For years, cable news analysts have used fancy graphics to map out the blueprint of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Turns, they may have been forecasting the wrong scenario. According to a fascinating report in Foreign Policy, the Pentagon is highly skeptical that an Israeli strike will have anything to do with fighter jets flying into Iranian airspace and firing off bunker-busting missiles. All the charts, all the CGI reenactments, and the magazine cover stories may have it wrong. Instead of an airstrike, many U.S. military analysts are anticipating a commando-style mission using an elite special forces unit that's the Israeli equivalent of SEAL Team 6.
Journalist Mark Perry calls it the "Entebbe Option," named after Israel's 1976 rescue of Israeli hostages captured in Uganda. Foregoing a mass air attack, an elite "Sayeret Matkal" unit with as many as 400 soliders would swoop into Iran's enrichment facility at Fordow, seize the enriched uranium and transport it back to Israel. Perry lays out the details:
The Israeli unit would be transported on as few as three and perhaps as many as six C-130 aircraft (which can carry a maximum of 70 troops) that would be protected by a "swarm" of well-armed F16Is, according to the scenario being considered by U.S. military officers. The C-130s would land in the desert near Fordow. The Israeli commandos would then defeat the heavily armed security personnel at the complex, penetrate its barriers and interdict any enemy units nearby, and seize the complex's uranium for transport back to Israel. Prior to its departure, the commando unit would destroy the complex, obviating the need for any high-level bombing attack.
To some, the reason this option is more plausible than others is the fact that an Israeli airstrike would likely fail to castrate Iran's nuclear program. (Perry conveys the doubts about an Israeli air strike in interviews with U.S. military experts inside and outside of government—well worth a read in full.)
Needless to say, this new scenario suggests that debates about whose airspace might be invaded (Turkey's? Iraq's? Saudi Arabia's?) could be joined by discussions about the tricky logistics of such a commando-style attack. What could go wrong? How many casualties would be expected? While no one can be certain of exactly how or whether Israel would carry out such an attack, the story certainly makes you re-consider the piles of "authoritative" presentations on how an Isreali strike would work.
Updated at 5:30 p.m. to reflect that both scenarios would involve breach of sovereign air space.