The fall out from yesterday’s story in the Times of London–which reported an IAF plan to drop tactical nuclear weapons on Iran’s nuclear weapons plants–has been instructive. AP reports (via Salon) that the Israeli foreign ministry ‘denied the report.’ However, it’s interesting to note that the foreign ministry spokesperson’s ‘denial’ was not quoted so it’s hard to know precisely what he said. This is what WAS quoted:
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev…said that “the focus of the Israeli activity today is to give full support to diplomatic actions” and the implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment.
Which begs the question: what happens after Israel gives up on diplomacy?? Would it resort to the nuclear option then? I’d also note that the ‘denial’ came not from the IDF (which actually had a “no comment” on the story) which released the original information, but from the foreign ministry, which certainly has no control over, nor knowledge of military strategic decisions.
A number of distinguished IDF-watchers have also poured some cold water on the possibility it would actually seriously consider dropping nuclear bombs on Iran. The same AP story quotes these analysts:
“I refuse to believe that anyone here would consider using nuclear weapons against Iran,” Reuven Pedatzur, a prominent defense analyst and columnist for the daily Haaretz, told the AP. “It is possible that this was a leak done on purpose, as deterrence, to say ‘someone better hold us back, before we do something crazy.'”
Ephraim Kam, a strategic expert at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies and a former senior army intelligence officer, also dismissed the report.
“No reliable source would ever speak about this, certainly not to the Sunday Times,” Kam said.
Sol Salbe wrote to me yesterday about correspondence he’d had with a noted progressive Israeli journalist who doubted the IDF statements were meant as anything other than “a bluff.” His reasons were: that the Israeli raid would be technically infeasible and that neither the IDF nor the government is in any position to risk something that might turn into a disaster; Israel could never get approval from the Bush Administration since it is far too distracted now with the Iraq disaster; Iran’s missiles are far more formidable than anything Hezbollah threw at Israel last summer and that the Israeli government would never risk the massive counter-attack it could expect from Iranian batteries.
I wrote this in reply to Sol:
It very well may be a bluff. But if so, it’s a pathetic one. Personally, I think the Iranian extremists are so intent on a confrontation with Israel that they’d be willing to sacrifice 10,000 of their own just for the bragging rights that they absorbed an Israeli hit for the sake of the entire Muslim/Arab (I know Persians are not Arabs, but you know what I mean) nation. Does Israel really think there’s anything they can do or say that would make the Iranians blink? Short of utter annihilation, I think the Iranians would love the idea of standing head to head in conflict with Israel.
I think you’re right that such a mission is technically tremendously difficult, if not impossible. But the IDF seems just crazy enough & devoid of reality to believe that they, of all military powers in the world, could pull it off.
As for Bush/Cheney, yes they have plenty of problems to deal with–but I have absolutely no doubt that they cherish the notion of giving Iran a bloody nose. And they just might believe, erroneously of course, that they could tacitly approve the Israeli operation while maintaining plausible deniability. And that the latter would shield them from blame in the eyes of the world. Keep in mind, that these guys are as devoid of any grasp of reality as the IDF commanders.
The Shihabs are a serious factor in this deliberation & I do believe that Olmert is NOT prepared to take the counter hit which Israel would absorb fr. Iran after such a nuclear attack. This imo would be a good deterrent to hold the Israelis back.
I hope to God you are right & I am wrong. That’s all I can say.