Monday, April 09, 2012

First the Bad News, Then the Bad News

Apparently Israel's air force is not capable of taking out Iran's nuclear installations.   That narrows Israel's options to long-range missile strikes or sending Israeli special forces into Iran to attack the sites.

Those are the conclusions of the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly which finds even a commando attack would face "substantial difficulties."

"Senior Israeli officials have said the country is prepared to take unilateral action to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1982 and hit a Syrian reactor in 2007. However, for Iran, the air force would have to carry out numerous strikes with air-to-air refuelling, possibly over several days.

'''This is not going to be one strike and they are out, not like Syria or Iraq where facilities were not underground, it is much harder than that,'' said Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute. ''And the Iranians are experts in building reinforced concrete because of their long problems with earthquakes. But air strikes could destroy power plants, supply facilities, communications and the centrifuges themselves would be very sensitive to blast. They could do quite a lot of damage which would set back the program for a period.'''

Which leads to the unasked questions.   Would the United States do the job for Israel either of its own volition or from Israeli arm twisting and a compliant Congress?   And, if the United States did attack Iran's nuclear installations, what would be the ramifications for the Middle East/South Asia region?   Would that play straight into Russia's and China's hands?   The first Cold War divided Europe, east from west.  The next Cold War between the West and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization might be divided along a line from the Caspian Basin to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the Shiite/Sunni divide.


Anonymous said...

I'm anon from before. Thanks for the links by the way, I mean to read the American treaties on asymmetric warfare this week.

It would seem to me like an Obama White House will categorically rule-out the possibility of an American strike on Iran. Obama's hobnobbing with Putin et al, would seem to suggest that he's not willing to step on Russia's toes, even if he does win re-election.

If a, well, it looks like maybe Romney White House would probably back or carry out an American strike on Iran.

As for the rest, I still have too much to learn to even begin to answer. Though, maybe I'm even wrong about Obama, but what I've seen suggests I'm not.

The Mound of Sound said...

What concerns me most, Anon, is how, in the 21st Century, we have shown ourselves unable or unwilling to really thing complex problems through before committing ourselves to action. We wind up with situations blowing up in our faces that we could have foreseen. We often fail to grasp the wisdom of restraint and patience.

How often can the US blunder about this way before it sparks a powerful isolationist movement at home? America's military machine, while dominant in so many ways, keeps failing to deliver clear, decisive and acceptable victories. Eventually that will induce a powerful "why bother?" fatigue among the voting public.

Anonymous said...

Eventually that will induce a powerful "why bother?" fatigue among the voting public.

Either that, or the public will become "gun-shy" and America will avoid becoming involved even in situations where America should get involved, which ammounts to about the same thing. We warn ourselves against the danger of appeasement, but we in the west might well adopt a policy remarkably like appeasement.

Given your tittle, that this is bad news, may I assume that you're not opposed to a possible strike on Iran should the situation warrant it? May I also assume that you trust that the Israelis would handle it better than the Americans, and you base this on how America has shown an alarming willingness to blunder headlong into situations with potentially disasterous results?

The Mound of Sound said...

I may have misled you. I think the ME is much too destabilized right now for another Judeo-Christian war on a Muslim state even if it is Shiite.

Just because Israel can't do it doesn't preclude them having a go anyway. But you can't simply attack a few nuclear facilities. You have to be able to somehow disarm Iran.

You may not be aware of it but Iran has batteries of mobile and extremely effective, land-based anti-ship missile batteries. The Americans' evaluation is that Iran could seal off the Strait of Hormuz very effectively for a good long time with those missiles alone.

It wouldn't take long for Iran to send the world markets into a freefall and, of course, once oil stopped passing out of the Persian Gulf, developed economies would also tank. This would leave the EU even more vulnerable to Russian gas supplies and Russia can play serious hardball on energy exports.

I think Israel has more pressing matters to address than Iran's nuclear programme. Power bases in the Muslim world are shifting as control fades from the Western-backed dictators of the post WWII era. I think Israel should weigh its options in the context of its future relations with Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

But Israel doesn't always do the smart, the effective or the right thing which is why the IDF got its ass handed to it in Lebanon.