Scenarios of a potential Israeli attack on Iran – usually without Washington's assent – abound in leading US media in the last 24 hours. They contrast sharply with the impression Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been trying to convey to the public that he and President Barack Obama were of one mind on the Iranian question when they talked at the White House last Tuesday, March 23, but the president wanted more Israeli concessions to get talks restarted with the Palestinians.
debkafile's military sources point in particular to the work of two eminent experts on Iran's nuclear program, Anthony Cordesman and American-Jordanian Abdullah Toqan for the Washington Institute for Strategic Affairs, who report the belief in some American military circles that "…nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels…"
The quote was embodied in a 208-page report published Friday, March 26 under the heading: Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program.
They explain that because of the limited scale of its air and missile forces, Israel would resort to "using these [nuclear] warheads as a substitute for conventional weapons, given the difficulty its jets would face in reaching Iran for anything more than a one-off sortie."
Our sources note that in July 2009, the two researchers (in a 114-page report) maintained that the Israeli Air Force possessed the aircraft and resources for striking Iran's nuclear facilities. This view disputed the estimates generally current Washington at the time. Then, too, Cordesman and Toqan were of the opinion that it was not necessary to hit scores of targets to cripple Iran's nuclear bomb program: Seven to nine sites would suffice.
Our Iranian sources report that Tehran ran off thousands of copies of that report for distribution among its intelligence and Revolutionary Guards commanders, who were told to study every word, photo and map. Iran's rulers took the work as seriously as though they had scooped a top-secret Israeli plan of operation.
In their latest work, the two researchers find that ""Ballistic missiles or submarine-launched cruise missiles [such as those with which Israeli Dolphin submarines are armed] could serve for Israeli tactical nuclear strikes without interference from Iranian air defenses."
Saturday, March 27, the day after the Cordesman-Toqan paper was published, The New York Times revealed:
"… international inspectors and Western intelligence agencies say they suspect that Tehran is preparing to build [two] more sites," six months after its secret enrichment plant was discovered in Qom.
The report goes on to say: "The most compelling circumstantial evidence… is that while Iran appears to be making new equipment to enrich uranium, that equipment is not showing up in the main plant that inspectors visit regularly [at Natanz or at Qom.]"
Small manufacturing factories spread around Iran to avoid detection and sabotage "are a particular target of American, Israeli and European intelligence agencies," some of which have been penetrated," the report says. Iran "has encountered difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges, the machines that spin at very high speeds to enrich uranium."
Then, Sunday, March 28, The New York Times followed up with proposed scenario, captioned: "Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran," based on a simulation exercise conducted last December by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Its main point is that if Israel goes ahead with this attack, using a refueling base set up in the Saudi desert without Saudi knowledge, Washington will essentially tell its leaders they have "made a mess," and instruct them "to sit in a corner while the United States tries to clean things up."
The exercise does not indicate how the US will clean things up, whether diplomatically or militarily – or both – or just concentrate on keeping the Gulf oil nations safe from Iranian retaliation.
Iran next defies warnings and fires missiles at Israel, including its nuclear center at Dimona, with minimal damage and casualties – the strategy being "to mount low-level attacks on Israel while portraying the United States as a paper tiger…"
debkafile's sources infer from this simulated war game that the Americans believe that, aside from the confrontation over Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel and Iran will try and use their conflict to manipulate US policy.
The next stage would be for Hizballah to fire up to 100 rockets a day into northern Israel, following which Israel would launch a 48-hour campaign by air and special forces against Lebanon to destroy Hizbalah's military strength.
The games simulators then predict an Iranian attack on the Saudi oil industry center at Dahran with conventional missiles, mining the Strait of Hormuz and damaging US oil shipping.
At that point, Washington will embark on a massive reinforcement of the Gulf region. It is clear that the US will then aim at destroying all Iranian, air, ground and sea targets in and around the Strait of Hormuz to inflict a "significant defeat" on Iran's forces.
The game is projected to end eight days after the initial Israeli strike.