Israel, Iran, Egypt: A Complex Problem
The leaders of Israel must soon make a judgment. The survival of the country, and the lives of its people, are on the line. But they have no obvious choice, if they ever had. The strategic problem is more complex by far than the tactical problem.
The Iran problem
Iran creates the obvious problem for Israel. The Iranians are building a nuclear bomb,and a missile to carry that bomb to Israel. The Israelis know it. They want to stop it. The Iranians will do whatever they can to keep the program going, and get others to hit Israel back if Israel hits them.
How can Israel attack Iran? A long-range bombing run would be hard under any circumstances. They want to take a load of bombs to Iran, drop them, and get back. Any route they take will take them over someone else’s land. They tried to get permission to fly over Turkey and Azerbaijan. The news leaked out. (Did Barack Obama leak it? Probably.) Now neither country will let Israel do this. So that’s out. (Or is it?)
WND, on its premium site, two days ago suggested another thing Israel might do. They might launch a nuclear missile, a Jericho III. They would time the warhead to blow up, not on the ground, but high in the air over Iran. This would make an electromagnetic pulse, like lightning striking everywhere over Iran at once. It wouldn’t make people sick on the ground. But it would burn out every electrical or electronic device. Lights go out. You can’t call anyone on the phone. The TV won’t work. (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t get on the air? He might go nuts if that lasts too long.) And maybe those centrifuges won’t work (the ones they use to enrich uranium). Furthermore, Iran’s generals can’t get their orders out. They pick up the phone, and get no dial tone.
Or if Israel is really desperate, they might make an EMP to blanket all the Middle East. Israel would suffer, too. But the Tzahal have hardened their electronic systems against that sort of thing. Israeli civilians would lose power for a few days. Meanwhile, they could fly their bombing run to Iran and back, and no one would be able to stop them.
No one knows for sure whether Israel has anything like that. And if they use it, they’ll show the rest of the world what an EMP can do.
Israel ready for long war?
No one in Israel seems to think a war with Iran would be short. The home defense minister told Israeli citizens to get ready for 30 days of war, and to spend much of that in a bomb shelter. (The government has handed out gas masks and antidote kits for several days.) He has good reason. Hezbollah, from their Lebanon base, said they would make life “hell” for Israel if Israel attacks Iran. (Can Iran itself hit back? The Supreme Leader threatens to. Whether he can or not, no one really knows.)
How hard can they hit? Hezbollah has about 70,000 missiles that could fly as far south as Dimona. (Dimona is Israel’s nuclear research city, their “Oak Ridge.”) HAMAS in Gaza has 10,000 more missiles, and the Syrians have nerve gas, germs, and so on. But how likely are they to use them? Once they fire a missile, it’s gone. Syria can’t replace it anymore. And Israel would still have troops and planes to spare to hit back. Israel knows this. Nor is Syria likely to send its army to fight a war with Israel while also fighting rebels at home.
But Israel has another problem: Egypt. Egypt has grown more militant than ever in the last two weeks. First, Mohammed Morsi purged the top ranks of Egypt’s generals. Then reports filtered out of Egypt that militant Muslims were crucifying known opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then came two more serious reports: Egypt is moving troops and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into the Sinai Desert. They say they’re doing it to deal with terrorists who have camped out in the Sinai. But under the Camp David Accord, they’re supposed to ask Israel first before they do anything like this. They did not even tell Israel anything. And why would they need anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and missiles to deal with terrorists? Columnist Arlene Kushner sums up: if Egypt is fighting against terrorists in the Sinai, will they pull back when the fight’s over?
Morsi has said often that he sees Jerusalem becoming the capital of a new Arab caliphate. He might try to make that real if Israel attacks Iran and then has to fight Iran’s friends for thirty days. Thus any war that Israel gets into, will be regional.
Israel and the US
Finally, Israel cannot ignore the United States. Israel’s leaders gave Barack Obama every chance to deal with Iran effectively. Now US voters are about to choose whether to keep Barack Obama or not. Israel does not want Barack Obama to have another four years. Relations between the US and Israel are a disaster. Netanyahu’s choices are not pretty, nor clear-cut:
- Attack now, or at least before the vote. Advantage: Obama would not dare condemn Israel. (He’d lose five percent of the popular vote just for that, and it would cost him every “battleground” State.) Disadvantage: Obama could make a show of supporting Israel, and the American people might not want to change leaders in the middle of a “crisis.”
- Delay the attack until after the vote. Advantage: Obama might lose, so that would solve the “change leaders in mid-crisis” problem. Disadvantage: Israel can’t wait too long.
The latest reports suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not wait for the vote. Last Friday he had officials in the Defense Ministry tell an opposition party leader what’s going on. Did he also tell him he was about to go to war? The world might soon find out.ARVE Error: need id and provider
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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“WND, on its premium site, two days ago suggested another thing Israel might do. They might launch a nuclear missile, a Jericho III.”
Uh, no. That would have consequences that not even Netanyahu wants to deal with. Launching an unprovoked nuclear attack, even an EMP? People can get very touchy about that sort of thing, and a Jericho 3 launch when Israel isn’t under WMD attack is likely to result in the Dimona facility getting a bucketful of sunshine delivered about 14 minutes after the Jericho lifts off.
“And maybe those centrifuges won’t work (the ones they use to enrich uranium).”
Actually an isolated electrical system buried deep underground has a good chance of surviving an EMP.
“Furthermore, Iran’s generals can’t get their orders out. They pick up the phone, and get no dial tone.”
Copper landlines have a very good chance of surviving an EMP. Especially military ones.
“Or if Israel is really desperate, they might make an EMP to blanket all the Middle East.”
Desperate? “Suicidal” would be a better word. Imagine the damage to the oil production facilities. People would be very upset about that.
“But the Tzahal have hardened their electronic systems against that sort of thing.”
Actually modern western electronics (military ones included) are a lot more vulnerable to EMP than older, Soviet-built ones. Lots of Russian kit still uses vacuum tubes for exactly that reason; remember that Soviet weapons were specifically designed to fight on a nuclear battlefield. That’s why Russian tanks lack electronic engine management systems, have hydraulic turret motors and can mount IR searchlights to back up all the night vision electronics that EMP can toast. A T-72 might be reduced to 1960s technology by an EMP, but a Merkava couldn’t even start its engine.
“Israeli civilians would lose power for a few days.”
Make that a few years; civilian power stations get absolutely trashed by EMP. Also every car and civilian truck in Israel (and a large number of military vehicles) built after about 1983 would be immobilised until it got a complete new electronics kit, every TV, computer, mobile phone and radio would be destroyed along with most domestic appliances, every hospital intensive care unit would suffer an immediate power blackout… no, an EMP attack covering the whole Middle East (which would require multiple warheads and would almost certainly attract a nuclear response to the launch) would do the Iranians’ work for them; it would finish Israel.
“Meanwhile, they could fly their bombing run to Iran and back, and no one would be able to stop them.”
Except for all those Soviet-built SAMs with their wheezy old vacuum tube radars and crude but effective EMP hardening. Don’t bet on the IAF surviving an EMP too well, either. Modern aircraft are extremely vulnerable and incredibly different to harden.
I’d also like to point out that Joseph Farah’s so-called “G2 Bulletin” is shockingly ill-informed.
“Israel also is assessed to be able to launch nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles from its German-supplied Dolphin electric submarines”
Oh really? That would be some achievement, from a submarine that lacks ballistic missile – or even vertical launch – tubes. What Israel can probably launch from the Dolphins is cruise missiles, which may be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead – and if it’s ever confirmed that they are, Israel will never receive another U-Boat.
Farah’s claim that a Dolphin could deliver an EMP attack is absurd, too. Cruise missiles don’t reach anywhere near the altitude required for EMP bursts.
Instead of this silly posturing, if Israel is really worried about a nuclear threat from Iran – and Mossad and the IDF don’t seem to be, particularly – what they should do is build up their ABM defences. They have plenty of time to do it, because even if Iran assembled a nuke tomorrow (in fact that capability is probably a couple of years away) it’s likely to be at least another decade before they could miniaturise one enough to load it in the nose of a missile.