Colleagues I thought that (COL) Mike Haas developed some excellent questions regarding Iran and the potential for an Israeli strike on Iran, and sent them to (COL/Dr) Dick Hobbs. Dick is the author of “World War IV and Beyond”, a particularly hard hitting treatise on “Islama-fascism” and the threat represented by militant/Jihadist Islam. However, he has been know to be equally hard on Israel and the powerful Israeli lobby. With Mike and Dick’s permission I am sharing these questions and responses with you. Save the date–on October 5 the NSF will welcome the Israeli Consul-General in LA, Mr. Dayan, to our NSF. Ty
Having read your book World War IV and Beyond (noting in particular the exhaustive research supporting the content), I believe it safe to say your credentials on the subject of Iran-Israel relations are beyond dispute. And thus after reading the alarming article (theme: an Israeli attack on Iran is inevitable) you shared with us this morning, I’d like to submit to you (AND TO YOU ONLY) a few questions. I hope you’ll share your answers with the Forum readership but that’s your call to make. Just for fun I’ll put them in a TRUE/FALSE format to help pin you down:-)
1. The Obama Administration is resigned to the prospect of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon capability, quite likely while Obama is still in his first term. TRUE/FALSE
Assume that is true because there really is very little they can do about it. The sad truth is that there is really very little that any country can do about it. The technology is widely known and available and any country that is willing to spend the time and money can build nuclear weapons. They can be delayed by various means (threats, sanctions, espionage, attacks), but if they are willing to persist, they will.
2. The U.S. has no credible military option to engage Iran–given its current military commitments elsewhere–thus will strive to the extreme to avoid a confrontation in any situation short of a direct Iranian attack on U.S. interests in the Gulf region. TRUE/FALSE
True. We can bomb them (Victory through Airpower!!), but, first that is aggression (a violation of international law) and second, unless we can totally remove the regime, it would only delay any program and have the disadvantage of uniting the country (and perhaps the entire Muslim world) behind their “sovereign right” to have nukes. There are enough crazy war hawks who would support a “surgical” strike on Iran, but it is very doubtful any US government would want to take on the opprobrium of destroying much of the infrastructure of Iran with the enormous civilian casualties it would entail. We do not have the ground troops to do anything useful in Iran.
3. The use of conventional weapons (by either the U.S. or Israel) in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is not a credible option as the damage done would not effectively halt the program for more than the short-term, maybe a couple of years. TRUE/FALSE
True. Also true for nuclear weapons unless we destroy the country (see 2). The Iranians learned from the Israeli attack on Osirak and they have their facilities widely separated (hundreds of miles) and deep underground. Facilities might be destroyed or damaged, but most of the scientists and technicians would probably survive.
4. Any attack on Iran by the U.S. and/or Israel would be followed shortly by a full-scale Hezbollah assault on Israel. TRUE/FALSE
Quite likely true, but that would only be one of many possible responses by Iran. HezbAllah is present in other places as well, such as Iraq and South America. There are many American targets – both individuals and installations – worldwide they could hit. The most critical target is the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran might try to close which would immediately affect the world economy. US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf would be vulnerable because the Iranians have developed their “swarming tactics” by which their small fast craft can attack our ships. They have Silkworm missiles secreted in many locations along the Gulf. US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would be vulnerable to attacks. They have told the Arab leaders on the Gulf that if they are attacked, they will strike their oil installations. However, the oil weapon is a two-edged sword for them because they also need to sell their oil. Rather than attack Arabs, they could call on the entire Muslim world to join them in a Grand Jihad against Israel and the Great Satan.
5. Israel has the political will for a pre-emptive attack on Iran, even without active U.S. support. TRUE/FALSE
True, but I would call it the political stupidity rather than political will. They know that if they attack, the US will be forced to come to their aid. The US Congress and the media will scream for the US to aid our “ally.
6. Ahmadinejad’s widely reported threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ was in fact misinterpreted by the media, i.e., what he actually said was that time alone would remove Israel in its current form from the map. [Something akin to Reagan’s famous remark that the communism would be consigned ‘to the dustbin of history]. TRUE/FALSE
7. Even in the event of war with Iran, no U.S. president would/could re-establish the military draft. TRUE/FALSE
Not sure about this one. If Iran is attacked, I think we will be in a world war and the nation will have to return to a draft.
8. UN sanctions to date are significantly altering the behavior of Iran’s ruling mullahs. TRUE/FALSE
False. Sanctions are a politician’s way of trying to show the public he is doing something about a problem he has no idea of how to resolve. There are too many diverse players in this game. The interests of Russia and China do not coincide with ours. China needs oil and is not making enemies. Russia is the major oil country and benefits from anything that disrupts the oil flow and raises the price of oil.
9. The State of Israel in its current political form would likely survive world condemnation for the economic havoc wrought by a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran. TRUE/FALSE
Probably true. But if the attack resulted in a very serious weakening of the US, the future of Israel would be dim. Israel’s future is not good. If they do not make some serious decisions on Palestine soon, the likelihood of the continuation of the Jewish state will erode quickly. Demographics will overcome them and force them to choose between being Jewish or being democratic.
10. A pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran would send the U.S. economy into a Depression. TRUE/FALSE
Probably true. Any attack on Iran will almost absolutely cause a leap in oil prices, which would place severe strain on an already reeling world economy. The US is not yet out of the current mess and a new blow would likely turn this recession into a depression.
There are some other points to consider. Iran does not really need nuclear weapons. They are strictly the trappings of a major power which Iran is and wants to be so recognized by the rest of the world. They are mainly good for deterrence (against Israel) but of little value for actual war. They have thoroughly developed their proxy war capability by their years of experience in Lebanon and Iraq and with the Kurds. They do not envision normal style conventional war; Lebanon taught them that you can defeat a conventional army (Israel) by sophisticated guerrilla warfare. They developed effective and accurate long and short range missiles, secure communications (fiber optics – no radios that can be monitored), cracked the Israeli codes, evasion by moving in small groups and hiding in the populace (negating reconnaissance by aircraft, drones and satellites), use of car and truck bombs, developed IEDS and later EFPs (explosively formed penetrators that took out Abrams tanks), etc.
Sunni leadership and the Pan Arab movement have failed and Iran sees the opportunity to seize the leadership of the Muslim world. They have been pragmatic in dealing with Sunnis such as the Kurds in the PKK against Turkey. Iran is now less theocratic and ideological and more calculating and pragmatic pursuing its foreign policy interests. This is probably the most important point in that Iran should now be dealt with as another power and should be seen as a player in power politics.
One last point is that much can be accomplished via espionage and special agents. The Israelis basically killed the Egyptian nuclear and missile program by killing German scientists. They also killed off many who were working on various programs in Iraq. Iran has killed off its own internal opponents overseas including Paris. Probably as much or longer delays could be attained in Iran with similar targeted programs against scientists and technicians and some facilities. There has evidently been some of this already. The advantage is deniability and the preclusion of reprisals that overt attacks almost surely would invoke.
Sorry for the long answers, but it is a touchy subject because of the power of the Israel lobby and media in this country and the feeling that Israel is our great “ally” and we must stand beside this small rogue country. That is why I think Ty should have another NSF session on Iran.