Several interesting developments concerning the simmering war between Israel and Iran. The website of the Iranian Majlis published a report (in Farsi) by the director of an official government think tank that advocates Iranian attacks against Israeli sites. The author argues that Israel’s sustained attacks within Iran demand a response. An Israeli TV news report says (in Hebrew) that the Iranian website calls for a “pre-emptive” attack on Israel, and not one that is purely in response to an Israeli first strike. Though it is reflective of the Israel’s narrow thinking that they would call such an Iranian strike “pre-emptive,” when Israel has already attacked Iran. One of the specific sites indicated for targeting was Sdot Micha, Israel’s secret missile base and home of its Jericho intercontinental missile arsenal.
You’ll recall that an Israeli source told me that a drone crashed into that base, which may’ve been tied to Iran and/or Hezbollah origins. Whether or not this story was true, the new report from Iran indicates that the country’s leadership very much has this sort of strike in its mind and would be interested in responding to Israel’s numerous domestic attacks against Iranian bases and nuclear scientists.
A Western diplomat based in Pakistan has added a new wrinkle to the Israel war scenario. He says a new player should be considered as a protagonist if Israel strikes:
A European diplomat based in Pakistan, permitted to speak only under condition of anonymity, said that if Israel attacks, Islamabad will have no choice but to support any Iranian retaliation. That raises the specter of putting a nuclear-armed Pakistan at odds with Israel, widely believed to have its own significant nuclear arsenal.
I personally think it’s unlikely Pakistan officially would join the fight on Iran’s side. But it wouldn’t have to to weigh in on the subject. Pakistanis already detest the U.S. for assassinating Osama bin Laden and our serial drone attacks which violate national sovereignty. When Ayatollah Khomeini announced a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, the first nation which took up the call wasn’t Iran, but Pakistan. It’s likely that Iran will activate its influence inside Afghanistan to make our lives miserable there should it be attacked by Israel. With the Pakistani Taliban joining in the fight and attacking U.S. assets wherever they find them, it could make our presence in large portions of the region almost impossible to sustain.
Not to mention, while Iran doesn’t yet have a nuke, Pakistan does. While it likely would not use its nukes to defend Iran, just the fact that it has them automatically makes the calculations a lot more complex.
In the current climate, it’s hard to know what information is credible and what is based on exaggeration. We need to weigh that in evaluating the value of the reports above. But even if we downgrade some or all of it, in its entirety is signals an escalation in the thinking of Arab-Muslim elements in the region. Many among them are already thinking about making Israel and the U.S. pay the price for attacking if they do.
Israeli strategic thinking on this subject remains mired in self-delusion:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed during a high-profile security conference that there is a “wide global understanding” that military action may be needed.
“There is no argument about the intolerable danger a nuclear Iran (would pose) to the future of the Middle East, the security of Israel and to the economic and security stability of the entire world,” Barak said.
The opposite is the case. There is a wide global understanding that military actions would be a very bad idea. And there certainly is a strong argument against the idea that a nuclear Iran would pose a danger to world stability. In fact, the only people who believe this are some of Israel’s top leaders, Islamophobes around the world, and neocons in the U.S. and Israel. It’s interesting how Barak attempts to parlay that rather narrow body of opinion into an overwhelming world consensus.
And if Pakistan gets involved, then India will support Israel, and then China has a relationship with Pakistan. . . Yes, no way this will turn out badly.
Richard Silverstein says
Instead of “badly” I think you meant “well.”
I imagine you are both correct. Bill was likely being sarcastic with “no way this will turn out badly”.
Richard Silverstein says
Yes, I suppose if you’re looking for Israel to get its comeuppance then seeing blowback would mean it wasn’t turning out “badly.”
Pakistan has between 100 and 200 working nuke warheads, but what’s it going to use to deliver them to Israel? Camels? It is 3500 kms from Pakistan to Israel. Nuclear-armed camels will not cut it.
Pakistan is short-range. It’s missiles are all calibrated for India, maybe parts of Russia. The closest it could come to Tel Aviv would be with its Shaeen II missile, but even it would barely reach Baghdad (and just piss off a bunch of Shia).
Nuke-armed jets? The F-16 used to be major domo in the PAF, and they dropped at least 10 MIGs during the Soviet-Afghan war. The newer F-16E can do 4000 km, but I believe the US cut off supplying parts to Pakistan for its F-16s in the 1990’s.
Mostly now Pakistan is flying Chinese fighters or the JF-17, jointly developed by Pakistan and China. These are not heavy or long-range bombers. These are fast, light-weight fighter-bombers for taking out Mumbai. It also has some aging Mirages.
Pakistan has at least two nuke AFB’s — Kamra and Sargodha. If you fire up your GE you can see them at the following coordinates.
Kamra 33.869708° 72.389836°
Sargodha 32.052137° 72.669334°
Those fighters by the hangers at Kamra look like Mirages with their swept back wings. In the 1970’s and 80’s the French and Americans were whores — they would sell these jets to anyone with a buck or a credit card.
I would be pretty shocked if Pakistan has the capability to fly a bomb to Israel short of a 1-way suicide mission. Nothing I have found indicates in-air fueling capabilities.
Pakistan has no nuke subs.
Bottom line: does Pakistan represent a threat to Israel? If not, why do we care? Right now we’ve got Israel, US, Russia, China, Iran, and Syria/Hezbollah in this mix. Already I am sleeping under my bed. My ulcers and my hemorrhoids are shaking hands. I should worry about Pakistan, too?? I can only worry about so much.
BTW, for the record I would like to announce that whichever one of these nuke powers is the first to nuke Richard’s purple Justin Bieber ad OR the flashing banana ad, I will write you into my will.
Sorry, that’s “Shaheen II”. Ref: http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers2%5Cpaper148.html
Only my second Scotch tonight and already I’m screwing up.
Things that make you go hmmmmmm says
Your equations would, of course, go completely out the window if the Pakistanis used Iranian airfields as transit points.
After all, it’s a given that the Iranians would let Pakistani bombers refuel on their air bases for a bombing mission against, say, Dimona.
But for the life of me I can’t see who would give Ehud Barak permission to use their air bases to return the favour against the Pakistanis.
Richard Silverstein says
For the record, I apologize for any offending or obnoxious ads displayed in my sidebar. If any reader wants to provide a significant annual contribution to defray the amount of revenue I receive from ads I’d be happy to make the site ad-free.
Concerning Pakistan, that country can make life even more of a living hell for Afghanistan and the U.S. than it already does. That would be payback enough to Israel & the U.S. without even considering actual weapons or missiles it might not be able to deliver against Israel.
Richard, I was just having a bit of fun with the Bieber and banana ads.
Google has has so effectively smothered the Internet with those ads that no one pays any attention to them anyway, but I hope they bring you some well-deserved revenue nevertheless.
Seems like Israel and USA are believing what “they want to believe”, and not weighing possible adverse scenarii — with or without attached probabilities.
As I understand it, the decision makers in Israel are motivated by  a love of war and destruction for its own sake (and also to make others fearful of Israel, so that Israelis will not have to be the only people in the world perpetually fearful, I suppose, a sort of “sharing the wealth” [irony]);  a desire to be a regional hegemon which would be impeded (although I don’t see how, exactly) by Iran’s getting nukes [who can imagine Iran actually using a nuke against Israel in a first-strike with the high likelihood of a massive Israeli nuclear retaliation? In fact, who can even imagine Iran using a nuke in second-strike after Israeli nuke-attack of Iran?]; and  an actual — if somewhat unreasonable — fear of a nuke-armed Iran.
Like the scorpion who rode the frog over the river and stung him (killing them both) mid-stream, and said by way of explanation, “This is the Middle East” — Israel seems to desire to BE the scorpion far more than it (reasonably) fears an Iranian scorpion.
At all events, “live and let live” has never been part of the Israeli vocabulary, because its territorial expansivist policy (also unnecessary, but startlingly real nonetheless) means that it is perpetually in aggressive (and therefore defensive) mode.
Speaking of fatwas, this seems like a good time to note that there’s actually an Iranian fatwa “against production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons”:
It strikes me that nobody has considered a third option: since pakistan shares a border with Iran (which is definitely not controlled by the US border patrol) there is a non-zero chance that pakistan has already supplied nuclear weapons to Iran. Which would explain why Iran is goading everyone to attack it by displaying openly in full public view of the world that it’s building nuclear technology whereas the other two nuclear rogues (pakistan and north korea) hid their nuclear programs for years before just doing nuclear tests.
Frankly it smells wrong. I’d be willing to bet that Iran already has pakistani nukes….
That potentially being the case there is also a non-zero possibility of any military action against Iran rapidly going nuclear.
Which is then prisoner’s dilemma: if my enemy is going to destroy me then I should destroy him first.