Friday, August 20, 2010
The Coming Choice for Israel
The Israel-Iran situation heats up---as of August 20, 2010
Here is an outline of my somewhat revised thinking about the current situation between Iran and Israel, and the rest of the West. It is a collection of posts on the blog "Outside the Beltway".
Assumption: Iran will not cave in to Western pressure to end their nuclear program.
1. Israel faces a hell of a decision: to attack Iran or not. That decision has at least two subsets: to attack essentially the nuclear facilities and any defensive systems in the way; or to attack a full package of Iranian military and nuclear facilities and all of the aircraft, weapons sites, barracks, tank and transport parks and naval ships they can find.
2. To hit only the minimum facilities that will impair Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, plus the defenses that must be reduced for that to happen has been the favorite scenario of many people. I believe that is flawed thinking. In executing such an attack, the IAF must destroy quite a few defensive capabilities, many of which are located near population centers. The list of targets must include every military airfield and military aircraft that can be found, every anti-aircraft emplacement, whether it is missile or gun based, every site that has both long and short range radar, every site that may contain long range missiles that could be used in retaliation, and the list goes on, even before starting the list of nuclear facilities that must be reduced. This is quite obviously an act of war: many civilians near the targets will be killed in the attacks, so retaliation must be expected, and blunted where possible. For Iran to rebuild its nuclear capability most likely would take 3 to 5 years. What then? We are back to square one, minus the losses on both sides.
3. To hit many of the nuclear facilities that are underground, there must be accurate targeting, and I suspect that a lot of low level reconnaissance will have to be flown to identify some of the sites by various “tells”, such as entrances and exits, air inlets, transport, tracks and so on. Further, these bunker sites will require large bombs to dig them out or to damage them adequately by overpressure effects. Such large bombs are not going to be carried by F-16C or F-15I aircraft, because they weigh over 20,000 pounds and up! The IAF will probably use C-130 aircraft for this purpose, once full air superiority has been gained. A similar method was used by the USAF to deliver MOAB’s, or Mother Of All Bombs in Vietnam, so the technique is very well known.
4.Thus there is the need for the IAF to gain complete air superiority in order to let recce proceed everywhere and to allow the slower transports, the C-130’s, to chug eventually over the nuclear sites and drop their MOAB’s. For low-flying aircraft, however, Iran has quite a number of ZSU-23-4 (23mm quad mobile gun radar-directed systems) antiaircraft weapons that are extremely deadly against low flying planes. Additional
ZSU-23-2 dual-gun systems have been reported. They still have SAM capabilities, although not the latest Russian systems they have tried to obtain. These are quite capable at altitudes where most of the IAF will be flying, or up to 40,000 feet, so they must be suppressed immediately. It is terribly expensive in aircraft and pilots to attack AA systems.
5. This leads me to a first hypothesis. The weapon of choice to suppress AA weapons, radar, AA missiles, command and control and communications systems, and aircraft, and just about anything using electronics, including vehicles, over a very wide area is a number of powerful and well-placed EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse bombs. A good part of Iran would go dark from such weapons, and during that time, the air would be mainly free from defenses of all kinds. Even ground forces would be stymied by the EMP effects on their engines and other electronics until repaired. Further, civilian areas within the effective range of the EMP blast would likewise have all of their electronics and electrical equipment disabled. There would undoubtedly be civilian casualties as a result, if only on highways and at intersections.
To obtain the necessary power in such a bomb, it would have to be a nuclear device, and it must be detonated at, as a guess, 5-to-10 thousand feet over Iran. As another guess, the radius of its effectiveness would be on the order of 30,000 ft or about 5 miles…perhaps more, I do not know. I have no idea whether Israel has such a weapon, but if they do, this attack is the time to roll it out.
6. Given this weapon’s use, a second hypothesis can be stated. With just about all of Iran, military and civil, virtually helpless and unable for some time to move in vehicles at all, it would be quite logical for Israel to take full advantage of this to destroy Iran’s military capabilities and military industrial base as fully as possible. Special Forces troops could be landed to search out additional hidden sites for destruction, for example.
7. Has the US government been made aware by Israel of such a weapon and their plan to use it? It is possible. The reaction in DC of the planned use of nuclear EMP weapons by Israel would be fierce and negative! Something like the unaccountably negative reaction of Obama during a recent visit by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
8. Without a weapon such as the EMP bomb I have speculated upon, the IAF has a daunting task, starting with the same needs: to suppress the Iranian air defenses thoroughly before their recce and transport/MOAB aircraft fly onto the scene. They must deliver a knockout blow to the Iranian air fleet or risk far too many IAF planes shot down. Airfields would be hit by multiple Israeli cruise missiles, as would known AA missile sites, such as for the SA-2, SA-5, Tor-M1 and SA-7, and would be followed up by F-16I attacks on specific airfield revetments still standing. Those Iranian aircraft, such as the F-14’s, that made it into the air must be handled by Israeli F-15I’s.
9. The low-level air defenses would have to be taken out as well, possibly by Israeli versions of US Wild Weasel fitted on F-16I’s, together with Harm anti-radar missiles for the kills. Losses to short range (up to 6 or 7 KM), hand-operated and optically sighted AA missiles of the will be moderate for fast jets such as the F-16I flown by combat-experienced pilots.
10. Once complete air superiority has been achieved, I envision waves of follow-on attacks on nuclear and other sites interspersed by recce flights to ascertain the damage done. This continued air assault would be maintained for days, until the Israeli commanders believe they have accomplished their mission.
11. The second Hypothesis holds here also, because Iran is now completely vulnerable to further air assault. The target set would be expanded to include most of the vital military targets in Iran.
12. At some point in this scenario Iran would begin their counterattacks, most likely using long range missiles, and by activating their Hezbollah and Hamas partners, if not Syria also, all targeting Israel. Whether there would be an all out attempt by Syria to invade Israel a second time is a big question; one that Israel would be prepared for this time. Lobbing missiles seems most likely.
13.The most fateful decision by Iran is whether to target US facilities and personnel worldwide, using sleeper cells or other terrorist resources to exact revenge. Such attacks would result in the US joining the attacks on Iran itself. The air war would be over in hours, if this occurs, with Iran made even more vulnerable to air assault by the USN and USAF resources in the theater. Thus enters the second hypothesis again, this time with far greater resources available.
14. Within days or weeks of the beginning of this war a ground assault on Iran can begin, and it can take several paths. First, to ensure that Iranian anti-ship missiles are destroyed in Southern Iran, US forces would effect landings to take possession of the sites threatening the Strait of Hormuz.
The third Hypothesis is that in due time US forces would also move to occupy the Western Iranian oilfield sites, thus cutting off a majority of oil revenues of Iran. This might bring a response from the Revolutionary Guard to face the US forces in ground warfare, totally without air cover. The outcome here would not be in doubt, I believe.
15. Scenarios of concern:
1. Try very hard to follow this:
1. We, the US, do not start a preemptive war against Iran.
2. Israel does attack Iran, and does a very good job of it using EMP weapons up front..
3. Iran responds by activating its surrogates, because that is all they can do (EMP damage).
4. Iran plus surrogates attack Israel AND US personnel and facilities.
5. We join the action to stop the carnage wherever it occurs.
1. We, the US, do not start a preemptive war against Iran.
2. Israel does attack Iran, but does not have EMP weapons, which allows Iran to use its resources to fend off the attack or blunt its effectiveness. Iran declare war.
3. Iran activates its surrogates and pits Israel against Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria, together with missiles from Iran.
4. Iran plus surrogates attack Israel but not US.
5. Question: what does the US do? Support Israel passively or actively, or not at all. I say we support actively by punishing Iran.
1. We the US do not start a preemptive war against Iran.
2. Israel does, etc
4.Iran plus surrogates attack Israel AND US Facilities and personnel
5 We join the action.
1. we do not start a preemptive war
2. Israel does not start a preemptive war.
3. Iran uses its nuclear weapons and blasts Israel off the map.
4. Do we retaliate for this or not? I say we do.
16. My whole point has been that we do not control Israel, that Israel will attack Iran sooner or later, and that whether we join the action depends upon whether Iran and its surrogates attack US personnel and facilities. If Israel does not succeed, or is in serious trouble from the surrogates, then the question becomes what do we, the US, do about it? Do we allow Israel to go down or not? If we allow Israel to go down, do we retaliate against Iran for it, or do we simply ignore the event?
17. There have been lots of analyses as to the preferred route of attack by Israel. Most conclude that they will use many routes, but dominantly the “middle route” over Jordan and Iraq. The US has recently stated that they will not prevent the IAF from overflying Iraq. Jordan may well stand down from this also, If not, they will not provide a serious obstruction to the attack, and would lose what they put up. Over flight of Syria is a great obstacle, and it is too near Israel to use EMP fully without disabling Israeli assets. My own opinion is that Israel must try to neutralize Syria in the process regardless, since they will join the fray almost immediately anyway. How the Israelis handle Hezbollah and Hamas is a good question that I can’t answer.
18. Another question I can’t answer is will the Israelis use nukes, other than the EMP type, either strategic or tactical, if they are pressed hard? My only thought is–yes, what have they to lose?
19. I daresay that we could not cripple their war efforts in a heartbeat. Israel has been preparing for such a conflict for years, and has been carefully divorcing themselves from essential, baseline military supplies from the US, such that supplies on hand should be sufficient for a war of certain duration. The longer they have to prepare the more independent they become, such as to develop and produce their own equipment, stockpile and have refineries to produce their own fuel. It has been a standing policy for years not to become totally dependent upon the US, because they are quite aware of the twisting tides of anti-Semitism in the US, and especially within certain groups. Israel accepts much aid from the US gratefully, but their ultimate goal is to stand on their own, and they are prepared to do so now.
20. They have used the Swiss model for years, where the Swiss have prepared for a war of 6 months, planning on support coming within that time…from NATO, the US…etc. Israel, however, must rely only on themselves in the final analysis; hence, their development of nuclear weapons for the last resort, when it becomes clear that they will run out of conventional supplies to defend themselves, or are being overrun well before that happens.
Therefore, to say that the US possesses the ability to stop Israel from defending themselves in a truly dire moment is simply hogwash. They will do what they think is necessary.
21. I have expressed my opinion at key steps in the scenarios I gave above. Fundamentally, I see our role as entering the conflict to stop the counter-aggressions by Israel’s neighbors and Iran, and further nuclear or conflict-widening responses by Israel. We cannot stop the first attacks by Israel, in my opinion. Whether this could be done rapidly under the UN flag or not is probably a no, if only because of time. We may well see this UN blessing as an absolute necessity, and hence delay our operational start while the UN Security Council debates the issues. Russia and China would be vitally important to either neutralize or bring into this operation of ours, but lacking that, we must proceed anyway. Time is of essence, but there may be days involved.
22. Otherwise, we will have a ME conflagration that may not stay limited, with a hard-pressed Israel possibly electing to use its nukes wherever they are threatened, which would be a disaster for many innocent ME people, and ultimately ourselves, if this triggers a more general war—a more general nuclear war.
23. In this process of attempting to cut off the conflict, we would undoubtedly be tagged by the Islamic nations and the Socialist/Communist nations with aggression ourselves. Fine, those are words, and the people we save will live to hear them, and to compare their options that we provided them–namely life. Some days you cannot win everything.
24. Any delay, such as the UN debate might cause, or our inability to bring an adequate force to bear in a timely fashion, would work against Iran, as the Israeli attacks would keep going until they know that we can enforce a truce, which they would realize by the rapid buildup of our naval air power in the area in a matter of days. I would hope that the combination of real power in the area and very strong diplomatic efforts through all channels results in a stand down on both sides very rapidly.
25. If I see through my crystal ball clearly enough, the Israelis would take advantage of the relatively few days they have, because of the diplomatic and logistical delays inherent in the situation, to knock out as much of Iran’s nuclear and military capabilities as they could before standing down at our forceful insistence, and under our protection. So much for the air and long-range missile war, I say. Looking back at this, one sees that Iran did get its punishment, by Israel.
26. The ground and missile war that would be raging is quite another matter. Hezbollah and Hamas would not be brought to a stand-down by air power, although Syria might well.
Some form of international force would have to interpose itself between Israel and these nations that have the necessary teeth to compel conformance to the stand-down, and to stop the missiles from flying. The usual UN force is a farce.
27. This is yet another critical problem to be solved, and it would be in the best interests of all parties to solve it quickly. There are some interesting ideas on how to accomplish this task, such as to sprinkle some number of third-nation soldiers throughout Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, with the clear understanding that if harmed by opposing missiles, they will be revenged rapidly and fully, Israel included. Better ideas may be out there somewhere.