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Could Israel Take Out Iran's Nuclear Sites? Experts Say Perhaps, But...

Gary Thomas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to Washington next week to discuss his country’s heightened concern over Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli officials have warned of a possible preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, but the U.S. is trying to dissuade Israel from such action.  An attack would present formidable obstacles for Israel and might only bring a temporary halt to Iranian weapons-related nuclear activity.

Israel is concerned that a window of opportunity is fast closing as Iran starts moving some of its uranium enrichment facilities to hardened underground sites.   The concern has fueled talk of possible Israeli bomb and missile strikes on Iranian facilities.

Michael Eisenstadt, director of Military and Security Studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Israeli aircraft could reach the Iranian targets if they know where all of them are.  

“I think they have the range, they have the weapons systems, they have the ordnance that they could drop on these facilities.  The question is whether they have the intelligence and whether they have the ability to impose significant enough damage to justify the risk from their point of view,” Eisenstadt said.

But analysts say that for a successful strike, the attack plan would have to be perfect, the intelligence flawless, the weather clear, and the targeting accurate.  

Analysts say the Israelis would have to jam Iranian warning systems and also knock out - “suppress” in military jargon - all air defenses, assuming that they know where they are.

Intelligence historian Matthew Aid says the chances of success, at least in theory, are not good.  He questions whether Israel has sufficiently powerful bombs, known as “bunker busters,” capable of destroying hardened facilities.

"They may be able to damage badly the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which is near the city of Esfahan.  But the Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which is near the holy city of Qom, is built into the side of a mountain and may be impervious to the kind of munitions that the Israelis currently possess," Aid said.

Any aerial path from Israel to Iran would require refueling en route, making the fighter-bomber aircraft vulnerable over potentially hostile airspace, such as Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.  Michael Eisenstadt, however, believes that may not be a problem.

"Given attitudes in the Arab world towards Iran and Iran’s nuclear program, I think a lot of Arab countries would quietly applaud if Israel were to do this.  And if Israel had to overfly their territories in order to get to Iran, I don’t think that they would do anything," Eisenstadt said.

But on one point analysts agree: any strike at Iran will at best retard Iran’s nuclear program, perhaps for a year or two…and will almost certainly invite Iranian retaliation against Israel and perhaps against U.S. and allied interests as well.

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by: Benjamin
March 07, 2012 10:54 PM
Israel must do what is right for Israel

by: Bryon Letterman
March 06, 2012 7:23 AM
Here's the point that all you people fail to consider. Iran has threatened MANY times to wipe Israel off the map. Who can blame Israel for wanting to do whatever it takes to prevent another holocaust? This has nothing do do with religion, at least from Israel's point of view. Tehran is completely insane and will stop at nothing to take Israel out if it has the means and opportunity.

by: manny
March 06, 2012 1:21 AM
The Zionist will start a new war soon, just like they did before. Every time they get in to recession and fear of loosing their wealth, they start a war .

by: Ethiopian-Christian
March 05, 2012 1:37 PM
I like and respect the old generation of Jewish.
In the 1940's Jewish escaped prosecutions from Europe and accepted peacefully in America and Canada.
Very sadly, currently when some Ethiopians escaped prosecutions from Ethiopia to get into Israel, the Jewish kept shooting them on border and murdered them and using their Organs for profit, by selling it to Doctors.
So, can anyone blame me if I disrespect the Jewish, who are murdering my Ethiopian-Christian people?

by: Gab to Dave
March 05, 2012 12:08 PM
You would have a point if what you were saying was true.

by: leon harrier
March 05, 2012 10:34 AM
what is israel trying to prove? whoopy! you can single handedly cause the next world war over "who has the biggest missiles, AKA, whose got the biggest falic object", now arent you so proud of yourselves? seriously, just do it already. us young, real americans arent going to go fight for some old religious zealots, so go, get yourself blown to high heavens by iran, and allow us to write in the history books the results of being warmongers.

by: SANITY
March 05, 2012 9:35 AM
Horse before the cart or the cart in front? How about going to the root of the issue and really 'disarming' the raicals - by addressing the issue that unites and rallies them - Palestenian dissent.

by: Ethiopian
March 04, 2012 11:12 PM
The Jewish keep causing trouble for others and using America as a defence.
As Ethiopian-American, I witnessed a lot, when Jewish are attacking Ethiopian Christians in America and Canada by using various Biological-Weapons, secretly. Mostly, by conspiring with Phillipinos and East-Indians. Jewish kidnapped and murdered too many Ethiopians in America and Canada.

Jewish are murdered my Christian people, everywhere, by acting like other Nations.

by: polistra
March 03, 2012 2:09 AM
If we can believe the latest Wikileaks, Israel ALREADY destroyed Persia's nuke facilities in November. Therefore all of this discussion is just pointless bullying, pure psychopathic aggression. As usual with Israel.

by: Charlemagne
March 02, 2012 5:45 PM
I think Israel should show restrain and let sanctions play out, but if not then they have no alternative but go ahead with the pre-emptive strike; but nobody knows what the Iranians are capable of because in times of hostilities every body lies to hide their true capability. I hope the Israeli secrete service has done its job well, because if not we are going to see some blood bath from missiles that are not accurate straying and doing untold damages.
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