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I’ve previously written about why Iran won’t ever nuke Israel, but recent saber rattling causes me to consider the possibility that Israel will nuke Iran. There has been much discussion concerning Israel’s options for stopping Iran from getting the bomb. Most commentators agree that a strike with conventional weapons, including the giant “bunker buster” bombs provided to Israel by the U.S.A. won’t do more than delay the Iranian nuclear weapons program by at most five years. Given the hugely damaging side effects of any attack on Iran, such as chaos in world petroleum markets, why would anybody bother to go through all that pain for a temporary respite? I suspect the answer is they won’t. Instead, if the Israelis decide Iran’s soon-to-be bomb is an existential threat, they will do whatever it takes to make the threat go away, permanently.
If Israel has learned anything from its numerous wars over the past 63 years, it’s that any win has to be decisive. Half-way measures, like the south Lebanon war and Gaza incursion have proven ineffective at permanently removing threats. Iran’s nuclear program is protected by a difficult to defeat combination of secrecy, dispersion and hardened facilities. It’s safe to assume that Israel has beached Iranian security to the point of knowing all secret facilities. Everybody already knows the locations of the other nuclear facilities. The problem is that some of those known facilities are buried deep in mountains or underground, covered by many feet of steel-reinforced concrete. Even multiple hits by the biggest bunker buster bombs are not guaranteed to destroy those.
The obvious answer to obliterating hardened or deeply buried facilities is nuclear weapons. While the largest bunker buster is equivalent to 30,000 pounds of TNT in destructive force, it is widely believed that the smallest nuke in Israel’s undeclared arsenal is a so-called “suitcase nuke” of about 380,000 pounds of bang. Then, there are Israel’s 2,000,000,000 pounds of TNT equivalent “megaton” warheads. I’m guessing the little ones are probably sufficient for the task.
My prediction is that if Israel decides to remove Iran’s nuclear program by force, they will do a thorough job of it. And that means nukes. Let’s hope the Israelis conclude they can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.