an attack on Iran supported, permitted, or even acquiesced to by the United States could well be the last date and the beginning of the end for Israel. I hope that cooler heads prevail.

Pan

Well, we could have an air defense outage or some other pretext, like how the Saudis didn't know the IAF violated its airspace during the strike on Osirak.

curious

vWhat happens when the US decided that the Israeli warplanes are not "aggression against Iraq" but self-defense against Iran? If the actual treaty contains as much wiggle room as the statement of principles, then I think Muslims have a right to be skeptical.

Posted by: Bill | 04 February 2009 at 01:47 PM "

Well, the we are admitting that Iraq is not sovereign, since it cannot define by itself what is and is not a threat to its national interest.

tho' I seriously doubt Iraq has the legal resource to carry out international litigation.

But really, the problem is clear: nobody in the world is going to believe our case about Israel pre-emptive attack. (nevermind, pre-emptive is illegal under UN charter.)


from legal point of view, things are going to get very messy.

but from practical level, Israel action over Iraq will further dent US image in the middle east. (nevermind energy price instability resulting from conflict.)


I hate to imagine Iran's most logical reaction.

jr786

Maybe I'm being naive but American rapproachment with Iran is not only sensible and desirable from an American standpoint but inevitable as well. The only resistance comes from the zionists and their lobby in Congress. So no, I can't believe the zionists will get a free pass over Iraq.

I watch a lot of Iranian Press TV (in English, here the domestic Iranian channels don't appear) and they rarely if ever criticize the US with hostility. G-d knows from their point of view there is more than enough folly to criticize.

Last night they talked a lot about the EU decision to remove the MOK from its list of terrorist organizations - but emphasizing that the United States did not follow suit. I reckoned that a subtle message in itself, especially as it seems that the FBI is now severing its ties with CAIR for alleged ties to Hamas. Of course, if you shake hands with a Palestinian that's enough to get you on a no-fly list.

Maybe the MOK thing is not so important but there is a growing sense that a new relationship is brewing between our country and Iran, G-d willing.

Pity the poor zionists.

Henry Kim

Thanks, Andy. Most informative.

somebody

this has been discussed between all parties quite openly.

in the case Israel attacks Iran, Iran would hold the US responsable.

Iran would close the Gulf.

mo

Real world.
Congress will back Israel no matter what.

The President needs Congress to pass bills.

Suddenly an attack on Iran is not considered a "hostile" act on Iraq, until maybe after the fact and a few million dollars to soothe ruffled feathers.

Bill Wade, NH, USA

If the Iran "problem" is so critical to the Israel's, as they put it, what's to say that their planes need to come back, a percentage of them could try to make it to Georgia hoping for a welcoming landing and another percentage could ditch in the southern waters off the coast of Iran to be picked up by Israeli ships. Then the US could just send them a bunch more F-16s.

hope4usa

What about Turkey and the Kurds? Obviously we have treaties with Turkey--which takes precedence?

jon

Yohan raises a very good point. The US has been in full occupation of Iraq for the past six years. Reportedly, they have refused Israel the green light to overfly Iraq en route to bombing Iran. They have also declined to rebuff Turkey's repeated incursions of Kurdistan (the US's most reliable ethnic group within Iraq) in pursuit of the PKK.

Should the US not have any forces stationed within Iraq, any protection of the borders would have to be provided from other regional bases or ships. Functionally, it would be nearly impossible to provide a realtime defense of the borders in that circumstance. Any deterrence would be based on the perception of a strong response to invasion or incursion.

Iraq would be outraged by Israeli overflights. This might be anticipated from the way that Israel habitually overflies several of its neighbors without warning or approval. Israel is currently unlikely to have any targets within Iraq, but be transiting to attack Iran. Of course, that could change if Iraqis are sufficiently outraged by Israel's behavior.

Any Israeli attack on Iran is unlikely to provide a definitive outcome and derail any nuclear program. Iran's nuclear program is too far away, and too dispersed and hardened to suffer more than a temporary and partial disablement in any single strike. If anything, attacking Iran's nuclear installations would be most likely to provoke Iran into a full bore nuclear arms program and mobilization of the country. These outcomes are not in Israel's interest.

William R. Cumming

Curiosity! What is the argument again that we are a de jure "Occupying Power" and how is that detailed and where? Do the citizens of the United States realize that we NOW are still an occupying power? Do the citizens of Iraq? I do argue that the US missed the boat and helping Iraq seal its borders, but not its airspace, was the only way to help Iraq gain its independent status as a nation-state. We should NOT be defenders of Iraqi Air Space, and hope we were not in the past. If we were in the past or are now, de jure or de facto, that was utter foolishness by the US.

Ormolov

To me the big unknown here is how our new Administration will handle Israel. This unknown must be keeping IDF planners awake at night as well. I can't imagine that their 'test' of Obama would be such a dramatic move. Unless they receive the green light from Washington a bombing campaign against a much better prepared Iran (in the wake of Osirak) wouldn't erase their nuclear capabilities and please no one but AIPAC.

Like so many things right now, we won't know how Obama will really handle Israel for a while.

Harper

Col. Lang,

It is my understanding, after a series of discussions following the Israeli atrocities in Gaza, that Israel has a geo-strategic doctrine which they refer to as "game-changers." By this, they mean military (overt or covert) which alter the strategic situation, presumably to Israel's security advantage. Under this concept, the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2008-2009 Gaza incursion were aimed at achieving both military and political/strategic objectives. This is one way of worming out of the idea that they suffered setbacks in both engagements. Hezbollah directly engaged Israeli forces and survived. Hamas passively survived.

Where this leads, however, is the next Israeli "game-changer," which, I am told by several senior Israel watchers in Washington, could be missile strikes against parts of Iran's nuclear program. I raise this in the context of the US-Iraq SOFA, which bars Israeli overflights. To get around this, Israel is contemplating use of their German diesel submarines as platforms for launching rocket strikes against Iranian nuclear targets from the Gulf. One obvious question is if Israel is so mad at this point as to contemplate using nuclear arms. I personally doubt it, but... The doctrine of "game-changer" would certainly change the game that the new U.S. Administration is embarking on--direct negotiations with Iran, with none of the Bush preconditions. Would such an action by Israel lead to a U.S. break with Israel? I don't know, and I don't think anyone does. But if the Israeli doctrine of "game-changer" is so fraught with miscalculations, it certainly makes for a worry. Adm. Mullen, Defense Secretary Gates and others made frequent trips to Israel in 2008, warning Israel against preventive strikes against Iran. If Bibi is elected, what will it take to make sure the Israelis listen?

Cynthia

There could be a bright side to this...

If the USAF does its duties as a loyal occupier of Iraq by shooting down a few Israeli planes over Iraq, then this may indeed scare the bejesus out of the AIPAC lobbyists so much that they'll all run out of Washington with their tails between their legs!;~)

batondor

I think that Andy detailed the operational constraints on Israel perfectly... and I don't believe that President Obama would OK such a request simply because he's too smart (and too preoccupied by unrelated matters) to see this as a winning proposition under even the successful terms imaginable (and it's hard to imagine anything called "success" while the downside in the face of a failure is an open-ended nightmare...).

On the other hand, I wonder to what degree the Iraqis are getting involved in air traffic control and air defense themselves?

I would also discount the notion of a missile-based attack simply because the Israelis have never, to my knowledge, ever tried anything like it... and when it comes to using nuclear munitions, I think the same uncertainties of performance reign... and I also don't see their gain by unilaterally crossing the Nuclear Rubicon that has held for over sixty years! Even if the strikes were in isolated parts of Iran, wouldn't a global movement for harsh sanctions against Israel be the result and would support from the US be too little (and even there, uncertain)?

Now, if they could only get an Iranian nuclear weapons designer or technician to make a "big" mistake. That's the only way Iran will not attain a nuclear capability if they actually wish to pursue one...

curious

If the Iran "problem" is so critical to the Israel's, as they put it, what's to say that their planes need to come back, a percentage of them could try to make it to Georgia hoping for a welcoming landing and another percentage could ditch in the southern waters off the coast of Iran to be picked up by Israeli ships. Then the US could just send them a bunch more F-16s.

Posted by: Bill Wade, NH, USA | 05 February 2009 at 08:20 AM


those planes aren't exactly replaceable nor cheap. Even with nearly unlimited US backing.

Loosing 10-20 planes represent 1/10 or their air power.

As you observe , Israel main advantage is airpower. Specially against Syria and lebanon. F/16 is their bombers really.

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