A strike on Iran would pose tough test for Israelis (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Dan De Luce 02/26/12)
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An Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran´s nuclear sites would amount to
a roll of the dice against elusive targets, drawing in the United
States if the gamble fell short, analysts and former US military
Iran´s air defenses and ageing fighters would be no match for
Israel´s high-tech aircraft and cyber warfare, but the outcome of a
raid would largely hinge on intelligence and whether Tehran is able
to hide key elements of its uranium enrichment network.
Israel´s military has earned a reputation for lightning assaults that
blindside their enemies, but the Iranian nuclear program presents a
much more complicated task for Israel compared to previous raids that
took out reactors in Iraq and Syria.
In 1981, Israeli fighters destroyed an Iraqi atomic reactor in Osirak
without losing a plane and in 2007 the Israelis are widely believed
to have knocked out a clandestine reactor in Syria. Israeli dilemma
But flying fighter jets 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) all the way to
Iran would stretch Israel´s limited supply of aerial refueling
aircraft, while Tehran´s dispersed, hidden nuclear sites -- including
a facility dug into the side of a mountain -- present a daunting
"This is not a pinpoint, single target, one strike and it´s over,"
said William Fallon, a retired navy admiral who led US Central
Command in 2007-8.
An assault designed to delay Iran´s nuclear work would be "very
difficult" partly because the Iranians have "been pretty clever about
distributing stuff," Fallon told an audience Thursday at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Unlike in Syria or Iraq, Iran´s nuclear program does not have a
single vulnerable point that, if hit, would leave the project
crippled for years.
Iran has developed the know-how to enrich uranium and a supporting
industrial network to build centrifuges, which it has worked to
conceal. As a result, Iran could potentially withstand a bombing
campaign and still have enough centrifuge components and assembly
plants to renew uranium enrichment work, analysts said.
"Equipment to make centrifuges can be moved relatively quickly.
Centrifuge components that are finished can easily be moved and
probably are. So what you may know one month, it may not be good the
next month," said David Albright, president of the Institute for
Science and International Security.
"If they (Iranians) feel that a strike is imminent they may move a
lot of things... That´s really the question, how much do the Israelis
know about the program?" he told AFP.
Amid growing speculation that Israel may strike at Iran, the
potential success of such a raid is the subject of intense debate in
and outside the US military, but there is wide agreement that -- at
best -- an attack would postpone and not paralyze Tehran´s nuclear
Experts are assessing how long an Israeli attack could be sustained,
how effective the bombing would be and what ultimate goal would be
Israel would need its entire fleet of about 125 high-end American-
made fighter jets, including its 101 F-16Is and 24 F-15Is, to carry
out such an ambitious raid, as well as all eight of its KC-707
refueling tankers, said Scott Johnson, an analyst at IHS Jane´s
"They would use everything they have. Everything would be ready and
everything would be in play," Johnson said.
Israeli fighter jets, using precision-guided bombs, cruise missiles
and air-to-ground missiles, would likely be focusing on crucial links
in the nuclear program, including an underground uranium enrichment
center in Natanz, a centrifuge plant in Tehran and the recently
revealed Fardow facility built into the side of mountain near Qom.
The Fardow site lies at least 80 meters (260 feet) underground and
likely beyond the reach of even America´s most powerful conventional
Israel would be under pressure to stage a quick attack, as any
operation extending beyond one night could open the way to untenable
military and political risks, said Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at
the New America Foundation think tank.
"Both for technical and political reasons, the capacity for several
repeat runs is a stretch," said Levy, who worked in Ehud Barak´s
Israeli government in 1999-2001.
Apart from triggering massive diplomatic fallout, a prolonged attack
over days would remove any surprise element and Iran´s air defenses
would have a better chance of countering Israeli warplanes, Western
A job half-finished, with Iran´s nuclear program bruised but not
battered, could pull America into the fray with Tehran staging
retaliatory strikes against Israel and attacks on US targets.
"When Israel games this scenario, strongly built into that is that
America gets dragged into this," Levy said. (Copyright © 2012 Agence
France Presse. 02/26/12)
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