Israel would have to deploy most of its air force to attack Iran and still would lack planes, analysts told The New York Times in an article that may have been timed as part of an American campaign to talk down Israel from considering a military strike.
The bottom line is that despite Israel’s superiority in surgical strikes, such as the attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 and on a Syrian nuclear facility under construction four years ago, Iran is another story. Israel does not have the capability to fly the distance to Iran nor does it have the arsenal that can damage Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, buried under concrete bunkers in mountainous areas, analysts told correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller.
“There’s only one superpower in the world that can carry this off,” meaning the United States, said former U.S. Air Force intelligence official Lt. Gen David A. Depulta. “Israel’s great on a selective strike here and there,” he added.
The article was published while Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, was in Jerusalem, where he spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday. Details of their conversation were not released, but it is assumed his visit carried a message that Israel should back down from its hints that an aerial strike on Iran is imminent.
Donilon’s visit came one day after U.S. Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told CNN that an Israeli strike would be “destabilizing.”
American officials have insisted that economic sanctions on Iran are working, and that it is only a matter of time before Tehran realizes it must change course in its nuclear development or face economic disaster. Israel is afraid that it is only a matter of time before Ahmadinejad will be able to have control of a nuclear warhead that can be launched on Israel.
Previous scenarios of an Israel attack on Iran have indicated that it would take at least month to complete, possibly touching off a regional war and/or a punishing Iranian blockade of the Strait Of Hormuz, the passageway for a sizeable amount of the world’s oil and natural gas needs.
American estimates of Israel’s lack of capability to carry out a successful strike on Iran are limited by the unknown factor of weapons or tactics that Israel may possess.
Nevertheless, analysts’ conclusions, as reported in the Times, are that Israel would need refueling planes to enable its planes to reach Iran and return, a trip of 2,000 miles, and would need permission to use the air space of Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Iraq.
Unless Israel has more re-fueling planes than is known, it does not have enough to support an aerial strike, according to defense consultant Scott Johnson. Since the refueling planes need additional fighter planes to guard them, he told Bumiller, “The numbers [of planes] you need just skyrocket.”
They would require refueling supertankers to fly at the height of 50,000 feet, and the warplanes would need to knock out Iran’s radar systems to allow the craft to attack without encountering anti-missile fire.
Even if Israel got that far, it still would lack the bombing power to penetrate nuclear facilities, such as the underground Natanz plan and the Fordo uranium enrichment site in the mountains.
Israel has several American-made bunker buster bombs, but they are not thought to be powerful enough to do the job.