Steven den Beste, formerly of USS Clueless, now proprietor of a very different site, writes in response to Paul’s comments on the need to attack the root of Israel’s problem:
“Horowitz suggests that Israel’s best option is to strike Iran now. I agree. With Iran well on its way to becoming a nuclear power, Israel will never be
stronger in relation to Iran than it is today. And, quite apart from the perfectly valid concept of a preemptive strike, Iran’s central role in the current war justifies direct retaliation.”
It’s not that simple. There are some real logistical issues involved, because the nations are not near one another. It’s 900 kilometers between the nearest points of Israel and Iran. On the Israeli side, it’s the Golan Heights. On the Iranian side it’s uninhabited mountains. And a direct flight path between them goes over Syria and Iraq.
For Israeli air strikes to actually hit anything that the Iranian rulers care about is much further, and a direct flight path goes over the West Bank, over Jordan, and over Iraq. It’s out of range for any jet Israel has without inflight refueling, which isn’t likely.
Making any kind of ground assault is even more unlikely — how are they supposed to get from Israel to Iran?
Sending warships to the Gulf is not exactly likely, either. They may have a few in the gulf of Aqaba, but the majority of their rather tiny navy is in the Med. If Egypt refuses to let them use Suez, then they have to sail around Africa. And even from Aqaba it’s 4500 kilometers by sea to Iran.
That leaves one, and only one, possibility: a missile strike. Which divides into four subpossibilities: nuclear or conventional, land-based or submarine-based.
Does Israel want to preemptively use a nuclear-tipped missile against Iran at this time? I don’t think so. They’re not at that extreme yet.
And a threat of a nuclear strike would also be a pretty drastic step, because Israel has never officially admitted to having a nuclear arsenal, though it’s an open secret.
But conventional warheads on missiles just don’t do that much damage, and Israel doesn’t have all that many missiles. They’re also a bit indiscriminate. Either Israel targets to hit nothing, which would make them a laughingstock, or they target something important, and almost certainly kill civilians in addition to what they were aiming at. I can see the headlines already.
A token strike by missiles with conventional warheads would just inflame the situation; it wouldn’t be sufficiently devastating to cause Iran to back off, but it could become a justification for Iranian escalation.
The fact that something is desirable doesn’t mean it is feasible. Even if there were really good reasons for Israel to militarily strike Iran, I don’t see how they could do it.
Any other thoughts from our readers?
PAUL reponds: I don’t recall saying that striking Iran would be simple. I can read a map as well as den Beste can, and therefore understand that the countries “are not near one another.” Whether an Israeli strike of Iran is as infeasible as den Beste claims is another question — he doesn’t provide any evidence for his various assertions about what can and cannot be accomplished. My sources have told me that Israel can inflict damage on Iran’s developing nuclear capacity, but since I cannot disclose my sources, I cannot provide that evidence.
Den Beste doesn’t favor a strike because “they’re not at that extreme at the moment.” I’m not sure what he means. My point, which den Beste doesn’t address, is that Israel will never again be in as strong a position in relation to Iran as it is now. If Israel does not seize this opportunity to strike (assuming it has the capability), then in a few years Iran will be in position to attack (or sponsor an attack on) Haifa, for example, with nuclear weapons. At that point, presumably Israel will be “at that extreme,” but it will be too late to do anything about it.
Israel should reject a defense strategy that consists of fighting Iran’s clients while Iran sits back, suffers no consequences, and continues building weapons with which to fulfill its stated goal of destroying Israel