web analytics
April 26, 2015 / 7 Iyar, 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.

An Israeli nuclear preemption against Iran is highly improbable and effectively inconceivable. In principle, however, there are certain residual circumstances in which such a strike could still be perfectly rational.

These are circumstances wherein (1) Iran had already acquired and deployed nuclear weapons presumed capable of destroying Israel; (2) Iran had been open and forthright about its genocidal intentions toward Israel; (3) Iran was reliably believed ready to begin an actual countdown-to-launch; and (4) Israel believed that non-nuclear preemptions could not possibly achieve levels of damage-limitation consistent with its own physical survival.

Before such an argument on the logical possibility of preemption could be rejected, one would necessarily have to assume that ensuring national self-preservation was somehow not Israel’s highest priority. Such an assumption, of course, would be incorrect on its face.

What’s next for Israel in the recognizably existential matter of a steadily nuclearizing Iran? The answer will necessarily be contingent upon Jerusalem’s antecedent judgments concerning Iranian decision-making on core strategic matters. Whether Israel should choose a last-minute preemption, or opt instead for a policy of long-term nuclear deterrence and corollary active defense, will depend upon what Prime Minister Netanyahu and his senior advisers may expect from enemy leaders in Tehran – rationality; irrationality; or madness.

In July 1945, upon observing the results of the first atomic test in the New Mexico desert, J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred book of the Hindus: “I am become death,” recited the erudite American physicist, “the destroyer of worlds.”

Today, more than sixty-seven years after the Manhattan Project, we should be reminded of another portentous Oppenheimer metaphor, the dreadful image of nuclear adversaries as “two scorpions in a bottle.” Unless Israel can still find a way to remain as the only viable nuclear power in the Middle East, it will have to determine, as a residual strategy, the best way to coexist in close quarters with a determinedly hostile “scorpion.”

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
Children are asleep at last as adults in the Chabad House continue to deal with the crisis in Nepal.
Chabad Co-Emissary in Nepal Hopes for ‘Only Good News’ in Video
Latest Indepth Stories
World Zionist Congress elections end April 30.

Groups promoting anti-Israel/anti-Jewish BDS right on their websites are running in the WZC election

Former New York Governor George Pataki

Pataki is the last Republican Governor to win a majority of Jewish votes.

President Obama

Obama’s desire to be “fair” enables Iran to get nuclear weapons which will threaten global security

israeli-american flags

All GOP candidates will continue seeking – and praying – for Jewish money with greater success.

The one reason to make Aliyah outweighs all the arguments not to move to Israel.

“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”

I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership

Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate

Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.

Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat

An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests

Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day

God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews

A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.

More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.

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: