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So How Likely Is An Israeli Strike On Iran?

In all honesty, I don’t know – I would guess it would depend on a lot of things, but primarily the perceived level of the Iranian threat and the military assessment of whether such a strike would be a) viable and b) effective.

All that follows is speculation based on the military aspect of any such strike.  I don’t doubt the Israeli will or ability but I do have grave doubts about about some specific and difficult problems within the situation that render the structure of the IDF incapable of performing the mission because of them.

We’re all familiar with the famous Osirik strike by the IDF in which Iraq’s nuclear capability was taken out in one fell swoop. Iraq had helpfully grouped all of its nuclear facilities in one area and the Israelis destroyed them. They did the same thing to a Syrian attempt last year.

So, as many ask, why can’t they do the same thing to Iran. Primarily because Iran took note of what happened in Iraq and purposely spread its nuclear facilities all around its country. It eliminated the possibility of a single strike crippling its efforts toward realizing its nuclear goals. As you can see on the map, hitting the key Iranian nuclear sites would require a bombing campaign, not just a single strike.

Iran Nuclear Sites

Iran Nuclear Sites

The recent revelation also points to another probability. It appears that Iran is building redundancy into their nuclear facilities. Nothing says there are only two enrichment facilities. In fact the existence of two argues that there may be more that haven’t been discovered yet. But it does make the point that even if key known facilities are hit and destroyed in Iran, there is absolutely no assurance that those strikes will have destroyed Iran’s capability.

Then there’s the distance involved. Even with Saudi Arabia supposedly telling Israel it will turn a blind eye to their incursions into Saudi airspace in order to hit Iran, we’re talking about a limited ability to do so without refueling. Israel has some converted Boeing 707s it uses for the job but certainly not enough to support a campaign of this size. And while it has developed technology with which it can mount external fuel tanks to weapons stations, that obviously trades fuel for weaponry, meaning more aircraft will be necessary to do the job.

That limitation, coupled with the way Iran has spread its nuclear facilities out, means Israel would have to commit to a bombing campaign as I mentioned earlier. Several hundred sorties are likely to be necessary to degrade all the facilities necessary to neutralize Iran’s nuclear capabilities. I say several hundred because part of getting the strike aircraft to their targets will entail other aircraft flying air defense suppression missions. What we call “wild weasel” missions would require other aircraft to clear a path for the strike mission by taking out Iranian air defense radar capability prior to the insertion of the strike package.

All of that requires tremendous coordination. Once the first strike goes in, whether successful or not, the defense level of the Iranians will rise to its highest levels. At that point, follow on strikes would find getting to their targets unscathed to be a much more difficult job. And, of course, there’s the necessity of staging search and rescue operations for downed pilots. Given the countries the IDF would have to fly over, even with permission, staging SAR would be next to impossible.

So, in my opinion, the combination of distance, the requirement of multiple sorties against spread out and redundant Iranian facilities and no assurance of success argues pretty strongly against an Israeli military strike. That’s not to say that the Israelis won’t figure out a way to do it, do it well and survive it. They’ve surprised us before, but I’d suggest the odds aren’t in their favor.

Of course, last but not least, any strike by Israel, whether or not successful, is an act of war which Iran will seize upon to not only step up its proxy war against Israel, but use as a basis for a direct attack on that nation at a future time and place of its choosing. The question will be when, not if and it will certainly include speculation as to the type of weaponry Iran will use to reap its revenge.

I listened to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu address the UN this past week. I heard the palpable disgust he has for the members of that body and their refusal to act to thwart Iran’s nuclear threat. But I also heard a little pleading in there as I think Israel has come to the realization that this is a situation in which they don’t have the military capacity to take care of business. He was quietly pleading with the US and the rest of the world to actually step-up and prevent a possible nuclear catastrophe that could, as Iran has claimed to desire, wipe his country from the map.  Israel has come to the realization that their audacity and bravery won’t be enough this time.  They need help.



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61 Responses to So How Likely Is An Israeli Strike On Iran?

  • Maybe, Israel should concentrate first on taking out the Hydra.

  • Excellent analysis, McQ – even when considering the Hydra potential. There are many problems in the Israeli’s hitting Irans Nuke delvelopment sites – intell, distance, inflight refueling, targeting, and even the backlash anticipated. But I belienve the single largest deterent is Intel – and you captured part of that problem -ensuring you have the inell as to where the sites are located. But there is also the back side of the Intell problem – the BDA – Battle Damage Assessment. How effective were the strikes? And how

  • To Continue:

    And how quickly can you determine the success of the initial strikes? Is there enough flexibility within the bombing campaing to hit a target more than once – because the job was incomplete the first time or the first attempt did not do the job at all.

    Imagine Bibi going to the trouble of hitting Iran hard but then when the compaign is complete not knowing whether it was completely effective or not. Or even the degreee of effectiveness.

  • Israel can’t do it. The US won’t do it. No one is going to step up, no one is going to stop anything. Iran is going to get them, and Iran will use them.

    At some point fairly soon, we are headed towards a nucler war in the middle east. (and we can only hope it stays limited to that region)

    That’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to admit. But there it is.

    I’d put the over/under at 6 years. But we may not have that much time.

  • Do all the sites in that map have to be hit to cripple Iran’s nuclear offensive capability? I don’t know but I assume that at least the mines and waste facility wouldn’t be crucial targets. What if only the reactor and the two enrichment plants were hit?

    • The map’s utility was to demonstrate that Iran has spread it’s nuclear web wide with the specific intent of making it hard to hit all at once (it doesn’t include all of their facilities).

      As to your question about the reactor and two enrichment facilities, if we were certain that’s all there were, then destroying those three would certainly put a kink in their program. However, as is obvious with the revelation of this latest facility, the Iranians believe in building such facilities in depth. Does that mean there are only two? Three? Five? We simply don’t know at this point.

      What we do know is any strike by any outside nation will be considered an act of war by Iran and, with a teetering economy and unrest in the population, may end up being enough of an event to drive the focus of the population from inside to outside and the external enemy which had attacked their homeland – another reason I don’t expect military action. Why do something which will automatically appeal to every Iranian’s patriotism and pull them together when there are internal problems which are tearing them apart?

  • The Israelis can overcome or work around most of the problems you describe. Nothing worth doing is easy, is the convenient old saw at hand for that.

    The aftermath would be dicey indeed, not likely to follow the Syria model, at all. At least not from Iran’s end.

    My concern is whether the Israelis have the right weapons for the job.

    Ruling out nuclear weapons, do they have the advanced bombs needed to get at hardened underground facilities. Or, have they found a way to work around that.

    If they do it there will be full enrollment at the war college classes where it is examined.

    The war politics boil down to the Russian reaction. (Will the Russians “Know in advance that they aren’t being told.”) The Arab world is made nervous by the Persian enigma and will not make much fuss, in my opinion.

    To be successful the mission has to set back Iranian nuclear ambitions by at least a decade and not start some huge international war. Remember that Iran is one of the most isolated countries in the world, but has gotten away with persistent outsourcing of terror since the ’79 revolution and seems to have an expectation of privilege in that respect.

    So this sort of mission will really be quite a change of perspective for them.

    • Again, I’m not sure they can accomplish what you claim to be the measure of success, and if not, then they lay themselves open for whatever the Iranians can mount against them afterward. And, as I mentioned elsewhere, such a strike has the possibility bringing back together a country which is presently trying to tear itself apart.

      I’m not sure there’s enough of an upside to an Israeli attack to risk the obvious downside.

      • The Israelis probably have a “go” switch on this that rests on the nuclear timeline.

        The reason I believe that is that the Irsraelis take annihilation seriously. They’ve been there, done that, to use a glib phrase about their recent historical experience with lunatics promising to exterminate them.

        Most of us grew up pondering the question “What would it have been like if Hitler had had the bomb?”

        Well, a variant of that question is quite real for Israel. I mean, we have an abundant supply of Iran apologists and Israel bashers who pooh-pooh the threat, but the Iranians are moving the ball down the field as I write.

        I look at Ahmadinejad, just look at him, and I’m not getting any rush of confidence that he is a rational actor. If he’s talking the talk of annihilation, I’m not in “social science” mode wondering about the statistical probability of him walking the walk.

        So, if I’m looking at this from Israel’s perspective, it’s not necessarily that hard to take on the risk of less than total success.

        Iran poses no real conventional threat. It will go at the Israelis through more terrorism, and probably at the U.S. via Iraq and perhaps through terrorism here, in the U.S.

        But I think that for Israel it is the classic existential dilemma, and not necessarily an upside/downside calculation. I could be wrong and Netanyahu was just kidding the other day at the UN. Maybe it’s just sabre rattling regional politics as usual. But that wasn’t the impression I took away, which was consistent with what I believe Israel’s real bottom line concern is: gettin’ nuked by those lunatics.

  • Netanyahu said one thing particularly important: that the strength of the regime in Tehran is over estimated. It is weaker than many think, and the weakest link in this whole affair. Last time Iran was bullied (axis of evil stuff, all that) the people rallied behind the government and the conservatives had their best elections ever. So military strikes and threats are not only likely to be unsuccessful, but may be what the hardliners in Iran desire.

    Hit them economically in a way that weakens the regime and emboldens the opposition. Avoid trash talk. Recognize that the most probable way we’ll end up with an Iran that is more reasonable is if the Iranians change it themselves.

    • Did the mean old Bush hurt their widdle feelings? That bully!

      • What is the timeline for Iran getting S-300 / Hongqi-9 air defence missiles?

        • Last I heard, the S-300s been “delayed”. Not sure if they’re being shipped now or not given our new warm and fuzzy relationship with Russia. But I’d suggest that proof of the depth of that relationship can be discerned very quickly by whether they do ship or not.

      • Hurting feelings is irrelevant. His actions strengthened (and probably intensely satisfied) the hardliners and militarists in Iran. That’s the problem.

    • What mythical short range time line do you imagine these sanctions to occur in? Do you suppose in the next 6 months we can cause enough internal regime change to prevent further nuclear weapons development?

      Did the summer election teach you absolutely nothing? The Iranian people HAD a chance, the government arranged otherwise.

      The weapons development will continue.
      They will achieve their aim.
      They will thumb their nose at the west.
      China and Russia will continue to provide lip service to being troubled, and behind the scenes continue to aid and abet the development of nuclear capacity to be used against the west.
      They’re playing a game not unlike our supplying of aid to Afghanistan during the occupation by the Soviets, only with a considerable difference. If Iran uses it’s nuclear weapons on the west, China and Russia won’t have to worry about Iran annoying THEM with the capacity later, there won’t be an Osama Bin Laden for them. The West will clean up the problem and our former Communist enemies will maintain plausible deniability, all the while lamenting the destruction and havoc wrought by the west and Iran in putting an end to the Iranian nuclear menace, and very likely profiting in the whole affair economically and strategically.

      What the final outcome of Iran trying to use a nuke on Israel would be is questionable, none of Israel’s neighbors, friendly or hostile, will remain unscathed in such an attack. However, it’s certain that Israel will be devastated. Possibly Syria would bite the bullet on collateral damage they suffered and take back the parts of Israel that weren’t glowing. The Palestinians would likely become non-entities along with untold numbers of Jews. God help the Jews who don’t die in the initial attack.
      Jordan can’t help but suffer damage, and Lebanon as well, hard to say if the damage they suffered would permit a Syrian takeover or not, Lebanon in particular.
      The Iranians may count on a horrified world to prevent a nuclear counter strike, and their expectation would probably be that punitive strikes, would be conventional. Meaning they get to keep their land glow free, and if they can be annoying enough, their territory remains their own in the end after Russia and China help negotiate some settlement that results in what appears to be a regime change.

      How they reconcile potential damage to Jerusalem I’m not sure, being a Holy site and all, but perhaps the Persians are less tied to it then the Arabs are.

      All in all if I took comfort in Erb’s premise that they are not fairly mad, I’d go with the idea they aren’t a danger of actually using a nuke. However I think they don’t have a clue about how big a fire they’d start when they played with the nuclear matchbox, they only have theory and possibility, and ZERO experience with dealing with the ramifications.
      I think they’re loonies, crafty, clever, but still loonies.

      You can also look for the possibility that they might try to sneak one in HERE as well, to so damage us that we would sue for peace.
      Consider who’s in the White House.

      • Last year’s elections filled me with hope that Iran is in the process of change. It could well be that Ahmadinejad truly won those elections too, some polling suggests so. But the dynamism and courage of the opposition suggest that Iranians are not backing down, and will keep up the pressure. Ultimately, the hardliners will have to bend, or else the nation could fall into civil war. The regime isn’t as strong as people think, nor is it in control of the population.

    • Every once in a while (rarely) you are correct. Iran is extremely vulnerable to an embargo. They import most of their food much of their products and even their refined fuel.

      The problem is does the administration have the poltical will to orchestrate such an embargo? You think that he might can pull it off because he is loved by the rest of the world.

      I think it is the other way around. The world might not have liked Bush but they respected him. I am not sure they respect Obama. However, he might have gotten Russian support, if so he might pull it off. I hope so.

      • So who wants to be the one who denies Iranian kids food? Or perhaps the UN could set up another oil for food deal, eh?

        Hugo Chavez has already promised Iran 20,000 bbls of gasoline a day should that be included in sanctions.

        And unless someone is ready & willing to use force to enforce an embargo, my guess is it won’t work. I’d also guess that the IRG would love to have a little fun in the gulf with those trying to enforce it. They’ve been spoiling for a fight for a while and may see it as a way to build political and patriotic support internally for the regime.

      • Actually, I think Bush lost the respect of most leaders by late in his term, the US was generally ignored and our influence weak. Can Obama do better? Perhaps not, this is a test. It’s difficult too since I think most of the world really doubts our capacity to act effectively given the problems of the last decade. So OK, let’s see how Obama does.

  • While I have no doubt that Israel could probably take out Iran’s critical nuclear-bomb making facilites, the real issue is that once Israel launches any attack on Iran, no matter how measured it is, Iran will launch World War III on just about anyone it doesn’t like.

    Caculating than no major power has the will or the troops to invade and control a country with a population of 80 million and the land area of half the US, the Iranians will begin an intensifying war on the USA and Israel as well as any nation that supports either. The range of options the Iranians has is large, from terror attacks on soft targets worldwide to shutting down the Straits of Hormuz, or directing Hez or Hamas to launch chemical or biological attacks on Israel itself.

    Given that our current commander-in-chief is feckless, overly moralistic and would be vastly more concerned over collateral damage in Iran than about the lives of the soliders that fight under his command (or the lives of Iranians that actually want change), it’s highly unlikely that any US response would be sufficient to deter the Ayatollah and his chief minion from launching such a war.

    Make no mistake that it’s coming, and sooner than you think. The current Iranian atomic program has been going for 30 years. They’re not going to stop because of a few well-worded speeches and positive news spin from CNN.

  • Israel will only strike if it is that or be destroyed. For Israel, “be destroyed” certainly has to mean at the latest Iran having the capability to put a nuclear weapon into a cargo container and detonate it somewhere. In other words, Iran does not have to have the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead by missile in order to wipe out Israel: simply getting ships into Israeli ports with containers with nuclear weapons on board would be sufficient, and I think it would only take a few to put Israel’s existence in grave doubt. Particularly because, after such an event, the Syrians at least would almost certainly attempt to destroy Israel, in combination with Hizb’allah, HAMAS and probably even Fatah. Victory, for them, would be in clear sight with Israel so crippled.

    So for Israel, this is a matter of their national existence, and I’m sure they look at it as their religious and/or racial existence also. While the US could accept a nuclear Iran, albeit with limitations on our freedom of action and a very strong Iranian proxy offensive against us and our allies throughout the region and maybe the world, Israel cannot be so sanguine. Given that, the point that Israel would strike, heedless of consequences, is at the point that Iran was ready to demonstrate or had demonstrated nuclear capability, to the best extent Israeli intelligence could determine that. I believe that Israel strongly hopes that the US will strike first, if no other avenues work. (I also think it’s pretty clear that nothing short of destroying Iran’s ability to import and export goods and waiting perhaps a year, or alternately military strikes on Iranian facilities sustained over a long period of time, will work to disarm the Iranians.)

    I share your analysis of Israel’s ability to strike Iran, except to note that you have been too optimistic. Many of these sites are deeply buried, which complicates the intelligence and limits the ability to destroy them or put them out of commission. As such, Israel’s ability to destroy the Iranian nuclear capability, a la Osirak, is essentially nil. But that’s hardly the end of the story: Israel has other options. To a strategic thinker, once you say that method A will fail, you don’t tend to say “so we can’t do anything.” Well, the winners don’t think that way, in any case. I can see three distinct avenues of attack Israel could pursue to end Iran’s nuclear program.

    1. Destroy the Iranian regime. A combination of targeted assassinations, air and missile strikes (from their subs, which appear to mount conventionally-armed cruise missiles), and the bombing (by ground-emplaced bombs, rather than by air, most likely) of certain key infrastructure, communications and leadership targets could potentially eliminate a large enough swathe of the leadership to convince the others to quit or die. On the other hand, the blowback would be immense, particularly from Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank. The US would most likely not support Israel’s efforts, which means sustaining them would be difficult and thus less likely to succeed. Not my first choice, but probably worth the attempt if nothing better comes along.
    2. Asymmetrical strikes. Target any nuclear facilities that are known and easy to get (Bushehr comes to mind) with air or other raids, combined with destroying harbor facilities, tunnels, and bridges; blocking mountain passes to the North and mining the Iranian harbors. The intent would be to destroy their ability to get refined petroleum, which is a key weakness of Iran’s. This would almost certainly succeed for a short while, and would likely be effective for a short while. Could Israel sustain the shutdown via period re-targeting, to ensure that the Iranian economy remained isolated? Much more problematic, unless the US was willing to provide massive support.
    3. What do you mean, forget nuclear weapons? Israel has a nuclear arsenal to ensure that no one can destroy Israel. If someone is about to destroy Israel, why would they not use their arsenal? (I have heard, though I do not know if it is true, that the Israelis launched their airborne nuclear forces in 1973, but did not order them to their targets because Israel was able to turn the tide of battle conventionally.) A nuclear attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be very destructive to Iran (many targets are buried under population centers) even if the nuclear facilities themselves were only impeded, instead of fully destroyed. Politically, this is the most risky option; the blowback would be unbelievably intense. But especially over the long term, this might be the best option Israel has. Not only does it solve the short term problem, it removes any doubts in anyone’s mind of Israel’s determination to defend itself at all costs, and utterly eliminates (if the attack is planned correctly) Iran as a strategic threat to Israel for at least a decade, probably much longer.

    Ignoring the political ramifications, I’d pick option 3. That means that if I were an Israeli leader, I’d be giving serious consideration to how to minimize those political ramifications, and how to maximize the future deterrent effect of such a strike. And I’d be telling the US about it, because that alone might be enough to cause the US to undertake a conventional campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities, which the US could do but which Israel could not.

    In brief, I would certainly not rule out an Israeli use of nuclear weapons if they felt that there was no other way to ensure their security.

  • Does anyone know if Israel has EMP capability? That sounds like the ideal tool for the job. Minimum initial civilian casualties, should render most of the facilities useless, no need to overfly anyone’s airspace, no loss of friendly forces and would it cause enough internal chaos to bring about regime change.

  • The simplest way to produce an EMP is to airburst a nuke over the desired target, so of course Israel has the capability.

    But the downside is that the damage caused by this my be overrated – and Israel would have to deal with all the stigma of having launched a nuclear attack without having actually benefited from the damage such an attack should do. Probably not worth it.

    A serious attack is a nuke on top of every Revolutionary Guard base, simultaneously. Yes, since these are in major population centers the casualties could easily be in the tens of millions. But it would definitively end the Iranian threat for decades to come.

  • I understand that the Iranians build some of these facilities deep, such that the Israelis may not be able to take them out with conventional weapons.

    • Also, what does Iran have that we do not know about? Israeli intelligence is good, but Iran is a huge state with diverse geography. You can’t destroy what you don’t know exists.

  • Gotta factor Egypt and the Saudis into this, as they’re the regional powers. Both have shown that they also have no interest in seeing a nuke-armed Iran. They’d have to publically condemn Israel but would probably act behind the scenes to mitigate the retaliation. The last thing Egypt needs would be an influx of Palis fleeing any fighting.

  • I could be mistaken, but one of the steps in production produces an unmistakeable radialogical signature even when buried underground. This is picked up by satellites in space. If you targetted that link in the chain, you’ll know when they’ve stopped production. You’ll know if they have another facility or rebuilt it.

    Its a recipe and you just have to deny one ingredient.

    Just thinking outloud that it may be logistical challenge simplified with a little technology that’s not immediately obvious to those not proficient in the art of atomic weapons production and detection.

  • The Israelis will rely on MAD and kill list (i.e. any nuclear attack in Israel would lead to an automated retalliation (going down a kill list., unless they really think a strike will work. I am doubtful.

  • Any operation against that many targets would be really big and probably take a lot of losses. So I would expect them to be deep in planning mode to make sure that it would be effective enough. Consider that once this operation started they only have a short time before the usual suspects start whining.

  • capt joe wrote: “doesn’t have to be a nuke to create a powerful EMP effect”.

    You must know something that the rest of us don’t know. What chemical explosive generates a strong enough pulse of electro-magnetic energy to match the effects of an atomic bomb explosion?

    Re-read – or read, if you haven’t before – the Biblical tale of Sampson. You will see that he brought down the temple of his enemies rather than submit to their use of him as an advertisement for the power of their deity. Israel as a nation is in a similar situation. In the event that Iran has the engineering ability to produce atomic bombs, it will not matter to Israel that “world opinion” would be totally unfavorable toward them or, even, that a number of nations would attack Israel with or without atomic weapons, in the event that Israel were to attack Iran with the objective of destroying Iran’s ability to produce atomic bombs. You seem to forget one important point: if or when Iran has atomic bombs, they have said repeatedly and emphatically that they will use them on Israel. Consider the effects on Israel. Now, in light of that, (1) what does Israel care for the good opinion of the governments of the world? (2) Of what use is the good opinions of governments when your nation and its people are radioactive ruins? (3)What difference is it, if Iran alone attacks and destroys Israel or (4)if Israel is destroyed by a coalition of nations in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran’s atomic bomb capacity? Answers: (1) Nothing. (2) Nothing. (3) No difference. (4) No difference. In reason and in sentiment, Israel has no obstacle to attacking Iran’s atomic bomb facilities. Remember that these are the survivors and the survivors’ children and grandchildren of the Holocaust, of the ’48 War, of the ’56 War, of the ’67 War, of the ’73 War, etc etc. Think that they won’t have what it takes to pull the trigger on Iran, even under the worst possible eventuality? Guess again.

    • The Sampson option, can’t say that I blame them, even in the least.

      • The key question: Are the Iranian leaders rational people who are just talking propaganda but at the end of the day will not use their nukes for fear of being annihilated?

        Or are they not so rational?

        and who would control the nukes?

    • Here is how you can make an e bomb without nukes

      Here is what the US is working on for non nuke based e bombs

      From the article

      “The US Navy reportedly used a new class of highly secret, non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse warheads during the opening hours of the Persian Gulf War to disrupt and destroy Iraqi electronics systems. The warheads converted the energy of a conventional explosion into a pulse of radio energy. The effect of the microwave attacks on Iraqi air defense and headquarters was difficult to determine because the effects of the HPM blasts were obscured by continuous jamming, the use of stealthy F-117 aircraft, and the destruction of Iraq’s electrical grid. The warheads used during the Gulf War were experimental warheads, not standard weapons deployed with fielded forces.

      Col. William G. Heckathorn, commander of the Phillips Research Site and the deputy director of the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory, was presented the Legion of Merit medal during special retirement ceremonies in May 1998. In a citation accompanying the medal, Col. Heckathorn was praised for having provided superior vision, leadership, and direct guidance that resulted in the first high-power microwave weapon prototypes delivered to the warfighter. The citation noted that “Col. Heckathorn united all directed energy development within Army, Navy and Air Force, which resulted in an efficient, focused, warfighter-oriented tri-service research program.” In December of 1994 he came to Kirtland to become the director of the Advanced Weapons and Survivability Directorate at the Phillips Laboratory. Last year he became the commander of the Phillips Laboratory while still acting as the director of the Advanced Weapons and Survivability Directorate.”

  • I don’t pretend to be a nuclear physicist, but isn’t the “imminence” of this equation a little overdone? We know Iran has uranium deposits, which is all well and good, but making weapons grade uranium takes an impressive amount of energy and centrifuge power. I think I read somewhere that Iran has 5,000 working cascade centrifuges at this point. Would they not need around ten times that number in order to even sniff weapons grade uranium? I mean 100 or so pounds of 90% enriched uranium is a big freaking deal. So doesn’t the question become: how long will it take them to get that level of centrifuge power online?

    • Centrifuge technology has been continuously developed over the past 70 years. Their power demands are much lower today.

    • I think the known number is over 8,000 now and there is speculation that the two known sites are just a couple among many.

      From the NY Times:

      Graham Allison, the author of “Nuclear Terrorism” and a Harvard professor who focuses on proliferation, said he could not conceive of Iran’s building only one such site.

      “How likely is it that the Qum facility is all there is? Zero. A prudent manager of a serious program would certainly have a number of sites,” he said.

      Given the level of paranoia in Iran, I think that’s a reasonable assumption. And, of course, to answer your question, if the assumption is correct, they could be very close.





  • Israel has only one goal: Get the United States involved in military action against Iran. If Israel believes that the “Jack D. Ripper” approach pioneered in Dr. Strangelove might work, they’ll be in there tomorrow. But they don’t “trust” Obama (read: Israel isn’t sure Obama would follow them in).

    It’s laughable reading Wolfowitz declaring that Iran is standing in the way of “nuclear peace.” Iran is completely surrounded by countries or proxies, ALL of whom possess nuclear weapons. Does anyone think for one minute that, if Israel was in Iran’s shoes, they would not be working 24/7 to acquire nukes?

    Iran’s going to get nukes. They won’t use them unless they’re invaded (unlike Israel, something they have never done). Israel, Pakistan and India already have them. Puhleeze … just Get Over It.

    • “Iran’s going to get nukes. They won’t use them unless they’re invaded (unlike Israel, something they have never done). Israel, Pakistan and India already have them. Puhleeze … just Get Over It.”

      Hmm, when did Pakistan and India ever declare, multiple times, that they would wipe Israel off the map?

      What does this mean? “(unlike Israel, something they have never done).” You lost me on that one? Israel has never acknowledged that they have (To my knowledge) nor have they ever used nukes. I don’t understand your statement, seems nonsensical.

      • “What does this mean? “(unlike Israel, something they have never done).” ”

        He’s trying to imply that Iran has never invaded another country, but Israel has. In reality, Israel has only invaded first in 1967 after enemies were already massing troops after the UN peacekeepers had been sent away. Other than than all Isreali invasions followed enemy attacks (similar to Iran going into Iraq during their war). Meanwhile, I suggest he look up Hezbollah. Iran has attacked Israel numerous times, Israel has never attacked Iranian soil.

        • I understand, I also don’t think, as you alluded too, that the 1967 war can be called and attack by Israel. To do so, one would have to ignore the Syrian attacks from the Golan Heights, Nasser’s incessant rhetoric, and Egypt’s blockade of the Strait of Tiran in total disregard of UN convention. On top of those actions the ineffectiveness of President Johnson in organizing international support to get rid of the blockade while telling Israel to do nothing put Israel in an even more grave position. The ‘67 war was a response not an attack and the situation today is eerily similar.

          • The blockage of the Strait of Tiran, in and of itself, was an act of war (see international law) and all the justification Israel needed to take action at that time.

      • The Iranian government and Guardian Council has said they will not try to eliminate Israel through force, and the “wipe off the map” comment refers to the fact that Israel is wiped off the map in Arab and now Iranian maps and texts. So it’s wrong to say they have stated they’ll attack Iran.

        In any event, the Guardian Council has a history a of ruthlessly Machiavellian yet also intensely rational and self-interested foreign policy. The threat to Israel is less a nuclear strike, more an emboldened Hezbollah which Iran can aid (not with nukes) without as much fear of Israeli retribution (due to MAD).

    • Ok, let’s set aside their promises to wipe Israel off the map and the fact the leadership is part of a cult which believes its up to man to trigger the apocalypse. Even if they only use them only as a deterrent to invasion, is that a good thing?

      They are responsible for sponsoring most of the strife in the region. Imagine how emboldened they will be if they believe the chance of repercussions are less because they have a nuke.

  • Pardon the off the wall comment but can you imagine what a US strike against Iran would do for President Obama’s approval ratings?

  • Acquiring nukes, when everybody around you has them, just makes sense. Israel’s leaders privately acknowlege that Iran would be crazy NOT to seek nukes. Iran has seen itself invaded by a US-sponsored, poison-gas-spewing neighbor (Iraq), watched one of its civilian 747s blown out of the sky by a trigger-happy American warship, and witnesses Israel bomb anything in the area — an Act of War, by the way — it feels like.

    All the while, America and Israel preach, “Nuclear weapons are necessary for OUR security, but not for YOURS.” Why? “Because you’re crazy, and we’re not.” This assertion is necessary, because it is not rational for any nation possessing nukes to actually use them. Iran may be many things, but it is not irrational about survival.

    Despite the subtly-twisted translations of Iran’s disdain and contempt for Israel, those expressions do not amount to a declaration of war — any more so than Israel’s sabre-rattling. The words are, more likely, a dare to bait Israel into an attack that will only slightly hamper Iran’s nuke program while solidifying Iranian political unity and determination for vengeance.

  • I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that Iran actually wants to be attacked. It knows that it’s probably a couple of years away from developing a single nuclear device (quality unknown,) and that the use of that single device would quickly bring about its own destruction. I would wager that Iran thinks that by baiting a nation such as Israel into performing a limited strike like the one set out above, it will unify and harden its own population. It’s important to remember how fractured the United States was right before 9/11, and how unified it was after.

    Right now, the worst possible action would be a strike against the known Iranian facilities. That government has just completed an outright fraud of an election, the brutalization of its own people, and holds little, if any, legitimacy internally. To strike would be to unify the population behind the regime and harden their resolve for outright conflict. I can’t see that as a favorable outcome.

  • If anyone doubts that, should they become certain of the Iranians’ possession of nuclear weapons, the Israelis would use whatever means they considered necessary – including the nuclear option – to attack the Iranian nuclear capability, they should go and Google “masada” and read the following entry:

    The beginning is quite informative:

    “Masada today is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols. Israeli soldiers take an oath there: “Masada shall not fall again.” Next to Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of Jewish tourists visiting Israel.”

    The last part is even more so:

    “The term “Masada complex” is sometimes applied critically to advocates of right-wing policies in the Israeli government. Political scientist Susan Hattis Rolef has defined this “complex” as “the conviction … that it is preferable to fight to the end rather than to surrender and acquiesce to the loss of independent statehood.”

    Some further useful reading may be found by searching for “warsaw ghetto uprising.”

    Suffice it to say, the Iranians are not the only people who know how to die for their beliefs.

    In the end, the Israelis will do whatever they come to believe is necessary – no matter how “self-destructive” that might appear, to others, to be.

  • Oh, please…. Leave the Masada folklore in the attic, along with the Old Testament tales of the Jews parting the waters to drown their persecutors.

    Every nation has its “tragic hero” mythology. The Germans have Gotterdamarung (certainly the most artistic one). Americans have “Remember the Alamo!” The Russians have Stalingrad. The Japanese built an entire Samurai society around it.

    The Israelis get a lot of mileage out of projecting an air of boldness, and here’s this guy Ahmadinejad threatening — threatening! — a country, Israel, that has a powerful air force, modern army, big American brother watching over its shoulders, and 160-some-odd nuclear weapons stashed away in the closet just in case. They’re starting to feel out-chutpahed when Iran, possessing none of the above, starts mouthing off to them like they’re Malta or something.

    I repeat: It is not rational to use nuclear weapons. The consequences, especially for a pariah state like Israel, are apocalyptic. I give the Jews credit for being at least as rational as Pakistanis, or Indians, or Russians, or any of the other nuclear states — even Iran, if it comes to that.