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Friday, July 14, 2006

Did Israel decide Iran had enough rope?

So Israel has decided to treat the latest act of war by Hezbollah as, by gum, an act in a war, and is fighting a war in return. Israel's ambassador to Washington is also talking very tough about Iran's part in Hezbollah's activities.

I wonder if this is as much about how to solve the problem of Iran-about-to-have-nukes as about Hezbollah. Perhaps Israel has been biding its time, waiting for Iran's interference in Lebanon to become blatant enough that (a) there'd be sufficient provocation to go into Lebanon and (b) attacking Iran would be a logical next step. If Iran's nuclear program wasn't sufficient casus belli, now Israel has a better one.

1 comment:

Paul Hager said...

There are several factors that militate against a direct Israeli attack on Iran:
(1)Most Iranian targets are beyond the combat radius of Israeli aircraft.
(2)Israeli aircraft would have to overfly a couple of countries in order to carry out an attack.
(3)An Israeli air campaign would require thousands of sorties over a period of months in order to be effective.

Item (1) means that the Israelis need to either do massive in-air refueling or attack from forward bases in Iraq. I'm not sure that they have sufficient tankers for the former and I seriously doubt the U.S./Iraq would allow the Israelis to us Iraqi bases.

Item (2) relates to item (1). Even if Israel had enough tankers, its attack sorties would have to overfly airspace controlled by the U.S. The U.S. would be assumed to be using the Israelis as proxies and we'd get all of the negatives associated with preempting.

Item (3) relates to item (2). The Israeli airforce, though very large in relation to the size of the country that supports it, is still relatively small. Flying SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) missions, which are a prerequisite for an extended air campaign, will be a campaign unto itself. In essence, the entire air defense network of Iran will have to be destroyed and that means a lot of missions. Then the prime targets have to be hit. Logistically, the Israelis would be stretched to the breaking point though I think such an attack could be conducted. Still, a protracted campaign exacts a political cost, primarily on the U.S. If the U.S. is going to get the heat for an Israeli attack, we might as well do it ourselves. Aside from U.S. air assets, we have cruise missiles in large numbers that would cripple Iranian air defenses in the first few minutes of the campaign.

To sum up: no direct Israeli attack on Iran. That is, unless Iran directly attacks Israel.