Iran: Rumors Of War

Iran: Rumors of War

Dispatches From The Edge

Nov. 5, 2013

Is Israel really planning to attack Iran, or are declarations about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike at Teheran’s nuclear program simply bombast? Does President Obama’s “we have your back” comment about Israel mean the U.S. will join an assault? What happens if the attack doesn’t accomplish its goals, an outcome predicted by virtually every military analyst? In that case, might the Israelis, facing a long, drawn out war, resort to the unthinkable: nuclear weapons?

Such questions almost seem bizarre at a time when Iran and negotiators from the P5+1—the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany—appear to be making progress at resolving the dispute over Teheran’s nuclear program. And yet the very fact that a negotiated settlement seems possible may be the trigger for yet another war in the Middle East.

A dangerous new alliance is forming in the region, joining Israel with Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, thus merging the almost bottomless wealth of the Arab oil kings with the powerful and sophisticated Israeli army. Divided by religion and history, this confederacy of strange bedfellows is united by its implacable hostility to Iran. Reducing tensions is an anathema to those who want to isolate Teheran and dream of war as a midwife for regime change in Iran.

How serious this drive toward war is depends on how you interpret several closely related events over the past three months.

First was the announcement of the new alliance that also includes the military government in Egypt. That was followed by the news that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were stocking up on $10.8 billion worth of U.S. missiles and bunker busters. Then, in mid-October, Israel held war games that included air-to-air refueling of warplanes, essential to any long-range bombing attack. And lastly, the magazine Der Spiegel revealed that Israel is arming its German-supplied, Dolphin-class submarines with nuclear tipped cruise missiles.

Saber rattling? Maybe. Certainly a substantial part of the Israeli military and intelligence community is opposed to a war, although less so if it included the U.S. as an ally.

Opponents of a strike on Iran include Uzi Arad, former director of the National Security Council and a Mossad leader; Gabi Ashkenazi, former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff; Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin, former heads of Shin Bet; Uzi Even, a former senior scientist in Israel’s nuclear program; Ephraim Halevy, former Mossad head; Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and Shaul Mofaz, former IDF chiefs of staff; Simon Peres, Israeli president; Uri Sagi, former chief of military intelligence; and Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, who bluntly calls the proposal to attack Iran “The stupidest thing I ever heard.”

Mossad is Israel’s external intelligence agency, much like the American CIA. Shin Bet is responsible for internal security, as with the FBI and the Home Security Department.

However, an Israeli attack on Iran does have support in the U.S. Congress, and from many former officials in the Bush administration. Ex-Vice-President Dick Cheney says war is “inevitable.”

But U.S. hawks have few supporters among the American military. Former defense secretary Robert Gates says “such an attack would make a nuclear armed Iran inevitable” and “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.” Former Joint Chief of Staff vice-chair Gen. James Cartwright told Congress that the U.S. would have to occupy Iran if it wanted to end the country’s nuclear program, a task virtually everyone agrees would be impossible.

In interviews last fall, reporter and author Mark Perry found that U.S. intelligence had pretty much worked out the various options the Israelis might use in an attack. None of them were likely to derail Iran’s nuclear program for more than a year or two.

Israel simply doesn’t have the wherewithal for a war with Iran. It might be able to knock out three or four nuclear sites—the betting is those would include the heavy water plant at Arak, enrichment centers at Fordow and Natanz, and the Isfahan uranium-conversion plant—but much of Iran’s nuclear industry is widely dispersed. And Israel’s bunker busters are not be up to job of destroying deeply placed and strongly reinforced sites.

Israel would not be able to sustain a long-term bombing campaign because it doesn’t have enough planes, or the right kind.  Most of its air force is American made F-15 fighters and F-16 fighter-bombers, aircraft that are too fragile to maintain a long bombing campaign and too small to carry really heavy ordinance.

Of course, Israel could also use its medium and long-range Jericho II and Jericho III missiles, plus submarine-fired cruise missiles, but those weapons are expensive and in limited supply. They all, however, can carry nuclear warheads.

But as one U.S. Central Command officer told Perry, “They’ll [the Israelis] have one shot, one time. That’s one time out and one time back. And that’s it.” Central Command, or Centcom, controls U.S. military forces in the Middle East.

A number of U.S. military officers think the Israelis already know they can’t take out the Iranians, but once the bullets start flying Israel calculates that the U.S. will join in. “All this stuff about ‘red lines’ and deadlines is just Israel’s way of trying to get us to say that when they start shooting, we’ll start shooting,” retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman told Perry. Inman specialized in intelligence during his 30 years in the Navy.

There is current legislation before the Congress urging exactly that, and Obama did say that the U.S. had “Israel’s back.” But does that mean U.S. forces would get directly involved? If it was up to the American military, the answer would be “no.” Lt. Gen. Robert Gard told Perry that, while the U.S. military is committed to Israel, that commitment is not a blank check. U.S. support is “so they can defend themselves. Not so they can start World War III.”

Polls indicate that, while most Americans have a favorable view of Israel and unfavorable one of Iran, they are opposed to joining an Israeli assault on Iran.

That might change if the Iranians tried to shut down the strategic Straits of Hormuz through which most Middle East oil passes, but Iran knows that would draw in the U.S., and for all its own bombast, Teheran has never demonstrated a penchant for committing suicide. On top of which, Iran needs those straits for its own oil exports. According to most U.S. military analysts, even if the U.S. did join in it would only put off an Iranian bomb by about five years.

What happens if Israel attacks—maybe with some small contributions by the Saudi and UAE air forces—and Iran digs in like it did after Iraq invaded it in 1980? That war dragged on for eight long years.

Iran could probably not stop an initial assault, because the Israelis can pretty easily overwhelm Iranian anti-aircraft, and their air force would make short work of any Iranian fighters foolish enough to contest them.

But Teheran would figure a way to strike back, maybe with long range missile attacks on Israeli population centers or key energy facilities in the Gulf. Israel could hit Iranian cities as well, but its planes are not configured for that kind of mission. In any case, bombing has never made a country surrender, as the allied and axis powers found out in World War II, and the Vietnamese and Laotians demonstrated to the U.S.

The best the Israelis could get is a stalemate and the hope that the international community would intervene. But there is no guarantee that Iran would accept a ceasefire after being bloodied, nor that there would be unanimity in the UN Security Council to act. NATO might try to get involved, but that alliance is deeply wounded by the Afghanistan experience, and the European public is sharply divided about a war with Iran.

A long war would eventually wear down Israel’s economy, not to mention its armed forces and civilian population. If that scenario developed, might Israel be tempted to use its ultimate weapon? Most people recoil from even the thought of nuclear weapons, but militaries consider them simply another arrow in the quiver. India and Pakistan have come to the edge of using them on at least one occasion.

It is even possible that Israel—lacking the proper bunker busting weapons—might decide to use small, low-yield nuclear weapons in an initial assault, but that seems unlikely. The line drawn in August 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has held for more than 60 years. But if Israel concluded that it was enmeshed in a forever war that could threaten the viability of the state, might it be tempted to cross that line?

Condemnation would be virtually universal, but it would not be the first time that Israel’s siege mentality led it to ignore what the rest of the world thought.

A war with Iran would be catastrophic. Adding nuclear weapons to it would put the final nail into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Within a decade dozens of countries will have nuclear weapons. It is a scary world to contemplate.



Filed under Iran, Israel, Middle East

11 responses to “Iran: Rumors Of War

  1. rehmat1

    “Israel cannot do to Iran what Bibi wants done to Iran. Only Obama can. If there is no US attack on Iran by November, and Obama wins, there may never be a US attack on Iran. No wonder Bibi is frustrated,” Patrick J. Buchanan provided the answer last year.
    “Longstanding US policy toward Iran is regime change. It’s well known in Washington and Israel that Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful,” American Jewish writer and blogger, Stephen Lendman, December 2012.
    Judging Barack Obama by his past five year record – many analyst agree that he doesn’t have the ‘balls’ to stand up to Netanyahu + Jewish Lobby and its controlled Congress.


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  3. Hi Conn,

    Great article, and leads me to a question for you. Your summary of the chances of strike raise the question of how the Israelis view the chances of a deal with Iran. Are they even in favour of a deal?
    I think there’s evidence emerging that we have to rethink the Iran conflict. There’s reason to believe that there’s far more cause for concern than we all thought, because the objectives of the various players are now becoming exposed and they’re not what we thought.
    The most dramatic change is Saudi Arabia’s sudden willingness to draw back the curtain on it’s deal with Pakistan. According to the BBC ( Saudi owns a number of nuclear weapons that it could have delivered any time, along with fully operational missile bases, previously secret, to host missiles to deliver them. Now why would Saudi expose such a secret now, when the tension on Iran is apparently decreasing?
    The reason is that Saudi doesn’t care if Iran has a nuclear program. The nuclear program is just an excuse. What Saudi, and Israel, really want is the destruction of Iran, the elimination of Iran. If they could get the world to cooperate to ruin Iran with sanctions over the Iranian nuclear program, that was moderately acceptable. But if by some miracle the Iranians gave up nuclear technology, for Saudi and Israel, this doesn’t remove their strategic issue: instead, it makes their strategic issue worse. A non-nuclear Iran free of sanctions is not just less of an issue. It’s a whole lot worse. Iran would then, in their eyes, be completely unleashed and a whole new level of strategic challenge for them.
    An Iran free of sanctions, free to sell oil and develop its economy, would be a rich Iran, and that means a vastly more powerful and prominent Iran. Currently they’re cornered. If they get out of their corner they’re a much bigger problem for Saudi and Israel.
    Ending the Iranian nuclear program doesn’t make things better for Israel and Saudi. It makes things worse.
    This may be the real reason why Saudi Arabia is exposing the fact that it has nuclear weapons on call. The point may be to actually try to force the Iranians go for nuclear weapons in response, so that there is no deal and the sanctions stay in place.
    It seems possible that a deal between Iran and the United States, far from being a basis for peace in the region, may be the trigger for war.


  4. Lee Anderson

    The way for war is being prepared. Thanks for alerting more people. I’ve been trying to do the same. Please check out the US Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce. Look at the “Honorary Leadership.” The names there are all to familiar and represent high lieutenants in the shadow world government. That is they are the global bankster’s political puppet masters. Also, CNN ran a brief news clip that stated Israel was working on getting Azerbaijan to allow them to stage jet fighters for an imminent strike on Iran. War is inevitable as long as the perpetrators of 9/11 are allowed to remain free and cause more trouble. The American people forget that our greatest patriotic duty is to provide oversight of our government. The three branches of govt have been purchased years ago, the 4th estate is little more than PR firms for the same bankster/corporations. Please stay on this subject, but Azerbaijan is the key staging area and is loaded with oil and gas. Look at the membership list and you will see the corporations ready to pilfer the natural resources. I have written, phoned, e-mailed all my congressional reps over 5 times and they refuse to answer questions about the US Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.


  5. khosrow

    The Zionist’s tactic of silencing their critics by labeling them as ‘Anti-Semitics’ has lost its power – thanks to the investigative journalism and academia that have exposed the truth behind Israel’s atrocities, especially its vicious war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon and their over half a century of total disregard for the UN resolutions that have changed our understanding of the post-Holocaust Israeli politicians.

    With the total failure of the ‘Anti-Semitic’ tactic (skilfully and effectively used by Israel for over half a century as a cover up for the Zionists’ crimes), now ‘existential threat’ has become the convincing mouthpiece among the paranoid Israeli politicians, their American lobbyists and journalists in order to continue to preserve the Israeli and American domination of the region.

    Now it is time for the Great Powers and world media to campaign/focus on Israel’s nuclear arsenal and use all their resources to bring Israel’s nuclear weapons under the UN inspection. Not signing a treaty should not be an excuse to allow paranoid Israeli politicians arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. One small nation’s paranoia (existential threat) should not become MANY nations’ paranoia otherwise the UN will lose its moral authority and impartiality.

    Having the unlimited moral, political and military support of the western world, the Zionists may take their own propaganda/paranoia for granted and eventually deploy their nuclear weapons. Given the Israelis’ irresponsible violence in 2006, 2008 and 2009, there is an urgent need for a decisive and profound universal concern for the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children in the Middle East, and for the world they will have every right to inhibit in peace – free from inferno and its radiations caused by some paranoid politicians hungry for power and regional domination.

    But will the world media take the responsibility to seriously launch a campaign?


  6. Hello Mr. Hallinan. I very like your analysis and commentary, but I have a few unanswered questions I hope you might address in future writing.

    1. You make some understated assumptions in writing that “Iran could probably not stop an initial assault, because the Israelis can pretty easily overwhelm Iranian anti-aircraft, and their air force would make short work of any Iranian fighters foolish enough to contest them.
    But Teheran would figure a way to strike back, maybe with long range missile attacks on Israeli population centers or key energy facilities in the Gulf. Israel could hit Iranian cities as well, but its planes are not configured for that kind of mission.”
    • While Israel has been able to stop the delivery of sophisticated Soviet anti-aircraft radars and weapons to Syria (which is within striking range of their air force) they certainly have not been able to interdict the delivery of similar materiel to Iran. It seems highly doubtful that *at that long distance* Israel would be able to easily penetrate Iranian air defence lines. That is why the pilots who have long volunteered to fly in those fighter-bomber attacks understand that it is, in effect, a suicide mission with perhaps a 5% chance of getting through. They envision huge losses of fighter-bombers… maybe only 10 planes out of 200 making it.
    In addition, Iran’s air force is not *that* bad – is it? My recollection of Iranian military students at Norwich University (and VMi, West Point, Air Force Academy) back in the 50’s and 60’s is that quite a few of the most competent ones managed to survive the fundamentalist purges in Iran, and that as senior officers (albeit with many now retiring with age) they have gotten Iran a respectable military and air force… capable of taking on Israel’s somewhat unmaneuverable fighter bombers. Israel’s more nimble F-16 combat fighters, of course, are among the best in the world but lack the range to GET to Iran.
    (The only solution for that dilemma has long been re-basing, during actual post-raid combat, on U.S. carriers in the Gulf… a tactic long-envisioned by V.P. Dick Cheney when he was at the helm with Secretary Rumsfeld. But it seems likely that those U.S. fleets would be… as I have pointed out in the past… the immediate “sacrificial lambs” if the U.S. entered the war *in any way* as a participant.)

    2. Additionally you write, “But Teheran would figure a way to strike back, maybe with long range missile attacks on Israeli population centers or key energy facilities in the Gulf. Israel could hit Iranian cities as well, but its planes are not configured for that kind of mission.”
    • I find this disingenuous. Iran has not only figured out a way to strike back (and certainly wouldn’t wait until Israel attacks to start working on that) but also announced, some time ago, exactly *how* it would.
    President Ahmedinejad was presented, via Seymour Hersch’s article in the *New Yorker* the Iranian targetting list which was developed by then Secretary Rumsfeld before he left office. At that time, departing Rumsfeld and V.P. Cheney assumed that making such a comprehensive list of targets known to Iran would “dissuade” them from continuing their uranian enrichment program.
    The opposite occurred. Less than 2 weeks later Ahmedinejad defiantly announced that “If one hostile warplane from Israel or one of its allies” crossed into Iranian airspace, Iran (now knowing its missle arsenal was all targeted, along with its air, sub and surface navy bases) would fire ALL missiles off at their intended targets… which include Israeli population centres, U.S. bases and assets not only along the Gulf but also servicing yards such as that in Bahrain and Kuwait… AND that its missile reach at that long ago time already could include NATO or U.S. basing in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.)

    3. The principle critique of Iran’s missile arsenal (Korean, Chinese and now increasingly home-grown) has been that because of insufficient testing their accuracy is highly in doubt. Despite the known intelligence that Iran now has multiple missiles with greater than 2500 km. range, U.S. and Israel seem to scoff at the likelihood they will ever hit anything of value… as if perhaps they equate them with early missiles fired at Israel from the Gaza (95% of which smashed harmlessly into open land and forest, with only the occasional lethal strike such as Sderot).
    Unestimating one’s enemy goes hand in hand with the hubris of Israel’s politicians, which don’t necessarily have enthusiastic support from the more experienced fighters in the IDF.
    But one factor which is always and amazingly left out of the equation is… ACCURACY IS NOT ESSENTIAL for Iran to do massive damage to U.S., Israeli and host bases in Arab countries. That is because (stifled from developing nuclear assets and expertise for so many years) Iran rather opted to put its initial money (from 1991 onward) into attracting and hiring ex-Soviet chemical and biological weapons engineers.
    My understanding is that Iran gave these weapons scientists from the former U.S.S.R. “carte blanche” in designing and equipping modern chemical and germ warfare labs deep underground to the west of Tehran.
    As a consequence, it is believed by some that Iran possesses one of the most sophisticated (and massive) stocks of biological and chemical ie. nerve gas, materiel on the planet. And these have been weaponised, and are “warhead ready.”
    Given THIS likelihood, known certainly by the CIA, it is highly likely that William Gates lied during his confirmation hearings when asked by Senator Byrd “How might iran respond if attacked by Israel or the U.S.?” His response (the old saw about how they *might* block the Straits of Hormuz, and they “might” foment anti-U.S. terrorism worldwide including even within the U.S.) itself was deliberately effete. In fact, he knew at the time and *certainly* knew all during his tenure that Iran was capable of not only devastating the Middle East and U.S. assets there (with the exception of Diego Garcia) but also that such a scenario could easily get out of control and become a global pandemic reaching North America.
    This is most likely one of the persuading arguments to actively deploy NorthCOM troops in 2003. Its first mission during the Obama presidency to “practice” country-wide distribution of bird flu vaccines, and pandemic counter-measures. This still remains a huge problem (as a likelihood). The DHS with NorthCOM (partnered with Canada via the newly-configured NORAD) face a big chore if this hypothetical “Middle East War” gets out of hand. It very well could be the end of us as well as, of course, most of the Middle East, northern Africa and the Mediterranean populations.

    4. (And I apologise that this is so wordy) the U.S. has covenants and a “memoranda of understanding” going back to two days before the first day of the Obama administration… to follow Israel into Iran if it can be shown that weapons used against Israel (ie. smuggled into Gaza by Hammas) originate in Iran. I understand that President Obama has from time-to-time resisted giving overt military assistance and credibility to Israel’s threats against Iran. But every time his funding base was withdrawn by AIPAC and Israel-tilted key donors… and offered to his political opponents… Obama has folded and made mea culpa speeches to AIPAC about his unending support for Israel and defence of its people.
    Bottom-line, one does not know how stupidly the U.S. politicans and President Obama himself might be drawn into offering American fleets, for instance (as again was first planned by Cheney/Rumsfeld) to provide forward radar support for Israeli fighter-bombers during their attacks on Bushehr, Natanz, etc., and to spot and relay information about incoming Iranian anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian fighter counterattack to the Israeli pilots. AND (as I wrote long ago) offering as it once did with regard to Israeli jet exhausted fuel, the landing decks of (then) the USS Abraham Lincoln for safe haven – now replaced by another carrier fleet in the Gulf.

    best regards
    Michael Billingsley


  7. My essay is now edited and is accompanied by a couple of new maps. Find links here in my Tweet about the discussion.

    What unspoken mess.. if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear (with maps)? … … The options are all bad.


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