Friday, October 12, 2012

Opening Pandora’s Box: If Israel Strikes Iran, What About Hezbollah?

Militants carry Iranian and Hezbollah flags
Hezbollah, through direct strikes on Israel or terrorist attacks, could complicate Israel's decision to attack Iran and spark an even greater regional crisis 

As the day approaches when Israel may decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iran in order to cripple its nuclear infrastructure, Israeli policymakers and their allies abroad would carefully assess how the Lebanese-based group Hezbollah would react. 

Although Israel is unlikely to launch an attack on Iran prior to the U.S. Presidential election in November, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be running out of patience and is becoming more vocal in warning that Iran’s nuclear program could cross Israel’s so-called “red line” by next spring or summer at the latest. Other factors, including the outcome of the U.S. elections, the outcome of the P5+1- Iran talks that are expected to follow the U.S. Presidential Election, growing instability in neighboring Syria, and the outcome of the early elections that Netanyahu has just called, will all factor into Israel’s decision on whether to use force against Tehran, and if so, when. 

But perhaps no single factor, besides Iran’s nuclear program itself, will be as important in influencing Israel’s strategic assessment as the realization that attacking Iran risks sparking a war on several fronts; that is, one that not only invites retaliation from Iran, but very likely from its regional ally and sometimes proxy, Hezbollah. 

My feature, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.


Mike Fagan said...

"As the day approaches when Israel may decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iran..."

The Israeli Air Force has no bomber aircraft, other than the F-15s which don't have either the payload or the flight range to put over a serious strike against Iran's buried nuclear facilities.

They can maybe have agents drive through with car bombs to murder two or three scientists and/or senior technicians, but it's likely they've already been doing this.

I don't understand how journos can talk about a "pre-emptive Israeli strike" without specifying how they think the Israelis are going to pull it off. The Yanks could maybe do it, but that's only because they have B1s, B2s, and B52s and a fighter force to protect them. The Israelis haven't got a pot to piss in have they?

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Quick, Michael! You need to call Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and the war planners at the IDF, because they appaerently didn't know that.

The Israeli Air Force's F-15I can carry one GBU-28 "bunker buster" each (their F-16Is can't). While, as you rightly point out, the targets would be out of range, there's this think called refuelling — and here, Israel has two options: mid-flight refueling (it has the capabilities), or refueling in a third counrty after an agreement is reached (most likely in Turkey, though Saudi Arabia could be an option).

If Israel really thinks it's facing an existential threat, it'll come up with options.

Mike Fagan said...

"You need to call Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak..."

You know I did, but they told me to check my facts with some journo first. Imagine my surprise.

So here's three... (a) Iran's nuke facilities are spread out all over the shop with possible redundancy, so any single "surgical strike" will at best do no more than delay, (b) the likely flight paths to Natanz, Esfahan and Arak will be guarded by the latest Russian SAMs not just creaky old F4s, and (c) the Natanz facilities are buried too deep for GBU-28 to get at (hence U.S. development of the "MOP").

An Israeli-only strike with F-15s would surely have a low probability of success, even if success is defined in terms of delaying Iran rather than stopping Iran. And then on top of that, there is - as your article mentions - the certainty of retaliation from Hezbollah.

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