web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


For Israel, What Next In The Matter Of Iran? (Third of Three Parts)


Beres-Louis-Rene

Sometimes, in complex military calculations, truth is counter-intuitive.

In essence, the persuasiveness of Israel’s nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis Iran will require prospective enemy perceptions of retaliatory destructiveness at both the low and high ends of the nuclear yield spectrum. Ending nuclear ambiguity at the optimal time could best allow Israel to foster precisely such needed perceptions. This point is very important and possibly overriding.

Credible nuclear deterrence is never an automatic consequence of merely “being nuclear.” In the particularly arcane world of Israeli nuclear deterrence, it would never be adequate that Iran could simply acknowledge the Jewish state’s nuclear status. Rather, it would be critical, among other things, that Tehran also believe Israel holds distinctly usable nuclear weapons, and that Israel would plainly be willing to launch these weapons in certain clear and more-or-less identifiable circumstances.

Whether Israel’s leaders conclude that they will have to deter a rational or an irrational enemy leadership in Tehran, they will have to consider Moshe Dayan’s injunction. What would be the expected strategic benefits to Israel of appearing to their Iranian foes as a “mad dog”? And what would be the expected costs?

Together with any such consideration, Israel’s civilian and military leadership will need to determine: (1) what, exactly, is valued most highly by Israel’s Iranian enemies; (2) how, exactly, should Israel then leverage fully credible threats against these core enemy preferences.

Under international law, war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. In the best of all possible worlds, Israel might still be able to stop a nuclear Iran with cost-effective and lawful preemptions; that is, with defensive first strikes that are directed against an openly belligerent and verifiably lawless Iran. Fully permissible, as long as they were judged to conform to the Law of Armed Conflict (humanitarian international law), such discriminating and proportionate strikes, observably limited by peremptory rules of “military necessity,” could still represent authentically life-saving expressions of anticipatory self-defense.

But this is not yet the best of all possible worlds, and soon Israel’s prime minister will almost certainly have to deal with a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli. With this in mind, all early critical estimations of Iranian rationality will need to be correlated with appropriate Israeli strategies of defense and deterrence. Even in a worst case scenario, one in which Israeli military intelligence would determine a compelling risk of enemy irrationality, a thoughtful dissuasion plan to protect against Iranian nuclear weapons could still be fashioned.

This binary plan would seek to deter any Iranian resort to nuclear weapons, and, simultaneously, to intercept any incoming weapons that might still be fired if deterrence should fail. While the warning is now often repeated again and again that Shiite eschatology in Iran could actually welcome a cleansing or apocalyptic war with “infidel” foes, such a purely abstract doctrine of End Times is ultimately apt to yield to more pragmatic calculations. In the end, high-sounding religious doctrines of Final Battle that were initially trumpeted in Tehran will likely be trumped by more narrowly mundane judgments of both personal and geo-strategic advantage.

The primary goal of Israel’s nuclear forces, whether still in the “basement” or partially disclosed, must always be deterrence ex ante, not preemption or reprisal ex post. If, however, nuclear weapons should be introduced into a conflict between Israel and Iran, some form of nuclear war fighting could ensue.

This would be the case as long as: (a) Iranian first strikes against Israel would not destroy that country’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) Iranian retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption would not destroy Israel’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons would not destroy Iranian second-strike nuclear capabilities; and (d) Israeli retaliations for Iranian conventional and/or chemical/biological first strikes would not destroy Iran’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capabilities.

From the critical standpoint of protecting its security and survival, this means Israel should now take proper steps to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above, and the corresponding unlikelihood of (c) and (d). It will always be in Israel’s interests to avoid nuclear war fighting wherever possible.

For Israel, both nuclear and non-nuclear preemptions of Iranian unconventional aggression could lead to nuclear exchanges. This would depend, in part, upon the effectiveness and breadth of Israeli targeting; the surviving number of Iranian nuclear weapons; and the willingness of Iranian leaders to risk eliciting Israeli nuclear counter-retaliations.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “For Israel, What Next In The Matter Of Iran? (Third of Three Parts)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

For a peace treaty with the PA, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Jerusalem

As for the president’s new, softer tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, this is most likely being driven by the results of the recent Israeli election.

What especially appeals to us is his grand – some critics would say extravagant –view of what the borders of Israel should look like.

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

The establishment of Hebrew University was a cause much beloved to Einstein who in 1923, during what would be his only trip to Eretz Yisrael, delivered the university’s inaugural lecture on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and, discussing the theory of relativity, spoke the first few sentences of his address in Hebrew.

The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was beneath the ground – oil.

Ida Nudel’s account of how the Soviets persecuted and punished her was far worse than imagined.

Swim4Sadna is an annual event benefiting Sadna, an integrative special-ed community in Gush Etzion

Prof. Wistrich, was THE foremost historian of anti-Semitism; committed spokesman & advocate of Jewry

Jewish Voices for Peace’s 2015 Haggadah is a blatant anti-Israel screed crying, “L’chayim to BDS!”

On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/for-israel-what-next-in-the-matter-of-iran-third-of-three-parts/2012/12/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: