War With Iran

Israel Versus Iran

By Mark Perry
Foreign Policy, September 27, 2012

Edited by Andy Ross

U.S. Central Command and Pentagon war planners have concluded that there are at least three possible Israeli attack options against Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel may need the United States to join militarily, but the U.S. military currently has no interest in a preventive strike.

Option 1

A massed Israeli Air Force bombing campaign targets key Iranian nuclear sites. Such an assault would be coupled with strikes from submarine-launched cruise missiles and Israeli-based medium-range Jericho II and long-range Jericho III missiles, according to a highly placed U.S. military officer. The attack may include a coordinated cyber and electronic warfare attack.

But the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Centcom planners conclude that such an aerial campaign could not be sustained: "They'll have one shot, one time. That's one time out and one time back. And that's it."

Israel has about 25 sophisticated F15I and 100 smaller F16I warplanes, but only the F15Is can carry the bunker-busting GBU-28 guided missile, and even then only one each.

The Israeli Air Force would likely have to carefully pick and choose its targets, settling most probably on four: the heavy-water production plant at Arak, the uranium-enrichment centers at Fordow and Natanz, and the uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan, while leaving out the military site at Parchin and the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which houses Russian technical experts.

The Israeli F16Is would knock down Iran's air defense network, or perhaps drop other, less effective, bunker-busting munitions. Some of these F16Is, but not all of them, would be able to refuel from Israeli KC-707 tankers.

Even with that, and even with the best of luck, senior U.S. military officers say that Israel would only set back Iran's nuclear capability by one to two years at best.

The U.S. arsenal includes the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the GBU-57, which can punch through 200 feet of hardened concrete before detonating its 5,300-pound warhead. The United States is rumored to have only about 20 in its inventory. Only a B-2 bomber can carry it.

Option 2

Israelis mount a high-risk but high-payoff commando raid that would land an elite Sayeret Matkal (special forces) unit outside of Iran's enrichment facility at Fordow, near Qom. The soldiers would seize Iran's enriched uranium for transport to Israel.

The operation's success would depend on speed, secrecy, simplicity, and the credibility of Israeli intelligence. According to the Pentagon war planner, Israel's access to intelligence on Iranian military and policy planning is unprecedented, as is their willingness to share it with U.S. intelligence officials.

The Israeli unit would be transported on a small flight of C-130 aircraft protected by a swarm of F16I fighters. The C-130s would land in the desert near Fordow. The Israeli commandos would then defeat the heavily armed security personnel at the complex, penetrate its barriers and interdict any enemy units nearby, and seize the complex's uranium for transport back to Israel. Prior to its departure, the commando unit would destroy the complex.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are former Sayeret Matkal officers, and recently Israeli Defense Forces head Benny Gantz said the IDF had formed an elite special operations "Deep Corps" to strike far inside hostile territory.

The difficulty with the Entebbe-style option is that Israel would be forced to mount a robust combat search and rescue (CSAR) capability to support it. That would mean deploying other C-130s carrying helicopters that could pick up endangered commandos or retrieve downed aircraft crews. Such CSAR units would have to be deployed to nearby countries, or even land in the desert. This CSAR component complicates the operation.

Option 3

The Israelis could just take out the Iranian leadership. A decapitation strike iwould not end Iran's nuclear program. But it would almost certainly trigger an Iranian response targeting U.S. military assets in the region, as it would leave the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in charge of the country. It would be the one sure way for Israel to get the United States involved.

A Pentagon planner: "If the Iranians harass us, we can deal with it, but if they go after one of our capital ships, then all bets are off." A U.S. response would not involve a full-scale, costly land war against the Tehran regime, but rather a long-term air interdiction campaign to erode Iranian military capabilities, including its nuclear program.

But a decapitation campaign would deepen the rift between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government. Retired Army officer Lt. General Robert Gard: "Our commitment to Israel has been as solid as with any ally we've ever had, and a lot of officers are proud of that. But we've done it so that they can defend themselves. Not so they can start World War III."

In Centcom war game Internal Look, the United States was "pulled into" a regional conflict in the wake of an Israeli attack. The results "were particularly troubling" to Centcom commander General James Mattis. Internal Look found that Iranian retaliation against U.S. military assets could result in "hundreds of U.S. deaths," probably as the result of an Iranian missile attack on a U.S. naval vessel. The game also showed that the less warning the United States has of an Israeli attack, the greater the number of casualties taken.

Eight Ways to Deal With Iran

By Stephen J. Hadley
Foreign Policy, September 28, 2012

Option 1: Seek an interim "stop the clock" agreement

The United States and the international community (USIC) seek to negotiate with the Iranian regime an interim agreement that prevents further Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon capability. Neither side ia asked to concede its current position on the core of the nuclear issue and the existing sanctions regime remain in place. Each side has an incentive to continue negotiations to reach a more permanent agreement.

Iran agrees under intrusive IAEA inspection and verification procedures to:
- Cease any uranium enrichment beyond 3.5%
- Cease further expansion of operations at its underground Fordow enrichment plant
- Commit to take no further steps toward developing a nuclear weapon capability

The USIC agrees to:
- Provide fuel for the Iranian medical research reactor and medical isotopes
- Impose no additional sanctions during the period of the interim agreement

According to press reports, the Obama administration has already proposed something along these lines that the Iranian regime has so far flatly rejected.

Potential benefits of Option 1:

- Freezes the most obvious avenues for enhancing Iranian nuclear capability
- Builds confidence and trust
- Buys time for sanctions and other measures to have effect

Potential costs of Option 1:

- Leaves centrifuges in operation at both Natanz and Fordow
- Provides time for Iran to strengthen the defenses around its nuclear infrastructure
- Depends on Iranian authorities allowing intrusive inspection and verification measures
- May not satisfy Israel

Option 2: Seek an interim "medium for medium" or "more for more" agreement

The USIC seeks to negotiate an interim agreement that requires greater concessions from both sides but still stops short of a final agreement.

The USIC provides fuel for the Iranian medical research reactor, medical isotopes, and civilian aircraft spare parts, and commit not to impose any additional sanctions. Existing sanctions are alleviated as Iran comes into compliance with its obligations under the interim agreement.

In addition to agreeing under intrusive IAEA inspection and verification procedures to cease enrichment beyond 3.5% and to cease further expansion of operations at Fordow, Iran is required to ship most of its 3.5% enriched stockpile out of the country. Enrichment at the 3.5% level can continue.

Potential benefits of Option 2:

- Freezes the most obvious avenues for enhancing Iran's nuclear weapon capability
- Reduces Iran's stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium to low levels and increases inspection
- Builds trust and confidence

Potential costs of Option 2:

- Leaves centrifuges in operation at Natanz and Fordow
- Gives Iran time to strengthen the defenses around its nuclear infrastructure
- May take too long to negotiate

If the Iranian negotiators stall on moving further, an interim agreement could hinder USIC efforts to increase the pressure.
The USIC would have to commit in advance to imposing new sanctions if the final agreement deadline is missed.

Option 3: Seek a final agreement that resolves the nuclear issue

USIC negotiators seek an agreed final resolution of the nuclear issue in a single negotiating step. The problem is that a final agreement will take time to negotiate, and without an interim agreement in place, the Iranian regime is free to move forward with its nuclear program.

A final agreement invites USIC to declare victory, unwind the sanctions, reduce the pressure, and resume normal relations with the Iranian regime. If the Iranian regime then begins eating around the edges of the agreement, it may be difficult to reestablish the existing sanctions and pressure the regime in time. Any final agreement needs to include a prior agreement on a response in the event of any substantial violation. A list of substantial violations could be included in a UN Security Council resolution.

As the Iranian regime implements its undertakings, the USIC agrees to:

- Support Iran in developing a truly peaceful civilian nuclear power program
- Undertake steps to resuscitate, revitalize, and reform the Iranian economy
- Encourage businesses, universities, and charitable foundations to establish training centers in Iran
- Establish robust exchange programs within Iranian civil society
- Commit to no new nuclear-related economic sanctions and gradually reduce existing sanctions
- Reestablish diplomatic relations over time
- Include Iran as a full partner in an international nuclear club located elsewhere

Consistent with the phased implementation process, Iran agrees to:

- Forego nuclear reprocessing and disband all its existing facilities
- Forego enriching uranium beyond 3.5% and give over to the IAEA all stocks of such enriched uranium
- Shut down and dismantle its uranium enrichment facility at Fordow
- Accept and implement the IAEA Additional Protocol and full IAEA inspection and monitoring
- Resolve all its issues with the IAEA

Potential benefits of Option 3:

- Resolves the nuclear issue on terms acceptable to both sides and provide an enforcement mechanism
- Establishes a framework of relations that could advance progress in dealing with the other grievances
- Opens opportunities for greater interaction between the USIC and the Iranian people

Potential costs of Option 3:

- Draws down the leverage and incentives that the USIC have for changing the behavior of the Iranian regime
- Allows Iran to perfect its enrichment capability
- Enhances the legitimacy of the Iranian regime

Option 4: Embrace the de facto status quo

This option aims to establish a de facto status quo acceptable to the USIC based on a set of redlines. The purpose is to freeze the Iranian nuclear weapon program at its current level without rolling back the program. The approach gives the USIC enough time to respond to an Iranian effort to dash for the bomb. The USIC threatens action against the Iranian nuclear program if these redlines are crossed.

The redlines:

- Resuming nuclear weaponization research or other weaponization activities
- Enriching over 3.5%
- Failing to cooperate with the IAEA or throwing out its inspectors
- Opening any new enrichment or reprocessing facility
- Discovery of a covert nuclear facility
- Failure by Iran to freeze activity at Fordow

Any redlines declared by Iran are liable to be fairly extreme. Perhaps the regime would accept a more limited set of redlines, such as:

- No new UN Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear program
- No new nuclear-related USIC sanctions
- Cessation of any clandestine actions within Iran
- Cessation of further IAEA efforts to resolve questions about past Iranian activities

Operationalizing this approach may require secret contacts between representatives of the UN Security Council and elements of the Iranian regime.

To pressure Iran to accept this approach, the USIC could discuss additional sanctions they might impose, including:

- Targeting front companies that supply Iran with components for the nuclear program
- Targeting banks that work with the National Iranian Tanker Company
- Targeting certain petroleum resource development joint ventures outside Iran
- Blacklisting Iran's entire energy sector and labeling Iran a zone of proliferation concern

Potential benefits of Option 4:

- Freezes the Iranian nuclear program and leaves time to react if Iran makes a dash for the bomb
- Avoids both the political costs of formal negotiations and the downsides of military action
- Puts the Iranian regime's claim that it does not seek a nuclear weapon to the test

Potential costs of Option 4:

- Without a freeze at Fordow it does not stop Iran from entering the zone of immunity.
- Hard to get UN Security Council authorization for military force in the event of violation
- Leaves Iran free to take action just short of the redlines

Option 5: Long-term isolation and pressure

The USIC undertakes a long-term strategy of isolating and pressuring the Iranian regime. The goal is to get the Iranian regime either to abandon unilaterally its effort to obtain nuclear weapons capability or to engage in serious negotiations.

This option is attractive if the USIC decides that the Iranian regime is unable or unwilling to enter into a negotiated settlement or if negotiations break down. It could be an alternative or a follow-up to military action.

Under this approach, the existing vehicles of pressure and sanctions are maintained and strengthened. Additional measures could include:

- Targeting front companies that supply Iran with components for the nuclear program
- Targeting banks that work with the National Iranian Tanker Company
- Targeting certain petroleum resource development joint ventures outside Iran
- Blacklisting Iran's entire energy sector and labeling Iran a zone of proliferation concern
- Joint military exercises with Gulf and regional allies
- Expanded U.S. military assistance and cooperation with regional states
- Greater emphasis on interdicting arms and funding flowing to and from Iran
- Creative ways to engage broader elements within Iranian society

These measures may cause debate and division within the Iranian regime.

This effort could be a long one, comparable to the Cold War effort. In the interim, the USIC would have to manage aggressive and dangerous efforts by the Iranian regime to "break out of the box" of increasing pressure and isolation. Such actions could include:

- Increasing financial and material support to terrorist organizations
- Inciting violence through proxy groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lebanon
- Destabilizing international oil markets
- Increasing the threat to Israel

Potential benefits of Option 5:

- Avoids capitulation to the Iranian pursuit of a nuclear weapon capability
- Offers the possibility of a positive resolution of the nuclear issue
- Encourages transformation of the Iranian regime to one more cooperative with the USIC

Potential costs of Option 5:

- Requires an enormous USIC commitment
- Risks disruptive and dangerous Iranian behavior threatening USIC interests
- May turn the Iranian people against the USIC
- May prompt Iranian leaders to dash for the bomb

Option 6: Launch a limited, and preferably clandestine military strike

A military strike comes under consideration in the event that:

- Negotiations break down
- The Iranian regime violates an agreement
- The Iranian regime takes other steps toward a nuclear weapon capability
- The USIC embrace limited strikes as part of a longer-term strategy

The objective of military action could be:

- To persuade the Iranian regime to return to negotiations
- To induce the Iranian regime to return to compliance
- To dissuade or prevent the regime from moving further toward a nuclear weapon capability
- To enforce redlines
- To change the behavior and policies of the Iranian regime over the longer term

Any military action:

- Raises the stakes in the confrontation
- Risks unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences
- Risks letting the Iranian regime continue toward a nuclear weapon capability
- Causes division within the USIC over Iran
- Erodes support for curbing Iran's nuclear weapon efforts after the strike

Prior to any use of military force it should be established that:

- The negotiating track has clearly failed
- Iran has violated an interim agreement
- Iran has violated a final agreement and a UN Security Council resolution
- Iran has violated a declared USIC redline

To achieve its objectives, any military action should:

- Be clearly focused on the nuclear issue
- Limit any collateral damage
- Not be clearly attributable to the United States or Israel

A limited and clandestine military action best meets these criteria. It could be focused on one or more of the following:

- Any new facilities or operations undertaken by the Iranian regime that violate any agreement or USIC redlines
- The deeply buried enrichment facility at Fordow but not the more vulnerable enrichment facility at Natanz
- The enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz and the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak
- A very small number of facilities that provide critical support to these enrichment and reprocessing sites

Any resort to military force is best undertaken by the United States, for these reasons:

- Its leaders have said an Iranian nuclear weapon capability is unacceptable
- It has led the international effort to deal with this problem
- It has capability to conduct an effective military operation
- It is a hard target for any Iranian retaliation
- Its attack may generate less hostility within Iran than an Israeli strike
- Israeli military action would result in severe criticism and isolation of Israel
- Holding the sanctions coalition together later would be easier

The United States could use the prospect of a military strike to enhance the effectiveness of its diplomacy. A limited military strike will need to be well prepared diplomatically and operationally and must be followed by increased pressure on Iran.

Potential benefits of Option 6:

- Adds credibility to USIC efforts to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon
- May sow division and discord within the Iranian regime and the Iranian public
- May buy more time on the Iranian nuclear clock

Potential costs of Option 6:

- Pushes the Iranian regime to declare explicitly that it is pursuing nuclear weapons
- Prompts the regime to do all it can to push up oil prices
- Causes controversy within the USIC
- May rally Iranian public opinion around the regime and against the USIC

Option 7: Launch a major, overt military strike

A major military action can only be conducted by the United States. It hits:

- All facilities associated with a potential Iranian nuclear weapon capability
- Iranian air defense facilities
- Iranian military aircraft, military airfields, and missile complexes

The USIC is unlikely to view failure of negotiations as justifying a major military strike. Advance preparations would be required to:

- Safeguard the region's civilian infrastructure and military installations from Iranian attacks
- Insulate the world economy from a major potential disruption in the oil and gas markets

Potential benefits of Option 7:

- Does maximum damage to Iran's nuclear program
- Causes the Iranian regime to question its own survival
- Degrades Iran's conventional retaliatory capability

Potential costs of Option 7:

- Prompts the Iranian regime to declare its intention to seek nuclear weapons
- Strengthens public support in Iran for the regime and anger against the USIC
- Puts pressure on USIC support for a robust Iran policy
- Sows controversy and division within the United States
- Escalates into a war

Option 8: Acquiesce in a nuclear-armed Iran

If efforts to resolve the confrontation over the nuclear issue fail, and the USIC either decide to forego the military option or find that it does not achieve their desired objectives, they could elect simply to accept an Iranian regime with a clear path to a nuclear weapon, and even with a nuclear weapon itself. This course of action would reflect a judgment that an Iran with nuclear weapons could be deterred or contained.

AR  This is all rather worrying.