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May 29, 2013 3:48 pm

U.S., Israeli Generals Paint Picture of What Strike on Iran Might Look Like

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An Israeli Air Force F-15I (Ra'am) from the IDF/AF No 69 Hammers Squadron maneuvers away after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker. Photo: wiki commons.

What would a strike on Iran by the U.S. and/or Israel look like? The question has been posed countless times, but perhaps few have the insight of retired US Gen. James Cartwright and Israeli Maj.Gen. Amos Yadlin, who in a recent article in The Atlantic try to imagine how an attack on Iran would play out.

The duo poses ten hypothetical questions that the U.S. President and Israeli Prime Minister would pose to their respective advisers. The first question: “What approach would give the West more room to exhaust peaceful options: leaving the timing of a potential attack to Israel or the United States?”

“Israel’s military capability to strike Iran’s proliferating nuclear sites — especially those bunkered deep within a mountain, such as Fordow — is more limited than that of the United States. Israel’s window for military action is therefore closing, while Washington’s more advanced capabilities mean that it can wait, affording the West a final attempt to exhaust all other options,” write the generals.

But the conclusions the two arrive at aren’t so clear cut. For instance, they believe “any Israeli attack would necessarily be quick and surgical, with less collateral damage. This is a significant advantage.” However, a “U.S.-led strike is preferable from a military perspective,” because of its advanced weaponry. But again, the conclusion comes with a caveat: “The U.S. military’s superior capabilities — including B-2 stealth bombers, air refueling craft, advanced drones, and 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrators — are more likely to severely damage Iranian targets. Yet the United States has no operational experience in strikes against such facilities, unlike Israel, which successfully conducted similar operations against the Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 and, according to foreign press, against a Syrian reactor in 2007.”

Then there’s the matter of world opinion. Israel also has the benefit of being able to claim self-defense while the U.S. has little moral high ground if it leads an attack on another Muslim country.

No matter who does carry out the attack, one thing is for certain, Cartwright and Yadlin believe: “Attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities is but a tactical step toward the strategic goal of permanently halting the regime’s drive toward nuclear weapons. Mechanically damaging the program is not an end goal in itself, since no amount of bombs can destroy Iran’s nuclear knowhow. Any strike must necessarily be followed by negotiations and a self-enforcing diplomatic deal that prevents Tehran from reconstituting the program or achieving breakout capability in the future.”

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  • Aaron Brett

    Military hostilities with Iran should start on September the 19th.

    • Jerold

      And the pigs will fly on the same date.

  • The scenario is perhaps politically defective if it fails to account for the contingency of simultaneous crises in the Far and Middle East. In March 2003, there was deep bipartisan support for dealing with Saddam Hussein who always tried to convince the world that he had WMDs. Tragedy for the USA that such WMDs were never found. The most serious result was the chilling effect on early use of force to deal effectively with Iran’s race to nuclear weapons. Before the 2003 Iraq operations, Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told President Bush that Iran was the greater danger. Misled by faulty USA intelligence, Bush did not heed Sharon’s advice which was solidly based on more accurate Israel intelligence. In hindsight, the Iraq war was a strategic blunder. The damage to the USA has probably been compounded by left-liberal opportunists like Barack Obama who built his career partly on moral condemnation of the Iraq war. Because Obama came to office trumpeting that WMDs were never found in Iraq, he was politically unable to promptly use force to deal with Iran’s race to nuclear weapons. What a shame! Now, it might be too late to use force to destroy Iran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities. Iran and its powerful friends have been given so much extra time to checkmate the USA. During Obama’s first term, North Korea conducted its first really successful nuclear-weapons’ test and has made progress with a variety of missiles. North Korea’s current antics are likely a warning that any threat of a USA strike against Iran would probably be matched by a North Korean threat to South Korea. The point is to remind the USA that there can easily be simultaneous crises in the Far and Middle East. This particular nexus is discussed at in an April 2013 posting that also explains China’s hand in these matters.

  • Gabrielle

    Regime change is the only way. Khomeini did a coup in 1978–he gathered his guys together in France, and without too much ado, it was good-bye to the Shah, the islamic gov’t installed and in ’79 they captured the U.S. Embassy while burning a lot of our flags. It can be done again–there are loads of angry Iranians living outside of Iran–in the U.S., France and all over Europe. They could be united by some very intelligent leaders, and make a coup in Iran. Hurrah!

  • shloime

    iran is a “people problem”, not a “hardware problem”.

    even these generals alluded to the fact that smashing up the “toys” won’t stop iran, because they will buy more toys.

    to stop the iranian nuclear programme it is necessary to neutralize the people running it, because without physicists and engineers, the mullahs couldn’t run the show, and without the “supreme council” and its preoccupation with mahdaviat, there would be no motivation to pursue armageddon.

    the solution is through “regime change”, not “massive ordinance penetrators”.

  • Joel

    These two generals are blowing smoke. The US/West fears the horrific repercussions that Russia and China (who without doubt would join Russia) can inflict. Think cutoff of German nat gas (EU Depression), think cutoff U.S.troop re-supply in Afghanistan, think Persian Gulf oil cutoff (worldwide Depression), think collapse the US financial markets (US Depression), Iranian terror attacks in US (US Double Depression), think Russian/Chinese cyber attacks (US Triple Depression), think Russian/Chinese/N.Korean EMP attack (Doomsday Depression). I could go on, but why bother. That scenario is enough to destroy the world economy, with the West getting the worst of it. What could we do? Drop some nukes! WWIII. OK, if that’s what the US and Israel want. The Muslims aren’t afraid to die, and I suspect the Chinese have no fear of population reduction.

    • shloime

      you’re blowin’ an awful lot o’ smoke there, yourself, cowboy!

      why would ANY country go to bat for iran? especially when iran will be, by all accounts, on the losing end of the battle. and wrecking the world economy wouldn’t do russia or china much good, since they live and trade with the rest of us.

    • Oy Veh, I feel like a frog sitting in water ever growing warmer.

    • Bezengi

      Have you noticed that oil/gas constitute a major portion of Russia’s exports and a major budget income item? Would you kick yourself in the groin? Why do you think that Russia would?

  • Pred M.Schilich

    In my opinion should neutralize these
    objects to look like accidents … it would
    destroy any hope that Iran possesses nuclear
    weapons ..

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud

    In another article, pretty sure it was early this morning, an intuitive report stated ‘Iran is more likely to attack the Gulf states first?’ From Iran’s position assuming her objective is to demoralize and incapacitate the US this stratagem makes sense. During the Kuwait scenario oil fields burned for days, oil prices went up. If the whole of the Gulf comes under fire, simply Kuwait on a larger scale.

    Will Russia prevent Iran from demolishing the Gulf first? How will the US fare with high oil costs? The public in the States would be up in arms, not able to drive their SUV’s!

    Where would all of the above leave Israel, is she really a prime target or a scapegoat in the early stages of conflict. With Russia based in the Med Basin, how would she deal with Iran? Europe has cut her defense budgets each year and is ill equipped. So what about China, how does China feel about Russia dominating Asia, Russia and China bordered one another far more under communism. Between China and European Russia are huge Islamic bands, Uzbec, Tajik etc etc. The Kurds are dissatisfied with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    This looks like an arena for a serious conflict on a large scale. India and Pakistan are both nuclear armed?