Monday, November 7, 2011



The stepped-up PSYWAR by Israel against Iran on the question of the possibility of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities indicates an underlying lack of confidence in Israel’s military and intelligence circles over the chances of success of any military strike against Iran.

2.One does not see in Israel of today the kind of confidence that it had in 1981 that it would be able to succeed with a clandestine air strike against Iraq’s OSIRAK nuclear reactor then under construction with French assistance and manage the consequences.

3. The Mossad--- the Israeli external intelligence agency---of today is not the Mossad of 1981. There has been a decline in its professionalism despite the success of some of its recent sabotage operations against Iran’s nuclear establishment. The public opposition by some of the retired senior intelligence officers such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet, the security agency, to any military action against Iran reflects the lack of confidence about the success of a military strike against Iran amongst officers who retired only recently and hence must be up-to-date in their knowledge of the Israeli capabilities against Iran.

4. There are conflicting reports about the stand of serving officers. While some reports say that the serving officers are confident that Israel can successfully carry out a military strike against Iran, other indicators are that even some serving officers share the misgivings of the retired officers. It is believed that the statements against a military strike issued by these retired officers reflects not only their lack of confidence in the success of a military strike, but also of some of the serving officers who had worked under them when they headed the agencies.

5.Unless there is an assessment backed by a majority of the serving military and intelligence officers that a military strike will be successful in neutralising Iran’s retaliatory capability and nuclear facilities, those in the political leadership in favour of immediate action headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may find it difficult to go ahead with a military strike.

6. The unusual high-octane PSYWAR mounted by Israeli leaders talking and threatening from roof-top regarding the likelihood of a military strike reflects not Israeli confidence in its ability to carry out a successful strike, but the persisting misgivings in the national security decision-making circles as to whether a strike would be successful.

7. Israeli national security and intelligence culture forbids public airing of military plans and debates before an imminent military action. The fact that such a public airing is being done now by the Government as part of its PSYWAR and that retired senior intelligence officers no longer feel bound by their culture of discretion and self-restraint are indicators of a lack of confidence in the political and professional circles regarding the chances of success of a military strike.

8. There would have been little opposition to a military strike if there was total confidence that it would succeed. The lack of unanimity of support for a strike is an indicator of the lack of such total confidence.

9. Israel of today is not the Israel of 1981. It no longer has the confidence that it can prevail in having its national security will and interests enforced. Iran is counting on this in going ahead with its nuclear plans, but it will be committing a serious mistake if it underestimates Israel’s penchant to take risks and act if its leaders and people feel that their national survival is at stake. (8-11-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



I have received the following comments on my article "If Israel Attacks Iran" from a well-placed and well-informed reader:

It appears that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain [monarchy], Kuwait, Oman are lobbying for an IDF (Israeli Defence Force) strike. [since they appear to have failed to persuade the US and Europeans to strike against Iran's nuclear program.]

What role Saudi Arabia might play in a strike on Iran, even if they deny their role?

According to several military analysts, Iran lacks the ability to disrupt the port of Hormuz. As a practical matter, how can they do it?

Iran's air defense capability is extremely limited. And their fighter aircraft lack functional avionics and electronics. Iran lacks accurate long range rockets. Their primary ability to strike at Israel is Hezbollah. But would Hezbollah risk a war with most Lebanese to help Khamenei? Both Khamenei and Nasrallah are focusing their limited resources on helping Assad survive. [Assad is apparently using Hezbollah Arab fighters inside Syria against the Syrian resistance.]

Their priority is to help Assad survive. This will be more important to them than retaliating for an Israeli strike [or a joint Israeli, Saudi strike.]

You seem to think the US and Europeans won't support a military strike on Iran. Before the attempted assasination of the Saudi ambassador inside the US, you were 100% right. But the failed assasination has changed things. There is now serious talk about military action in Europe and the US, which the Sunni Arab countries are exploiting with their powerful lobbies.

More than 80% of Sunni Arabs have a negative view of Iran in recent Arab public opinion polls. This is the highest negative rating ever recorded. Much of this is because of the role of IRGC in helping Assad against the Syrian resistance. This increases the odds of a military strike against Iran.



Will Israel attack Iran’s nuclear capabilities? If so, how will it go about it? What will be the consequences?

2. A PSYWAR has been mounted from Israel regarding the strong likelihood and imminence of an attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities should the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna report ---as it is widely expected to---- that Iran has repaired the damages suffered by the computer network of its enrichment complex as a result of a virus (Stuxnet) allegedly planted by the Israeli intelligence and has resumed its enrichment operations full steam with the objective of acquiring weapons grade enrichment capability.

3. Such a report would mean that Israel’s sabotage operations to paralyse the enrichment facilities on which it was relying as an alternative to direct military strikes have failed to produce the desired results leaving it with no other option but direct military strikes to destroy the enrichment facilities that Iran has built up.

4. Should Israel undertake a military strike and if so, when? This question is being debated now in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles. It is apparent that any Israeli military strike may have to be unilateral because the West----including the US--- are not prepared to support a military strike. They feel that paralysing sanctions should be given an opportunity to force Iran to see reason and make Iran give up its plans for achieving a capability for weapons grade enrichment.

5. Israel’s faith in sanctions and sabotage as options to neutralise Iran’s capabilities has weakened and there is growing conviction in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles that the time for a direct military strike against Iran has arrived. If Israel does not act before November-end, the onset of winter and the heavy cloud cover during winter may make precise missile strikes difficult.

6. Political and diplomatic pressure from the US and other Western countries is unlikely to have any impact on Israeli decision-making which will be influenced purely by the assessment of the military and the intelligence agencies regarding the likelihood of success of a military operation.

7. Success means success in destroying Iran’s enrichment capabilities and success in destroying Iran’s capability for retaliation against Israel. When Israeli aircraft bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor under construction with French assistance in June,1981, the dangers of a retaliatory strike by Iraq against Israel were not a worrisome factor in the planning. It was known that Iraq did not have such a capability.

8. Iran has a strong retaliatory capability against Israel in the form of its missiles. Its Air Force is facing problems due to the reported unserviceability of many of its planes because of the sanctions. It, therefore, plans to rely on its missiles for a retaliatory strike on Israel. The Israeli forces will, therefore, have to either destroy the Iranian retaliatory capability in advance before attacking the nuclear facilities or attack the two simultaneously.

9. The final decision on a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities will depend on the confidence of the Israeli military and intelligence leadership that it can destroy Iran’s retaliatory capability through a pre-emptive strike.

10. While serving officers of the Israeli intelligence seem to be confident that a neutralisation of Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability will be doable, some retired officers of the Israeli intelligence such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency, and Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet, the security agency, have expressed misgivings on this. They have advised the Government against any adventurist impulses.

11. If Israel succeeds in destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability, Teheran will have two options----- block the Strait of Hormuz thereby creating serious dislocations in oil supply or undertake a long-term sabotage operation directed against the West without affecting the oil supply.

12. Blockage of the Strait of Hormuz will have an impact not only on the global economy, but also on Iran’s own economy at a time when its economy is already facing serious difficulties due to the economic sanctions. Success of a long-term sabotage operation will be doubtful since Iran is unlikely to enjoy the ground solidarity of the Sunni world. The Sunni countries are as worried as Israel over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. They will condemn Israeli military strikes, but will not do anything in support of Iran beyond that.

13. In view of what has been stated above,if Israel succeeds in neutralising Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability, Iran may decide that it has no other option but to gulp it and keep sulking---- as Saddam Hussein did post-1981.

14. If an Israeli military strike is successful, the consequences for the region and the global economy may not be serious. If it is not successful, the consequences could be far-reaching. (7-11-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )