Can Israel Strike Iran?

Last night, we posted Steven den Beste’s interesting email, which agreed with Paul’s observation that it would be desirable for Israel to attack Iran, but questioned whether it is logistically feasible for Israel to do so. Paul responded in an update earlier today, and we received an enormous number of emails from readers who had comments on Israel’s strategic capabilities, as well as more unorthodox suggestions as to how an attack might be carried out. We can’t begin to quote them all but here are a few.

Froggy Ruminations proposes a plan:

If Israel decides to go after Iran, then that means they will have already begun to go at it with Syria beforehand. They might run a SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) package east through Syria as a feint to hit Damascus (which would be a target rich environment anyway) and pull through some heavy airlift assets (C-130s etc) and choose a remote airfield in eastern Syria and seize it Ranger style. If their SEAD is effective, they could set up shop at this airfield, bring in fuel and ammo and mount a sustained bombing campaign against Iranian targets at will. Most of Syria’s military forces will be on the other side of the country and if they attempt to go after their FOB, the IAF could hammer them in transit. Besides, the IDF could destroy all roads leading to said airfield, and mine the shit out of the hinterland effectively creating an island out of their new base.

Not a simple plan to execute to be sure, but one that could put them in striking distance of Iranian nuke sites. If they could pull off Entebbe in the 1970s, they could do this now.

Jim Johnson rejects den Beste’s main premise:

Israel currently has at least 50 F-16Is and over 25 F-15Is all of which are capable of striking Iran with some ease with the use of external conformal fuel fuel tanks. They can do so without even significantly penetrating Iraqi air space if that is an issue. Both aircraft were purchased with Iran in mind – with some joking about the “I” standing for Iran. Both aircraft have a range, fully loaded, of over 2000 km which places virtually all the publicly mentioned high value Iranian targets within range including Tehran. There is even enough margin to allow some loiter time over the targets. The likely ordinance would be the BTU-28 which was purchased in quantity from the US as recently as last year and was designed to be deep earth penetrating. Whether they can penetrate deeply enough to collapse the Iranian structures is not available in the public literature – if known at all. Both aircraft are capable of carrying the BTU-28.

And if the need truly arises they can allocate aircraft for one way missions in a number of ways without losing the pilots although these would likely be nuclear missions. Cruise missiles, conventionally armed, are likely to be of limited value directly against hard targets although they could be very useful in pinning down any Iranian attempt to intercept a bombing mission. Most likely though, the Iranians will have very little available to effectively oppose an attack of the type Israel can launch.

It should be kept in mind that an attack of this sort does not have to be a one shot attack – and likely won’t be. There will be plenty of time to reload and fire again. *** If the Israeli’s can add 3-5 years to the Iranian nuclear program on a static basis that is well worth it – particularly if they extract high additional costs and since they can always do it again.

Other readers suggested a variety of ways in which Israel might effectively strike Iran. John Arcari notes that Iran’s dependence on foreign refining capacity is a key weakness:

Israel, or the USA need to be very careful about an attack on Iran, because millions of the Iranian people like Americans, and would overthrow their present government if we just stepped forward and helped them. So, we do not want to devastate the country at large. The weak link in the Iranian economy is an internal shortage of oil to gasoline refining capability. Iran, actually imports huge amounts of gasoline to sustain its economy.

My plan is, forget the Nuke problem for the moment, forget the country infrastructure, and forget causing enormous pain to the general population. Here’s how! You destroy all oil to gasoline refining capacity, along with destroying the all ability to pump oil in Iran. Actually, this ends the story. These two actions render the country bankrupt overnight, but leave the general population whole to get rid of the present government post haste. Let Iran spend all its money rebuilding that which allows the country to function.

Van Laskey suggests attacking Syria and putting Iran in the position of coming to its client’s defense:

Saddam’s chemical arsenal is likely hidden in Syria’s Bekaa Valley which is also home to Hezbollah terrorists. *** Iran has stated that Israel attacking Syria will draw them into the conflict.

Israel should strike at Bekaa and draw Iran in. Call their bluff. Their army is untested & hasn’t fought a war in twenty five years. Its air capability is probably far weaker then the IAF. Its “navy” would be sunk in the first hour. Attack Syria’s Bekaa and force Iran to make the first move. Eliminating the cancer in Bekaa is a bonus.

And a number of readers came up with more limited and creative ways of striking at Iran, the most elaborate (some would say far-fetched) of which came from Dafydd ab Hugh.

Thanks to all who replied.

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