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04 April 2010


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I think it was 2005 when Seymour Hersh wrote about the possibility of a nuclear strike on Iran. I believe he was referring to the US IIRC.

These days I rule nothing out, so maybe the Israelis would do it. If Israel and the US were the only countries that could make nukes, they probably would do it. But in the here and now, I doubt it.

What would be the consequences? I don't think anyone knows for sure. But once it becomes clear that Israel and the US (there is no way for the US to escape involvement) will use nukes as an instrument of convenience, the world will change for the worse.

My guess is every nation that can make nukes, will make nukes. Brazil and Argentina? Almost certainly. And they can make ICBMs that can reach us. Chile? Maybe. Venezuela? They probably can't now, but who knows the future.

What of China? They seemed content with a small deterrent. Now they will want several thousand ICBMs and subs and a second strike capability. Japan? Of Course.

But all those are far from Israel and they probably don't care. What about Turkey? I'm sure they can build nukes if they put their mind to it. Will Israel nuke them too? Does NATO membership mean much?

Anything else? Oh yeah. Pakistan. They already have nukes. Will Saudi Arabia make an offer they can't refuse?

And of course there is Iran. Does Sneh propose to annihilate the whole country? He'd better, otherwise 70 million people will be plotting revenge for centuries. Even if it is beyond their means at the moment, times do change.

None of this is to suggest the Israelis won't do it. Maybe they really are that self absorbed. But I doubt it.

Patrick Lang


The US is not interested in attacking Iran with nuclear weapons for the very reasons that you cite. We do not need to do so. Our hole digging capacity is much, much bigger than Israel's. pl


"low-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapons" are the way to create as much toxic radioactive air as possible.

This would make Geiger tickers all over the world go into some frenzy.

But the "moral" fallout would come down over Israel in a way that the "Jewish people" would not survive.

I guess people in Israel know that.

I also think that the whole "nuclear Iran" nonsense coming from Israel is just to distract from its colonization of the West Bank.

For the U.S. the issue is also not a "nuclear Iran", it had no problem with the Shah going nuclear, but an independent Iran that might incite others in the area to be less accommodating to U.S. rule in the Persian Gulf and over its resources.

Patrick Lang


This is a joke, right? I mean the thing about the shah "going nuclear" and American "colonial" rule in the Gulf.

Is this a belated April Fool's thing? Do you like sounding like a stereotypical '60s German lefty? pl

Cold War Zoomie

If Israel threatens to attack Iran with any hint of using nuclear arms, then Iran's argument for a defensive nuclear capability is justified! It really is disconcerting to watch this stupidity in slow motion.


hey NYTimes already have nice graphic depicting israel air attack on iran last week.

Israel is rapidly approaching deadline with that iranian S-300 coming online. Their air game will become exponentially harder once Iran has proven working s-300 missiles. f-16 won't make it out alive period. My guess, Israel is watching libya-iran s-300 transfer, and they are freaking out.

Israel wants to land empty f-16 on Saudi's highway for refueling? Not after google earth. All the Iranian has to do is look up the map, find Saudi northern highway with straight half mile stretch. Send a guy and gouge a couple pot holes every 400yards. Then they have to deal with arab world outrage finding burning israel planes on Saudi highway with israel flag. (Saudi gave permission for israel to enter airspace and land?) That type of scandal is enough to have the king head removed by angry mob if he doesn't do something big. How crowded is highway 85,86, and 80 during lowest traffic hour anyway? what about Jordanian airspace?) Taiwan (f-5/f-16) and Pakistan (f16/mirage) have plan to use higway for runway. I think Korea design part of their highway for this purpose too. These countries need backup plan for when their country is 80% destroyed. Saudi arabian sand on engine intake is not part of the exercise. I know the people who plan crazy shit like this. stay away from their drinking party. I think I still have the hangover.

clip of highway landing.

Low yield earth penetrating nuclear whatever... Unless Iran is dumb enough to construct their bunker like it's 1942, in which they deserve to get 'penetrated', earth penetrating whatever weapon is a big joke. It has to be designed specifically to match the characteristic of substrate to be penetrated. (Think modern RPG design vs. tank hull except the tank is now a concrete bunker that can support unlimited amount of cleverly layered cake of active skin.) Somebody has to go down to get basic feel of bunker protection layers then design a weapon to penetrate that. A good engineer with bunch of empty barrels, cements, explosive, and computer can defeat things like GBU-28 handily. Israel can't even make their own standard precission weapon fer gawd sake. It is beyond Israel technology to design, test, load it up on a plane and fly it to target. If they have enough technology to do that, they wouldn't bother discussing rube goldberg scheme like landing f-16 on Saudi highway after bombing mission. Just nuke entire isfahan with MIRV and deal with Iran nuclear retaliation later. Trivial.

Israel balistic missile is not problem. They can't use it. Israel submarine nuke cruise missile? (heh, ... shouldn't they try that first at least? possibly losing a submarine in gulf naval war due to thhe launch? What they gonna do aftrward? Ask Merkel for another new submarine in exchange for not whining about holocaust reparation? Merkel just gonna say, you don't worth that much)

More importantly, once Israel using nuclear, their deterrent through ambiguity magic is gone. As a result of unilateral nuclear attack, all their rival will get nuke overnight. Then they better get ready to be at the receiving end of nuclear weapon. They are opening the pandora box. Haifa and all their seaports will be toasty and radioactive for sure. (easy target from lebanese coast)

Tho' I for one would op to irradiate huge swath of northern agriculture and settlement land, to make sure the liveable territory left will be even harder to defend. Low casualty and get the arab what they really, Israel can't sustain itself militarily.

ps. whatever happen to landing the f-16 in georgia? lol. I still think their best emergency bet is ditching the plane in the persian gulf and swiming home.

also. what's with russia suddenly turning pouty and supplying china with s-300 and venezuela with nuclear reactor?

John Badalian

Colonel Patrick - what is this so-called "S-300" missle defence system that the Persians purchased (?) from the Russians? Has it (even) been delivered in whole or in part to Iran? Is it a formidable system or a glorified 4th of July display? Thanks JB


"Does Israel have the capability to destroy Irans nuclear program?" Probably not.

I think the more important question is: "Does Israel have the capability to make the United States destroy Irans nuclear program?"

Could an Israeli attack on Iran be used to trigger an American attack? Perhaps in response to perceived Iranian retaliation against American assets in the region?

What would the President do if, shortly after an (relatively ineffectual) Israeli attack on Iran, Two (allegedly Iranian) cruise missiles hit an American carrier with great loss of life?

The consequences of all this are unclear, but my concern is that Netanyahu knows the end state that he wants to create: Iran in ruins and all Palestinians expelled from "Greater Israel".

A rise in world anti Semitism? Why that just fuels more Jewish immigration to Israel and solves our demographic problem!


"This is a joke, right? I mean the thing about the shah "going nuclear" and American "colonial" rule in the Gulf."

1. On the Shah going nuclear:

Nuclear Ambitions Aren't New for Iran

Before he was overthrown by an Islamic revolution in 1979, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran said that his country would have nuclear weapons "without a doubt and sooner than one would think."

In the late 1970's, in fact, Iran and Israel discussed a plan to adapt for Iranian use surface-to-surface missiles that could be fitted with nuclear warheads, according to documents discovered in Tehran after the revolution.

Nuclear program of Iran

"President Gerald Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete 'nuclear fuel cycle'."

2. I did not say ANYTHING about American "colonial" rule in the Gulf.

I wrote about "Israel's colonization of the West Bank" and of Arab states "accommodating to U.S. rule in the Persian Gulf".

The second is obviously something different from "colonizing". Accommodating to XX rule" is not "being ruled by".

Still what please is the biggest (naval and air) power around the Persian Gulf? And who is accommodating it and who is not?

Nancy K

Uri Avnery has an interesting take on Israel vs Iran in his column this week.
Happy Easter Col Lang.


Umm? What about Pakistan? How are they going to react to their next door neighbor getting the treatment? How would you? How would I?


& why would you find that difficult to believe, Sir? The ME has had one or more colonial countries (GB,FR) replaced mostly by the USA; the ops may have changed but the results in terms of getting the resources you want (Oil) are the same.

What other reason is there for the constant meddling in Persia/Iran? I don't know.

Or is it like those stories of 'Jew behind the curtain' who are pulling strings and the USA is acting on their behalf? This entire train wreck of illegal international meddling is for the sake of Israel?

Wait..., the US is doing a favour for the Sunni countries against a Shia one?

I'm not being sarcastic, it seems clear that there are lots of actors who want Iran done in but the reasons are a bit deluded, IMO.


An attack on Iran by Israel would be treated whether we liked it or not as a US/Israel attack. The immediate consequences, no doubt well-coordinated given the time Iran has had to anticipate this, would be:

- Iranian sympathetic or proxy armed forces in Iraq and Aghanistan "going kinetic" which would bring to a halt any US withdrawals and likely cut our supply routes

- a rallying around the regime by Iranians of all stripes

- a halt to Pakistani cooperation; they would see this long term (correctly) as the beginning of the end for the US in the region and plan accordingly;

- a heavy blow to the tattered US image across the Muslin world; Arab/Muslim regimes are going to go into survival mode, which means distancing themselves from us at the very least publicly

- end of US-Fatah project in West Bank, maybe WB falls into halds of Hamas

- Hezbollah in Lebanon uses to their advantage

- a shot in the arm to Jihadist recruitment worldwide

- turmoil in Turkey, as the government there accelerates a shift away from the US

- if nukes are used by Israel, both Israel and the US become Pariah states; Israel would get sanctions from world bodies

- China gets to eat our lunch even more globally in trade and econ matters, as the developing world recoils from Israel/US actions

- oil prices go through the roof, which is not good news for any sort of US economic recovery; it will also bring smiles to the faces of people like Putin, Chavez; the Saudis and GCC elites will use the money to continue to feather their mansions in Europe as part of their potential future escape plans

- end game? what end game? if you thought we had lacked a long term logical strategy for Iraq when we went in in 2003, this will make the Neocons look like Einsteins; the US does not have a real ground war option to deal with Iran barring a WW2-style mass mobilization which will not happen; best case we have a super-Vietnam on our hands criss-crossing a vast swathe of the Middle East and Central Asia; worse, it will be a religiously-tinged war

I had to shake my head about the idea of the "secret" Israel F-16 strip in northern Saudi Arabia. It fails the laugh test, seriously.


Obama may have to take one for Western Civilization here. Meaning, he is in the unenviable position of being the US President in office when Iran goes nuclear. He will keep the peace, but end up defeated by a right winger. Said right winger will run an Attilia-The-Hun style campaign threatening sturm und drang if he/she gets elected. Once in office, and confronted by the sober realities, one hopes the rightie will confine his/her self to verbal warfare.

Unfortunately, the genie was let out of the bottle on non-proliferation long ago, and Mr. Khan of Pakistan became a road map for other states who want to join the club. Humanity seems doomed to live for the foreseeable future on a knife edge, hoping that our hard-wired stone age mentalities can be held in check by reason.

Patrick Lang


Do you object to US companies buying resources at market prices in the Gulf? That is what we do whether in spot markets or in long term contracts. so far as I know we have not "ruled" anywhere but in Iraq and that was not because we wanted to steal their oil. We are leaving. right? Did we "get" the oil? I continue to be surprised by you economic determinist types who don't understand motivation in terms of aything else. pl

Patrick Lang


Now that is a good question, especially in terms of Israel's extreme vulnerability to single aircraft low level attacks. pl



Your phrase, " But once it becomes clear that Israel and the US (there is no way for the US to escape involvement) will use nukes as an instrument of convenience, the world will change for the worse." is certainly a candidate for the understatement of century.

It seems inconceivable to me that Israel cannot see that to use nuclear weapons against Iran in the name of stopping Iran obtain nuclear weapons is to sign its own death sentence.

Patrick Lang


The Ford nuclear deal is of interest. I thought that was specifically about electricity generation. Iran is not as oil rich as many think and needed to make electricity from something other than oil even then.

What the shah and his Israeli allies said had nothing to do with us.

And why would we not want countries to "accomodate" us? pl

Patrick Lang


You are right about the "death sentence." I think that a lot of the heat and light in the present Obama tussle with Natanyahu reflects a division of opinion in American Jewry over where Israel's best chance of survival lies. pl

Sidney O. Smith III

If you rely upon the analytical assumptions given to us by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, then how it is otherwise? Cordesman is about four decades behind the curve, but better late than never.

If Rabbi Teitelbaum is proven correct about Zionism, and so far, his accuracy is unsurpassed, then Teitelbaum was a Jewish mystic of the highest magnitude and remains an extraordinary moral force. Glad he called the USA his home.

But, alas, progressives and think tank people, and certainly the Pentagon crowd, have shunned the wisdom of Teitelbaum and his colleagues. You get the sense that these people think Teitelbaum is beneath them. Maybe they didn’t like the way he dressed. Maybe they get bent out of shape because, at least from what I can tell, Teitelbaum would have found the Studio 54 lifestyle ultimately selfish and certainly anti-child. Maybe it is because, like the Amish, I suppose, the Satmar community likes to keep to themselves.

Regardless, I doubt Teitelbaum ever made it on the a-list with the enlightened Manhattan crowd.

At some point, progressives who are reexamining Zionism (and I put myself in that category) are going to bump up against Teitelbaum. It’s as if the deeper one goes into Zionism, the more one hears Rabbi Teitelbaum saying, “You see, I told you I was right.” Even the great one – Phil Weiss – is starting to rely upon analytical assumptions that arise from Rabbi Teitelbaum.

Will they recognize him or simply steal his analytical assumptions without giving him credit? The Huffington Post crowd will recognize him only if it increases one’s status or makes for career advancement. Same with the think tank, DC crowd. Same with the Pentagon crowd.

Those progressives with moral courage, like Weiss (and I think some guy named Jack Ross) already have recognized the Teitelbaum approach to a certain degree.

So what to do? Well, when it comes to strategic intel analysis, all that them fancy schmancy government people (carrying tax payer sponsored credit cards) and high falutin think tank people (carrying a lot of academic hubris), have to do is ask the following, which is an adaptation of the words I see on t-shirts, mainly in the shunned hinterlands.

What would Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum do?

As for myself, the more the GOI agrees to the 67 borders, the more I will rely on the analytical assumptions that arise from the Leon Uris school of thought. The more that the GOI strives for a greater Israel, with ample documentation of ethnic cleansing, then the more I will rely on the assumptions of Rabbi Teitelbaum. It’s really up to the GOI, as I don’t oppose Zionism per se. But accuracy, I would hope, should always be the number one priority.

And at least I gave the man his richly deserved credit before it is cool to do so.

d nolan

In the belief that all this stuff is interrelated, here's an interesting piece at the Daily Beast by none other than Judith Miller: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-04-03/israels-free-press-crackdown/?cid=hp:mainpromo3
Makes me recall the case of Mordechai Vanunu.

R Whitman

There is bound to be considerable damage to Israel if they attack Iran. In addition to Iranian missles fired at Israel (a nuclear dirty bomb attack on Dimona is a certainty), we can expect a full bore missle attack on air centers in Israel by Hisbollah. If there is enough damage and dislocation inside Israel you can expect riots by Palestinians and a move toward reclaiming the Golan by the Syrians.

The Israeli ports and air terminals, if operating, will be clogged with visitors and people with dual citizenship tring to leave. The Israeli government will be hard pressed to keep domestic order.


It seems to me that any territory may be made uninhabitable by simply spreading radioactive material over it. Some missiles loaded with radioactive material can create extensive Chernobyls. No need for deeply penetrating anything.


I recommend this also referred to by Nancy K:



Is it beyond the Israelis to run a suicide mission?

Green Zone Cafe

If there was a low-yield nuclear strike, wouldn't there be plausible deniability in that radioactive release could be (falsely) attributed to the facilities themselves? Nuclear yields can be at least as low as 10 ton TNT equivalent (vs 14000 ton in the Hiroshima bomb).

By the same token, if nukes were not used, Iran could claim they were, I suppose.

It doesn't matter that the experts won't be fooled - they're the same crowd that believes in global warming and evolution, for God's sake.

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