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Op-Ed: Israel Will Strike Iran 's Subterranean Nuclear Sites

An Israeli strike on Iran's sites is inevitable. However, timing and opportunity do matter. A careful analysis of both.
Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 11:50 AM


Israel is facing an existential threat far greater than anyone could have ever imagined and difficult to ignore. On the contrary, it would even be foolish to assume that Israelis and Jews living overseas are safer - when Iran becomes a nuclear capable state.

An overwhelming majority of Israelis believe that the Iranian nuclear threat constitutes an existential threat to the State of Israel; and the price Israel would have to pay for living under the shadow of Iran's nuclear warheads is higher than the price it would pay for attacking Iran's nuclear capability.

Israel's cruel dilemma is an open ended question of bombing or not bombing Iran. A critical decision to risk indeterminate war with Iran will be a momentous challenge for Israel- and yet, it will have a durable impact towards the preservation of geopolitical-strategic balance of power in the restive Middle East.

In any military conflict, however, timing and opportunity do matter.

Indeed, an inevitable Israeli airstrike against Iran's subterranean nuclear facilities may be a very complex operation- but Israel's high tech military advantage could level the playing field and determine once and for all, the fate of its enemies, who would reel in disbelief.

Consequently, plausible deniability and nuclear ambiguity have served Israel's decisive deterrence so far against Iran and its proxies: Hizbullah in Lebanon, Syria, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

It is interesting to note that Israel's first layer of defense, the Iron Dome, has successfully intercepted short-range rockets from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense, but the David Sling and Arrow, specifically designed with Iran’s Shahab missiles in mind, has never been tested in real-life combat.

In general, an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike on Iran's underground nuclear facilities from Natanz to Fordow, in particular, might require the most lethal combination of sophisticated precision-guided bunker-buster weapons (GBU-27 and GBU-28) that can only be carried on B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.

In large measure, Israel already possesses these weapons, built either on their own or sold to it by the U.S. But, it is unclear how Israel would deliver the GBUs maximum payload short of B-2s.

Furthermore, Israel's possession of Jericho III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), that can reach New York and Tokyo, are capable of striking Iran's above-ground targets. The high speed of the ICBM makes it practically invincible for interception and will free up IDF aircrafts to focus on hard targets.

In absolute terms, Israel could use tactical nukes- but the IDF might opt to use the much vaunted precision guided GBU-31s which have the same warhead as Israel’s existing GBU-28s (the BLU-122 warhead)- to augment the IAF’s existing capabilities.

Of course, it is not surprising, or beyond the realm of impossibilities, that Israel might deploy a simultaneous, knockout combination of cyber offensive weapons and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks.

In the event Russia might have surreptitiously supplied Iran with the SA-12 or S-300 air defense systems, the attrition rate of an Israeli air strike could be significant.

But now, a respected Washington think tank (CSIS) has said that low-radioactive yield "tactical" nuclear warheads would be one way for the Israelis to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment plants in remote, dug-in fortifications.

Given the difficulty its jets would face in reaching Iran for anything more than a one-off sortie - ballistic missiles or submarine-launched cruise missiles could serve for Israeli tactical nuclear strikes without interference from Iranian air defenses.

"Preemptive nuclear strikes are foreign to the national doctrine":

Israeli leaders do not comment on this capability other than to underscore its deterrent role. A veteran Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said preemptive nuclear strikes were foreign to the national doctrine: "Such weapons exist so as not to be used."

Neither the public nor the media ought to deal with the operational issues that are connected to a military action. Having said that, the mainstream media is actually rife with speculation about the United States -- which, like Israel, has not ruled out military force to deny Iran atomic arms, and could itself resort to tactical nuclear strikes.

"We are not bluffing," has become the familiar refrain from both countries specifically as a warning to Iran. Under no circumstances will Israel agree to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Unfortunately, the U.S.-Iran secret nuclear deal to recognize Iran as a "threshold-power", as long as it does not manufacture atomic weapons is inherently a flawed logic.

As a result of a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear program, Iran has forfeited its right to unrestricted access to civil nuclear technology. Moreover, nuclear weapons have become a symbol of Iran's national pride and therefore, there is no ironclad guarantee that Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons.

The possibility that there is still time for diplomatic sanctions to succeed is just a morbid dream and an illusion of the imprudent Obama administration.

Let us make this categorically clear to Iran:

The U.S. and Israel share a united front against Iran, and the U.S. commitment to defending its longtime ally in the Middle East remains unbreakable. For the most part, the U.S. has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the U.S. could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.

The importance of the recent most complex and carefully orchestrated $10 billion arms deal to maintain Israel's military edge cannot be overemphasized - a clear signal that Iran could face a military strike unless it abandoned its suspect nuclear program.

Although Iran's genocidal rhetoric is unmistakably clear, Israel senses bluffing in Iran’s threats of retaliation.

Come to think about it- a fanatical radical Islamist theocracy bent on taking over the world for Islam, and "wiping Israel off the map", by itself deserves to be sent back to the Stone Age.

Now the moment of truth has come to a close: Iran has enough enriched uranium to build five atomic bombs and probably is in possession of at least one primitive nuclear device—a "dirty bomb.”

What’s really interesting here is Washington's response to U.S. intelligence indicating that the "red line"- Syria's use of chemical weapons (sarin) and the transfer of its stockpiles to a terrorist group under the guidance of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Al-Quds - has been passed is very troublesome.

In light of these developments, Iran's direct involvement in all the conflicts in Syria and the botched terrorist attacks in different parts in the world are a ruse designed to divert attention from its illicit nuclear program.

Finally, there is no question that under the Obama White House's incompetent foreign policy, Iran has become the greatest purveyor of global terrorism and now is a de facto nuclear state, which via proxies has violated every convention of warfare- is a “casus belli” for Israeli military action.

The bottom line here is quite simple: in a few years, Israel's existence would be worthless, if it didn't make a historic decision to confront Iran's atomic ambitions. The truth, however cruel, is also revealing: Israel must always adopt the war footing required to prevail over the unimaginable perils and catastrophic consequences of a nuclear Iran.

Born in Manila, American by choice, the author is a former clinical research-physician-general surgeon for Saudi Arabian, Philippine and American healthcare systems and currently an American freelance writer as well as op-ed contributor.