4 Reasons Israel Hasn't Bombed Iran

And an argument for why it should

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In a deadly exercise of "will they or won't they" a rash of opinion has suddenly cropped up with regards to what is variously described as Israel's improbable, pending, or inevitable strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. While there has been discussion and (sometimes wild) speculation about a potential strike for years, correspondents, columnists, and bloggers alike recently sensed that renewed saber-rattling may be a prelude to a conflict. Here's the argument for bombing Iran and the theories on why an Israeli attack on Iran may not happen in the near-future:

  • Better Safe (By Bombing) Than Sorry  proposes Reuel Marc Gerecht at The Weekly Standard. The alarmist scenarios of all-out war are "the opposite of what would more likely unfold after an Israeli attack." He continues, "If the Israelis, whom the regime constantly asperses as Zionists ripe for extinction, can badly damage Iran’s nuclear program, the regime will lose enormous face. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have said repeatedly that the Israelis wouldn’t dare strike the nation’s nuclear program; if the Israelis do dare, it will be a stunning blow. And military defeats can be deadly for dictatorships—historically, there’s nothing deadlier."
  • Argument For A Strike Is Weak  even though everyone is obsessed with writing about a potential strike, explains Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy magazine. "I suspect that the real reason for the new flood of commentary calling for attacks on Iran is simply that hawks hope to pocket their winnings from the long argument over sanctions, such as they are, and now push to the next stage in the confrontation they've long demanded. Hopefully, this pressure will not gain immediate traction."
  • Israel's International Political Calculus  While Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens initially believed that the "hawkish Mr. Netanyahu" meant that Israel would strike "sooner rather than later", he admits "I was wrong." However, he presents four theories on what will happen next: 1) Israel doesn't think it could succeed. 2) Israel is biding it's time until it has better defenses against a counterattack. 3) Israeli internal politics may not allow it. 4) Israel doesn't want to lose allies in the Obama administration.
  • Don't Attack Iran Just Yet  cautions Barry Rubin at The Diplomat. While it's "almost certain" that, given the opportunity, Iran will seek to destroy Israel, there should not be an pre-emptive attack because, "There’s simply too much that could go wrong: fighter jets can go astray or be shot down, bombs sometimes miss, facilities may be better hidden or shielded than intelligence suggests. And once Iran has the knowledge of how to build bombs, it will anyway eventually be able to try again." Rubin argues that Israel and the West--in order to prevent all-war war--might have to deal with a nuclear Iran.
  • Israel Simply Lacks Military Capability  Think tank scholar and former CIA military analyst Kenneth Pollack writes in his book The Persian Puzzle:
The problem for Israel is much simple: Iran is too far away. Most of the known Iranian nuclear facilities are around 1,000 miles away from Israel. Its Jericho II ballistic missiles could reach these targets, but they lack the payload, accuracy, and numbers to be able to significantly damage (let alone destroy) more than one or two of the large Iranian nuclear facilities, which leaves the matter to the Israeli Air Force. Even assuming that Israeli aircraft were to fly directly to Iran, overflying Jordan and Iraq, the only aircraft in its inventory that could reach Iran's known nuclear sites are its 25 F-151 strike fighters. (Israel would need to set up aerial refueling stations at three to five locations between Israel and the Iranian targets for its roughly 350 F-16s to be able to participate, which would be practically impossible.) Because the F-151s would have to carry a considerable amount of fuel, they could not carry a great deal of ordinance. Given the size of the various Iranian nuclear facilities, it would not be possible for Israel to destroy all of them in a single raid as it did Osiraq. Nor would it be politically, militarily, or logistically possible for Israel to sustain multiple such strikes over the many days, if not weeks, it would take for all its F-151s to accomplish the job.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.