Meir Dagan, who up until recently served as Mossad chief, said that an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would be a foolish act. Beyond the sense of unease over such decisive views being uttered by such senior ex-official, it would be worthwhile to see whether a strike would indeed be a foolish act under any circumstances.
Before undertaking a strategic review, we must ascertain whether a military option even exists. The answer to this depends on the defense establishment’s response to four questions. Do our intelligence bodies provide information that is credible enough, so that we know which targets to strike? Would we be able to dispatch a “critical mass” of jets? Will the armaments dropped by these jets penetrate Iranian defenses and cause significant damage? And the fourth, most important question: To what extent will Iran’s nuclear program be thwarted or delayed following such strike?
I do not know what the latest answers to these questions are. I assume that they are being asked, and I hope that the answers are good enough to make a military strike an option. At the same time it’s clear that even if such option exists, it would not necessarily be wise to utilize it.
The discussion on the matter to be held one of these days will only take place should the State of Israel face two options only: Accepting the fact that Iran possesses nuclear arms, or attempting to prevent this via an open military operation. There is no arguing that as long as there is a chance to avert Iranian nukes in others ways, whether this is done by us or by others, that would be preferable. The dilemma will only be relevant once we can no longer evade answer A or B.
What will US president say?The strategic risks inherent in each of these answers are immense, yet can we say today that under any circumstances it would be better for Israel to reconcile itself to the existence of nuclear weapons in Iran over an attempt to utilize a military strike (assuming such option is indeed available)? On this front, as is true in many other areas, one should never say never.
In the mid 1990s I headed the operational branch at IDF Headquarters. The Oslo process was at its zenith yet nonetheless we prepared contingency plans for a military takeover of the West Bank. One of the generals told me: “Why are we wasting time and effort on this? Do you really think that any government in Israel would ever order the army to retake Nablus and Jenin?” Several years passed, and in April 2002 this is precisely what happened; good thing the army was ready.
The one who can resolve Israel’s dilemma is the US president. A strike in Iran is not like a strike in Gaza, Lebanon, or even in Syria. The implications of such strike for US interests in the Gulf are such that if America’s president tells Israel’s prime minister that the US would not accept an Israeli strike in Iran, there will be no such strike – regardless of what Israel’s PM and defense minister want.
However, it’s entirely unclear whether this is the American message today or whether it would be the American message in the future.
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