Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:43 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:43 | SYDNEY

Options: Iran and Israel


Sam Roggeveen


12 June 2009 12:12

Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has written a Wall St Journal op-ed surveying Iran's retaliatory options to any Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. I undertook a similar exercise on The Interpreter a year ago, listing Iran's options and examining each for its feasibility. I came to a similar conclusion to Bolton, which is basically that Iran can't do all that much damage to Israel or the US without risk of doing more severe harm to itself.

Curiously though, Bolton seems to take the Iranian air force and ballistic missile threat seriously, saying it 'could do substantial damage in Israel'. I don't buy that — Israel's defences against both are just too strong.

One response Bolton does not mention — and I left it off my earlier list too — is that Iran uses the strikes as an excuse to redouble its nuclear efforts, but this time takes the program completely underground (literally and figuratively) and cuts off all contact with the IAEA. That would be bad news, but Israel may judge that Iran is making steady progress toward a nuclear weapon even with IAEA oversight, so how much worse could it get? And if a military strike buys Israel some time, it may yet be the least worst option.

Israel's calculation will surely be influenced by Iran's upcoming presidential election (on which my colleague Anthony Bubalo has a piece in today's Herald). Should Ahmadinejad lose to a reformist, Israel would not like to be seen as snuffing out any chance at rapprochment through a pre-emptive bombing campaign.

Although it's not entirely clear, John Bolton may not agree with that assessment. He offers the uncharacteristically equivocal view that:

...a strike accompanied by effective public diplomacy could well turn Iran's diverse population against an oppressive regime.

The lack of conviction indicated by the phrase 'could well' is telling. Let's hope Israel doesn't bet the house on it.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.