Home > Diplomacy > Yediot’s Barnea outlines the nightmare that would follow an Israeli strike on Iran

Yediot’s Barnea outlines the nightmare that would follow an Israeli strike on Iran

Note that although Barnea’s primary assertion is that the apocalyptic implications of an Israeli strike would deter a rational Israeli government, he is concerned that Netanyahu may have rhetorically painted himself into a corner:

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler.  Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker.  This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill.  His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table.  If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him.  Where will he go?  In his distress, he may run forward.


The Iranian horror scenario

Excerpt from column, Nahum Barnea, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, March 5 2010

Dr. Moshe Vered, a physicist by profession, deals with operations research.  He spent a sabbatical year at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  Last September, the center published his study [Hebrew PDF here], under the heading “The length of the war and ending conditions in a future war between Iran and Israel.”  The study did not elicit any special interest in the public, but became a hit on the computer screens of the security establishment personnel.  In the study, Vered described what would happen in the wake of an IDF attack of Iran’s nuclear facilities.  This is a worrying and thought-provoking document.  It is not intended for people with a weak heart, or those who are quick to pack their bags.

“The war could be long,” Vered warns, “its length could be measured in years.”  The cost that the war will exact from Israel raises a question mark as to the decision to go to war.

The relatively light scenario speaks about an Israeli bombing, after which Iran will fire several volleys of surface-to-surface missiles at Israel.  Due to the limited number of missiles and their high cost, the war will end within a short time.  The missiles may run out, the study states, but the war will only be getting started.

“The means that may be most effective for the Iranians is war by proxies—Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas,” Vered writes.  “(There will be) ongoing and massive rocket fire (and in the Syrian case, also various types of Scud missiles), which will cover most of the area of the country, disrupt the course of everyday life and cause casualties and property damage.  The effect of such fire will greatly increase if the enemy fires chemical, biological or radiological ordnance… massive Iranian support, by money and weapons, will help the organizations continue the fire over a period of indeterminate length… due to the long range of the rockets held by Hizbullah, Israel will have to occupy most of the territory of Lebanon, and hold the territory for a long time.  But then the IDF will enter a guerrilla war, a war the end of which is hard to predict, unless we evacuate the territory, and then the rocket fire will return…”

This is not all.  “Another possibility,” Vered writes, “is the activation of Iranian expeditionary forces that will be located in Syria as part of a defense pact between the two countries, or sending large amounts of infantry forces to participate in the war alongside Hizbullah or Syria.  Iran’s ability to do so will increase after the United States evacuates its troops from Iraq.  If the current tension between Turkey and Israel rises, Turkey may also permit, or turn a blind eye to, arms shipments and Iranian volunteers that will pass to Syria through its territory and airspace.  Israel will find it very difficult, politically and militarily, to intercept the passage of forces through Iraq or Turkey.  The participation of Iranian forces will make it very difficult for the IDF to occupy areas from which rockets are being fired.

“Along with these steps, Iran may launch a massive terror campaign against Israeli targets within Israel and abroad (diplomatic missions, El Al planes and more) and against Jewish targets.”

Iran will not attack immediately, Vered’s scenario states.  First it will launch intensive diplomatic activity, which could lead to an American embargo on spare parts to Israel.  Along with this, the Iranians will secretly move troops to Syria.  Israel will not attack the troops, for fear of international pressure.  The IDF will have to mobilize a large reserve force to defend the Golan Heights.  After the Iranians complete the buildup of their force, Hizbullah and Hamas will launch massive rocket fire against all population centers.  The IDF will try to occupy Lebanon and will engage in a guerrilla war with multiple casualties.  Hamas will renew the suicide bombings and Iran will target Israel’s sea and air routes by terrorism.  The Iranians will fire missiles at population centers in Israel, and will rebuild the nuclear facilities that were bombed, in such a way that will make it very difficult to bomb them again.

Vered bases his assessment mainly on the regime’s ideology and on the lessons of the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.  He writes: “Half a million dead, a million wounded, two million refugees and displaced persons, economic damage estimated by the Iranian government at about USD 1,000 billion—more than twice the value of all Iranian oil production in 70 years of pumping oil—none of this was sufficient to persuade Iran to stop the war.  Only the fear of the regime’s fall led the leadership to accept the cease-fire.

“The ramifications are clear and harsh—like the war against Iraq, the war against Israel will also be perceived by the Iranians as a war intended to right a wrong and bring justice to the world by destroying the State of Israel.  Only a threat to the regime will be able to make the Iranian leadership stop.  It is difficult to see how Israel could create such a threat.”

The United States would be able to shorten the war if it were to join it alongside Israel.  Vered does not observe American willingness to do so.  He predicts the possibility of pressure in the opposite direction, by the US on Israel.

I asked to speak to Vered this week about the reactions to his study.  He requested to postpone the conversation.  I spoke to him again on Wednesday.  He asked again for a postponement, for personal reasons.

The military card

The Israeli response to Iran was already formulated in the time of Sharon’s government.  It had three facets: in diplomatic talks, the government explained that blocking Iran was in the interests of the entire world, and therefore the world must take action.  At the same time, according to foreign reports, Israel sabotaged the nuclear project by secret means and launched preparations for a military strike (the details of the strike were published in an article in the Wall Street Journal by Anthony Cordesman, an expert on strategic affairs, under the heading “The Iran Attack Plan.”  The article starts with a quote by Dan Halutz.  “When the Israeli army’s then-Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Halutz was asked in 2004 how far Israel would go to stop Iran’s nuclear program, he replied: ‘2,000 kilometers,’ roughly the distance been the two countries.”).

This triangle made sense: the Israeli contentions were gradually adopted by the US and the European Union; the covert operations, if there is truth to the foreign reports, delayed the project and gave time to consolidate sanctions; the fear of an Israeli military strike encouraged foreign governments to step up the pressure on the Iranians.

The whole world was impressed, except for Iran.

The game is now approaching the critical stage, the “money time.”  Netanyahu and Barak are waving the military card.  “All the options are on the table,” they say, accompanying the sentence with a meaningful look.  There are Israelis, in uniform and civilian clothes, who take them seriously.  The Obama administration is troubled.  It is no accident that US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen was sent here, to make it clear that the US was vetoing a military strike.  It is no accident that Barak was invited to Washington and Vice President Biden will be coming here on Monday.  He is not only coming to visit Yad Vashem.

I find it difficult to believe that Netanyahu will undertake such a weighty and dangerous decision.  It is more reasonable to assume that he and Barak are playing “hold me back.”  On the day they will be called upon to explain why Iran attained nuclear weapons, they will say, each on his own, what do you want from me, I prepared a daring, deadly, amazing operation, but they—the US administration, the top IDF brass, the forum of three, the forum of seven, the forum of ten—tripped me up.  They are to blame.

Netanyahu and Barak know: there is no military operation more successful, more perfect, than an operation that did not take place.

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler.  Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker.  This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill.  His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table.  If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him.  Where will he go?  In his distress, he may run forward.

The fascinating side of this story is that very few Israelis would appear to believe their prime minister.  If they believed him, they would not run in a frenzy to buy apartments in the towers sprouting like mushrooms around the Kirya.  In the event that Iran should be bombed, the residents of the towers would be the first to get it.  If they believed [Netanyahu], the real estate prices in Tel Aviv would drop to a quarter of their current value, and long lines of people applying for passports would extend outside the foreign embassies.  What do the Israelis know about Netanyahu that Ahmadinejad does not know, what is it that they know.

Categories: Diplomacy
  1. Bill
    March 8, 2010 at 18:15

    Some of this seems very far-fetched. Iranian diplomatic activity leading to an American embargo on spare parts to Israel? Really? I don’t think the Syrians are about to put themselves on the line for Iran, either.

  2. Bill Simpson
    March 9, 2010 at 19:04

    Ahmadinejad, and his Revolutionary Guard pals, pray every day for an Israeli attack. It is the only thing that would unify the Iranians under their oppressive rule. If an attack would get rid of the Iranian threat, I would say go for it Israel, but it won’t. Iran is too large a country, with plenty of mountains to tunnel into. Worse yet, there are a whole lot of Iranians to do the tunneling.
    You have to put yourself in the enemy’s place and ask, what would you do if you were attacked by Israel as an Iranian. If I were an Iranian leader, I would launch as many missiles as I could at the largest cities in Israel, but not right away. I would make them sweat for a while. Maybe even just launch one or two a day. I would have some of them impact around 22:00, so sleep would be rather difficult.
    I would then start mass production of the cheapest mobile missiles that I could, inside miles of tunnels with internal blast doors and multiple exits. Remember the German V-2 factories? I would get weapon technology from China, in exchange for discounted oil. I would fire the missiles in groups aimed at the same city so as to overwhelm any defense system.
    I would call for volunteers to go fight in wherever the battle line was at the time. With a population of 66,000,000, an endless supply of young virgin seekers would be available. How many killed can Israel sustain? If you kill 10 Iranians for every Israeli they get, you will still lose. I would also try to constantly send cheap, unguided rockets into most of Israel. The economy would eventually collapse just from them.
    Sure Israel could missile and bomb Iran back, but how many of them can you kill? Enough to make them surrender? I doubt it. Think Nazi Germany and Japan during WW II. And meanwhile you are playing dodge the Katuska. They can get a lot closer to you than you can get to them.
    Since they are rather fanatical, and will be kind of mad at being bombed, they will send assassins all over the world to kill every Israeli they can find. They don’t care if they get caught. Blowing themselves up is no big deal for them.
    If Israel attacks first, few will feel sorry for Israel, no matter what happens to it. Most people will say, “They started it. That is their problem.”
    I think deterrence might be a better strategy than a preemptive strike which might be counterproductive. Just saying. I’m no expert, but attacking Iran seems very risky to me. I don’t think the eventual payback will be fun at all.

  3. lamerkhav
    March 12, 2010 at 05:32

    thank you for your blog. keep doing your good work. yeshar a-koakh!

  4. abovethelies16049311
    March 25, 2010 at 22:01

    Attacking Iran with the promise of U.S intervention seems to be the ideal plan. First and foremost the U.S. has this little thing called a Middle East Roadmap and this all fits right into it. Hillary Clinton will be the cheerleader for the U.N. Congress will blindly back military action, perhaps that is why they want nothing to do with Health Care Plan as they will need the money for a long drawn out intrusion into Afghanistan/Iran/Iraq. Hedged socioeconomic equality has kept Iraq militarized. Most people will not say Israel started it, instead the media will continue to harp on the lamb that was raped of its land so as to dispel all thought of the Palestineans and their struggle for recognition. You may not like the eventual payback but Iran has been dealing with intrusionary politics since 1953 and when it all hits the fan Iranians will not be smoking peace hookahs toward Israel. The outline served up above seems very real and the only thing that I see stopping such a response on behalf of the Iranians is military assistance from the United States. However saying that just leads me to realize how brazen U.S. intrusion is so as to justify some pipelines, and forget about an ideology that wants nothing to do with the U.S capitalist system of lies.

  1. March 8, 2010 at 17:35
  2. March 9, 2010 at 00:01
  3. March 9, 2010 at 04:03
  4. March 11, 2010 at 08:20
  5. March 11, 2010 at 12:39
  6. August 8, 2010 at 19:39
  7. November 24, 2011 at 01:01
  8. January 6, 2012 at 00:00

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