I devoutly hope that what I am about to write is completely wrong. Nothing could make me happier than to find out that I’ve been fooled by the clever misdirection of our military leaders, and that in fact they are prepared to deal with Iran.
The impression that I get from reading between the lines of this survey of Israeli capabilities based on sources in the military and security establishment, and other comments made by such sources in recent weeks, is that
- Israel does have the ability to severely damage the Iranian nuclear project; but
- she is not prepared for an all-out war with Iran and Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the PA, and even elements of the Arab population inside the Green line; and
- military planners are just beginning to wake up to the fact that such a widespread conflict is inevitable.
One bright spot is that some of Israel’s leadership (perhaps with the exception of Defense Minister Benny Gantz) does finally understand that there will absolutely not be direct help from the US, and that in the best case the Americans will continue to supply Israel with essential ammunition and spare parts for her American weapons. In the worst case, the US will try to stop Israel from proceeding.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the idea of a surgical excision of Iran’s nuclear capability, as was done to Iraq in 1981 and to Syria a few years ago, is not realistic. The Iranian program is being carried out on several parallel tracks in multiple locations, and unlike the Iraqi and Syrian attempts to nuclearize, it is being run by native scientists and administrators. The know-how to rebuild the program will remain even if all the hardware is destroyed.
There is also the fact that the conventional capabilities of Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza are as great a threat – probably a greater threat at this time – than the specter of nuclear bombs. Tens of thousands of rockets, missiles, and drones, including some capable of precise guidance are deployed and ready for use. Removing the Iranian threat requires that this danger also be neutralized.
Especially in Lebanon, but also in Gaza, an attack on these installations would be complicated and expensive. Because they are deliberately embedded in the civilian population, it would entail great loss of life. Contrary to popular misconceptions, such an attack is permissible by the laws of war (indeed, the location of offensive weapons in civilian areas as practiced by Hamas and Hezbollah is itself a war crime). Nevertheless, the international reaction, would probably include sanctions and might even prompt intervention on (ironically) “humanitarian” grounds.
What is becoming clear is that what will be required of Israel is an all-out effort to take Iran off the playing field. Only “cutting the head off the snake” can interrupt multifarious activities of the Iranian regime, which include subversion throughout the world, regional expansionism, and the prospect of nuclear terrorism. Only a rapid, bold stroke can accomplish this without precipitating a long and bloody conflict that would bring untold misery to everyone in the region, to Israel and her neighbors together.
I don’t know if the Israeli leadership fully understands this yet, and has planned for it. Because there is no easy, surgical, way out. The Iranian regime itself must be taken down, perhaps to be replaced by a less fanatic domestic opposition.
What would such a “bold stroke” look like? I can only speculate. Possibly it would be an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) strike to cripple power, communications, and transportation, combined with conventional bombing of key installations and targeted killings of important military and civilian leaders. It would probably have to include the insertion of special forces personnel tasked to destroy key targets that can’t easily be hit from the air.
How do we know that the forces that might take over from the regime would be from the liberal opposition and not an even more fanatical group than the present gang? We don’t, but if the initial strike is carried out properly, they will have to rebuild the country’s infrastructure before being capable of restarting the nuclear and military adventures of the current regime.
Hezbollah and Hamas will remain, but when they understand that their source of money and weapons has been cut off, they will be easier to deter.
What I am suggesting is a very risky business, obviously, but it seems that the alternative is to try to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, whose ruling regime has threatened over and over again to wipe our state from the face of the earth, and which has surrounded us with well-armed proxies prepared to help bring that about. The present entirely defensive strategy will not protect us – it already would not protect us if Hezbollah were to launch a full-scale attack.
Are we ready? The feeling I get is that our leadership thinks it has a year or more to prepare to take action against Iran, and it is not clear what the dimensions of that action will be. I am not so sure that we have a year. Perhaps the Iranians don’t have a missile or drone with sufficient range and the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead today, but could they arrange for a nuclear truck bomb to explode in Tel Aviv? It’s unlikely, but not unthinkable.
I know PM Naftali Bennett is a creative thinker, and there are some resourceful and original thinkers in the IDF, despite its top-heavy bureaucracy. It’s up to them to come up with a plan and to bring about its acceptance and execution – before the opportunity evaporates.