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Iran As a Nuclear Weapons State Is Terrifying. Israel May Attack Before That Happens

Isreali Air Force
AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – Israeli Air Force F-35I Lightning II “Aldir” and U.S. Air Force 421st Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II fly together after refueling from a 908th Expeditionary Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender during exercise “Enduring Lightning II” over Israel Aug. 2, 2020. While forging a resolute partnership, the allies train to maintain a ready posture to deter against regional aggressors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Patrick OReilly)

Biden’s Iran Diplomacy Increases Likelihood of Nightmare Scenario – At a speech to the International Student House on July 12, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman demonstrated the Biden administration’s magical thinking toward Iran. State Department Spokesman Ned Price insisted last week there was a deadline for negotiations, but pointedly refused to say whether it was in one day or five years. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps now openly mocks such empty brinksmanship.

Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program continues unrestrained. Progressives and the State Department can blame President Donald Trump for walking away from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but this is wrong on three counts:

First, Iran remains subject to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement. The JCPOA did not free Iran from its legal commitments.

Second, the increase in Iranian enrichment occurred not when Trump left the JCPOA, bur rather when the Biden administration ended Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Here, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies timeline is definitive.

Third, the JCPOA did not do what Presidents Obama and Biden said it did.

That Team Biden bases their Iran strategy on fantasy rather than reality may quickly lead to the worst-case scenario: not simply Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition—a moment which Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s advisor Kamal Kharrazi says is now a question of when and not if—but also an open-ended conflict that will destabilize the region.

Team Biden may be sanguine about an Iranian nuclear breakout. Biden likely will not be alive to witness its consequences. Special Envoy Robert Malley never considered the Islamic Republic a threat. Through his lens of moral equivalence, he believes Iran has a right to a nuclear arsenal. Sherman, meanwhile, likely privately believes failure in Iran negotiations will be no worse than her failure with North Korea’s diplomacy. After all, she won a promotion and North Korea has not (yet) used its nuclear bombs.

For Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional states, however, the danger is not that a nuclear Iran is suicidal but rather that it is terminally ill. Consider events analogous to the last days of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. If the regime collapses under its own weight with only a day or two until popular forces overrun Tehran, ideologically vetted Revolutionary Guards units with custody, command, and control over Iran’s nuclear arsenal may launch an attack to fulfill ideological objectives before their power ends.

This makes the Israelis, in particular, less sanguine than the White House against Iran’s nuclear drive. For Biden, an Iranian nuclear breakout would be one more opportunity to bash Trump and eschew responsibility; for the Jewish state, it poses an existential threat.

Might Israel then attack Iran’s nuclear program? This, after all, is what Israel did against Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. The problem is Iran is not Iraq or Syria. Whereas Iraq had only Osirak and Syria just had al-Kibar, Iran’s nuclear program is scattered across the country and would involve more than a dozen targets. On top of this, Iran is both larger and farther away than either Syria or Iraq (though the logistical assistance in the guise of Saudi airstrips might mitigate this problem). Iran is almost four times the size of Iraq and about nine times the size of Syria. Militarily, this has several implications:

First, to strike at numerous targets and enable refueling to allow pilots’ return will require first neutralizing Iran’s airfields, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and its command-and-control centers. Because many of Iran’s nuclear sites are underground, even with the use of cruise missiles to relieve pressure on pilots, it will also mean multiple sorties to ensure the destruction of facilities. Israel might also need to insert some special forces units into Iran to take out key individuals, paint targets, and assess damage. Iran would likely retaliate against Israel via Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal and against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates via Houthi rockets and drones. What this means in short is that a decision to strike at Iran’s nuclear infrastructure militarily will require not a dozen sorties, but rather thousands over the course of several days.

The downside of such a military strike, of course, is that it would justify Iranian rhetoric about Iran’s need for nuclear weapons. Iranians might also rally around the regime. After all, the Islamic Revolution was fraying when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein attacked and allowed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to consolidate power. Finally, the biggest drawback to a military strike that does not oust the regime is that it would delay Iran’s nuclear breakout but not end it.

Israelis talk big and, as their airstrikes on Syria and assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and missile engineers show, they are certainly more capable than others in the Middle East, but the sheer scale of the military problem may be a bridge too far. That said, no matter what Biden hopes, it is unlikely that the Israelis will simply stand down in the face of an existential threat. Rather, they may believe that they should do as much as possible against Iran and southern Lebanon and figure that others will simply have to pick up the pieces.

When a hornet’s nest is close by, the best options are to get rid of it or to leave it alone. The worst option would be to whack it a few times with a stick, stir up the hornets, and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this is the scenario where Biden’s Iran policy now leads.

Expert Biography – Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005). You can follow him on Twitter: @mrubin1971.

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Paddy Manning

    July 23, 2022 at 5:52 pm

    We are now seeing the appalling results of Obama’s and of the idiots’ he placed in the the State Department utter, dire incompetence, ignorance and possibly even treason.
    The Biden administration is the inept Obama admin minus twenty IQ points but with many, many more diversity hires.
    Saudi Arabia and Israel will have no choice but take out as much of Irans nuclear infrastructure as possible and will have to keep doing it. So with America’s Middle east allies at war with Russia’s Middle East Allies and Russia involved in an invasion against a European nation being aided militarily by America and it’s Nato Allies can we say WWIII has started or do we wait for China to attack Taiwan?
    Once more, for the idiot faction, Trump was right.

    • Muhammad

      July 23, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      The Apartheid State Isreal will be destroyed by Iranian proxies. Saudi Arabia has already seen what the Houthis did to oil facilities, so they better go with the synagogue of Satan zionist racist bastards either APIDTA.

      • Froike

        July 24, 2022 at 2:22 pm

        Muhammad….Koose E Mak Ya Ibn Elef Sharmoota

        • Fluffy Dog

          July 24, 2022 at 5:01 pm

          There is no need to be insulting… as for his prophecies – let him. I remember reading back in January a detailed description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine by some Russian “expert.” I’d like to read his comments now. It’s the incompetent who tend to predict the future.

    • Froike

      July 24, 2022 at 2:22 pm

      100% Well Stated

  2. Ben Leucking

    July 23, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    The deadline for negotiations will come either
    1) When Israel is forced to preemptively take matters in its own hands or
    2) At the end of Biden’s term in office, at 11:59 AM, January 20, 2025. The magical thinking in the Biden regime is not limited to the State Department.

    • Arash P

      July 24, 2022 at 2:40 am

      And what happens when 2025 comes exactly?
      US will invade Iran that is sitting on a big pile of near weapons grade Uranium?!
      Really?
      Trump didn’t dare to invade Iran in 2020 despite Netanyahu constantly begging him, he or someone like him are gonna do it when Iran is even closer to nukes?

      I do t think so!

    • Arash P

      July 24, 2022 at 2:58 am

      And what is 2025 gonna do?!
      Trump who was the biggest boy didn’t dare attack Iran in 2020 despite Netanyahu begging him relentlessly.
      Is he or someone like him gonna do it in 2025 when Iran is sitting on a big pile of highly enriched uranium ready to go into bombs developed domestically or bought from North Korea or Russia?!

      Khamenei is a scholar. He reads more books in one month than trump has read in his entire life. Khamenei went along with 2015 deal against his best judgment, publicly stating that he does not believe in a deal with United States.

      He has been proven right!

      I can promise you that he will not be insane enough to allow the same mistake to happen twice under his watch.

      All these talks are for show.
      There will be no deal because there is no way Khamenei will let go of the nuclear leverage.

  3. pagar

    July 23, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    The WAY FORWARD for nations to survive is to go nuclear (or just surrender to washington and become a minion or vassal providing bases for uncle sam’s military).

    The CIA & MI6 overthrew Iran’s elected govt in 1953 and paved the way for the pro-west anti-soviet Shah that finally led to the iranian revolution.

    Now iran must complete the US-British gamble by purchasing nukes from russia.

    In the late fifties, US installed pgm-19 jupiter missiles in turkey, a US minion, leading to USSR installing R-12 Dvina missiles in cuba.

    Now is the time for rusdia to do the same trick and install iskander missiles in Iran.

  4. Arash P

    July 24, 2022 at 2:28 am

    Give it a rest Rubin.

    A state’s top priority is providing security. Who likes to hear every day from the world’s most powerful military that “all options are in the table”?
    When was the last time US said that to a nuclear state?!

    Neither US not Israel are in a position to bar Iran from developing nuclear capabilities.
    Iran has not invaded any country in the past 200 years. Compare that with US that doesn’t go 10 years without destroying another country, or Israel that is bombing Syria daily.

    What if Iran withdraws from NPT? What would your legal argument be for an attack upon a sovereign country?

    Iran has all the rights to develop any technology it desires to bolster its defenses and yes if one day decides to leave NPT, put those highly enriched uranium and implosive charges together to make an atom bomb.

    Atom bomb or any other weapon is not yours to give or deny. US or Israel don’t own a global license on any particular technology or weaponry.

    And regarding regime stability,
    That’s exactly why Iran SHOULD arm itself with nukes. Likes of you have been calling for crushing sanctions on Iran for decades now with the well known objective of causing social upheavals that would hopefully topple the government.

    The path forward for Iran to get rid of unjust and illegal sanctions is not to submit to another nuclear “deal” but to make the prospect of social unrest undesirable for Iran hawks like you.

    • Joe Comment

      July 25, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Arash P: If Iran wants to leave the treaty and build a bomb, the only legitimate way would be for Iran to turn over all the enriched uranium it created while benefiting from the treaty, and start over from scratch. Otherwise, it is simply cheating and the result will be UN sanctions same as with North Korea.

  5. Ezra Teter

    July 24, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    Between Iran and Israel, how many wars has the former provoked and how many wars has the latter provoked just in the 21st Century? Israel has already shown itself to be a geopolitical arsonist and we don’t say a damn thing about their rather sizeable nuclear arsenal. Personally, I think the world would be better off if Iran had nukes because the chicken hawks that control out country’s bloody foreign policy would back off from their official policy of brinkmanship.

    • Arash P

      July 25, 2022 at 12:09 am

      They have been calling for and getting ghoulish sanctions against Iran with the stated goal of causing social unrest and upheaval so that the regime might go down.

      In other words, targeting civilians to achieve political goals! Also known as terrorism!

      The best way for Iran to get rid of these sanctions is developing nukes and making clear to the west that “if we go down, you will go down too!”
      That is the only way sanctions will go away not another nuclear “deal”!

    • Joe Comment

      July 25, 2022 at 12:09 am

      Ezra Teter: Want me to list all the terror attacks organized by Iran this century? It’s a lot. Are they really worthy of holding a nuclear arsenal? Israel has the same status as India and Pakistan, outside of the non-proliferation treaty. Is less really said about Israel’s nukes than the latter’s? “Geopolitical arsonist”? Yes, Israel has conflicts, but generally with those who don’t believe in the country’s right to exist. Can you give any specific example of a time when you believe Israel started a fire that wasn’t already there?

  6. Ben Colder

    July 25, 2022 at 8:43 am

    Iran gets nukes they will use them that is the reality of the way things are.

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