The Obama administration has tried to reconcile the futility of curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomatic means, albeit half-heartedly as evidenced from the July 02, 2012 meeting between U.S. and Russian nuclear negotiators meeting for the fourth time in Istanbul.
It is my firm belief that the United States has come to a breakpoint concerning Iranian ambitions: either come to terms with a nuclear Iran or launch a preemptive campaign hitting Iranian nuclear facilities.
Thirty years ago, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) hit Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor drawing nearly universal condemnation. It fell to Manachem Begin to underwrite Israeli policy regarding nuclear preemption as a doctrine of preventive counter-proliferation grounded in both historic memory and geo-strategic logic. Although there are tactical differences regarding both the Osirak operation and the 2007 bombing of Syria’s al-Kibar reactor having been the result of both covert and diplomatic advances. Both times the Israeli’s acted in pursuant of its interests.
How will Israeli options be carried out in 2012?
The Iraqi nuclear assets were concentrated at Osirak, yet Iran’s nuclear program and facilities are spread out close to population centers. The United States knows of five such nuclear centers.
1. The Bushehr light water reactor located along the gulf coast of southwestern Iran.
2. Arak’s heavy water plant instrumental in the production of plutonium.
3. Isfahan uranium conversion facility.
4. Qom’s uranium enrichment facility (build into a mountain, making it immune to standard bombs.)
5. The most heavily fortified facility, and primary target is Natanz. This facility consists of two very large halls, roughly 300,000 square feet each, dug between eight to twenty-three feet below ground and heavily covered in several layers of concrete and steel. The walls of each are considered to be about two feet thick. Only at Natanz do we see Russian made short range TOR-M surface to air missiles.
The Israeli operation would first hit Iranian radar stations and air bases rendering Teheran’s ability to defend its skies nearly impossible. Totally, Israel would need to engage a few dozen sites.
The IAF (Israeli Air Force) is capable of hitting all five facilities with three squadrons of fighter-bombers with escorts. The Israeli’s can make use of both ballistic missiles and cruise missiles from their Dolphin-class submarines.
Refueling escorts is not a challenge given how Israel used refueling tankers in both its 1981 Osirak reactor and Israel’s longest strike-range target Tunis, 1,500 miles away destroying PLO headquarters in 1985.
The IAF has build using American design munitions designed to penetrate fortified targets, included its GBU-27 and GBU-28 laser guided bunker busters. IAF pilots are trained and skilled at using successive missile strikes to penetrate fortifications.
Israeli advanced electronic-warfare systems are successful in suppressing Russian made Iranian air defenses. The antiquated Iranian Air Force is no match for the IAF.
Israel’s main problem is the distance to Iranian strike targets. It has three possible routes.
Its northern route runs along the Turkish-Syrian border into Iran and is estimated at 1,300 miles. Israeli-Turkish bilateral relations are not good, however, the IAF can reach an altitude rendering them inaccessible to either Turkish or Syrian fighters. We should keep in mind how Istanbul thinks of itself as a Sunni arbiter for the House of Saud; we should not fear an alliance that would procure a success for Israel.
The most direct route is a central route over Jordan and Iraq bringing the distance to Natanz from IAF’s Hatzerim air base down to about 1,000 miles. A diplomatic alliance with both America and Jordan would be required for a successful hit on Iran’s multiple reactors. A weakened Iraq would feel Teheran’s wrath.
The southern route would take the IAF over Saudi Arabia into Iran; there are multiple open source communications verified that the House of Saud would welcome IAF transport. I am specifically referring to Vice President Dick Cheney’s rapport with the Saudi’s immediately before the 2008 elections.
The Israeli’s have verified that the IAF would need to hit about sixty targets with return sorties lasting two days. As of this writing, the Israeli’s have strengthened their Dimona nuclear reactor in anticipation of retaliation. Retaliation will not be limited to Jerusalem.
It is possible to envision the entire West Bank engulfed in sectarian conflict. A non-porous border with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan can mitigate any asymmetrical advances. Time, patience, resources and alliances is how Jerusalem wins this conflict. We should anticipate the Persian Gulf Monarchies favorable to Jerusalem throughout this campaign, especially given how the House of Saud’s enemy is Teheran. We must acknowledge that Israeli military doctrine calls for short wars. This make sthe reality of alliances throughout the Sunni world paramount. We should also anticipate that the nuclear matter will resolve itself once there is regime change.
As of this writing, the Israeli and American governments must chose between preemption or large scale regional conflict with very long adverse nuclear, asymmetrical implications. It is my belief that most American citizens will side with Israel, especially given how incredulous Iranian public clams of apocalyptic war render them inaccessible to any form of diplomatic realism.