Thursday, December 11, 2008

So I have been busy...but I didn't miss the 'nuclear umbrella' foolishness

I have not really posted lately on Israeli politics because, well, mostly the news is primary politic stuff gearing up for the election in February. To give in a short summary means I would have to write pages and I just don’t have that kind of time. I am clearing my desk and getting ready to take my annual leave next Tuesday. I am vainly trying to organize things on the home front at the same time so the Tribe and I can leave for Alberta without any loose ends.

Yes, the kassams are still falling, Israeli authorities continue to investigate current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Iran continues to meddle in Mid-East politics, Hezbollah continues to thwart Jimmy Carter’s plan to be the Dhimmi of the year, the Israeli government’s war against the Jews continues unabated, British Anglicans continue their long tradition of anti-Semitism, and Ehud Barak continues on his quest to have the Israeli state commit a slow public suicide.

But the absolutely most idiotic thing I have read recently is the suggestion that the Obama Administration will offer Israel a ‘nuclear umbrella’ as protection against an Iranian nuclear strike. In other words, if Iran nukes Israel, the US will take Iran off the board. Yadda, yadda.

Firstly, everyone knows Israel has their own 'Samson Option' and is fully capable of carrying it out even if hit by a nuclear strike.

Secondly, why the US’s nuclear umbrella would have more deterrent value than 200 plus Israeli nuclear missiles to be launched against strategic locales spread throughout the Mid-East is completely beyond my ability to reason.

Thirdly, it’s a question of will and creditability. The US does not have the international cache necessary to make believable its threat to carry out a nuclear strike. Oh, the US has the missiles and the warheads, but I cannot imagine the US Administration, especially a democratic one, which has the necessary cojones or spine and resolve of steel needed to carry out a nuclear strike against a country which did not deliberately attack the US home front.

Think the public opinion either domestically or internationally was mobilized in the countdown to the invasion of Iraq? It would be nothing compared to the demonstrations to save the innocent Iranian civilians! Potentially dead Iranian civilians versus a promise made to already fried dead Jews – living Iranian civilians win, hands down, every single time. Although, I am sure the memorials held for the Jewish victims of Iranian nuclear terror will be beautiful and moving, with lots of pledges of 'never again' - until the next time.


Chris Taylor said...

The problem with Israel's nuclear deterrent is that it isn't a true triad and can actually be wiped out in a sufficiently comprehensive first strike.

In other words if Iran completely irradiates every square inch of Israeli soil, this will effectively end Israel's second-strike capability. They don't have a large number of shielded silos or better yet, SSBNs. The majority of their nuclear deterrent is aircraft-delivered, and the aircraft will definitely be destroyed when their home fields are nuked.

There has been talk that their subs can launch nuke-armed ship-to-ship missiles (SSMs), but these are very low-yield devices, appropriate for hitting unshielded areas (i.e. cities, airports, seaports) but absolutely nusuited to hitting silos, bankers, shielded command centres, etc.

Not to mention there are only 3 subs, and each sub can carry a maximum of 16 weapons, torpedoes or missiles. Odds are they will have more torps than missiles, for self-defence, and that they will also carry some conventional SSMs as well. So let's assume that half the armament is torps (8), one quarter conventional SSMs (4), and one-quarter nuke SSMs (4).

The SSM they carry is the Harpoon UGM-84, which has a range of about 120nm (220km). Assuming the sub is in port in the Med, 220km is not even enough range to clear the territory of Syria or Jordan. The sub has to be on patrol in the Persian Gulf, and even if it was as close inshore as it could possibly get, 220km range only gets as far inland as Shiraz. And there are only 12 nuke-armed UGM-84s available at a moment's notice. That is a tiny, tiny slice of vulnerable Iranian territory.

In other words only two major population centres would be within reach of Israeli subs, Ahvaz and Shiraz. In order to hit the rest of the country they would depend on aircraft (likely nullified by an Iranian first strike) and land-based missiles... whose survivability hinges on being mobile, or being hardened to the point where Iran's Shahab 3B and other weapon systems couldn't disable them.

To be blunt, Israel needs better deterrence options. It has first-strike capability, but little that could ride out a surprise attack and be ready to retaliate. Once its neighbours get nukes of their own, it will have no effective deterrent value at all.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Well, Chris, no one can say you don't do your homework.

Although, time is running away from me so I have only the time to suggest the Samson option would not be limited to just Iranian understanding is the entire neighborhood would be set on fire with both the just and the unjust.

I have never really believed in the Iranians launching a strike against the Israelis, distance and quality control being just two factors against it, and have always thought the greater threat was for the Iranians to give a nuclear warhead or dirty bomb to one of their proxy's to carry out an attack.

Chris Taylor said...

Assuming that the threat is merely one or two devices, then yes, it would not be too hard to make Syria and Jordan pay for it.

In my mind though, Israel irradiating its neighbors only increases the appeal of a full scale Iranian nuclear attack.

May as well hit them with everything in the arsenal as that will mitigate the Israeli response, which will be marginal as far as Iranian targets are concerned. A full scale nuking with Iranian-created fallout will be indistinguishable from that created by Israeli retaliation against its nearer neighbours, so you won't even get the blame for that.

The earlier and better you nuke them, the less chance they have of getting off a retailatory strike. And their strike capabilities are limited to near neighbours in any event. Pretty much win-win for Iran, especially if you don't care for the populations of Syria, Egypt and Jordan, too.

Of course the prevailing winds will kill of huge chunks of Iraq and Iran later, but they will have achieved the goal of every Muslim autocrat ever, and probably get a double helping of raisins to boot. What's not to like?