web analytics
May 3, 2015 / 14 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Israel, Iran, And The Shiite Apocalypse (Second of Three Parts)


Beres-Louis-Rene

For Israel, and also its cross-pressured U.S. ally, there would be very difficult problems to solve if an enemy state such as Iran were permitted to go fully nuclear. These problems could lethally undermine the conceptually neat, but probably unrealistic, notion of balanced nuclear deterrence in the region.

The multi-fragmented Middle East could likely not sustain the sort of comforting equilibrium that once characterized U.S.-Soviet relations. For example, it would be hard to imagine such an area’s successful and long-term reliance upon MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction.

Whether for reasons of miscalculation, accident, unauthorized capacity to fire, outright irrationality, or the presumed imperatives of jihad, an enemy state in this fevered neighborhood could sometime opt to launch a nuclear first-strike against Israel, in spite of Israel’s own obvious and forseeably secure nuclear capability. A Cold War “balance of terror” could not readily exist in the Middle East.

After absorbing any enemy nuclear aggression, Israel would certainly respond with a nuclear retaliatory strike. Though nothing is publicly known about Israel’s precise targeting doctrine, such a reprisal would almost certainly be launched against the aggressor’s capital city and/or similarly high-value urban targets. There would be no assurances, in response to this particular kind of authentically genocidal aggression, that Israel might limit itself to striking back against exclusively military targets.

But what if enemy first strikes were to involve “only” chemical, and/or “minor” biological weapons? In that case, Israel might still launch a presumptively proportionate nuclear reprisal, but this would depend largely upon Israel’s calculated expectations of follow-on aggression, and also on its associated determinations of comparative damage-limitation.

Should Israel absorb a massive conventional first strike, a nuclear retaliation could not be automatically ruled out. This argument is plausible if: (1) the aggressor were perceived to hold nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction in reserve; and/or (2) Israel’s leaders were to believe that non-nuclear retaliations could not prevent national annihilation.

Recognizing Israel’s exceptionally small size, its calculated threshold of existential harms could be considerably lower than Israel’s total physical devastation. In 2003, this precise judgment was contained in the Project Daniel final report, “Israel’s Strategic Future” (www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-ISSUE/daniel-3.htm).

Facing imminent attacks, Israel, even if it had delayed launching defensive first strikes, could still decide to preempt enemy aggression with pertinent conventional forces. The targeted state’s response would then largely determine Israel’s subsequent moves. If this response were in any way nuclear, Israel would assuredly undertake prompt nuclear counter-retaliation. And if this enemy retaliation were to involve “only” chemical and/or biological weapons, Israel might still plan to undertake a quantum escalatory initiative.

This sort of initiative is known in military parlance as “escalation dominance.” It could be necessary, even indispensable, to Israel’s preservation of intra-war deterrence. Here we need to bear in mind that deterrence would not necessarily cease functioning upon the commencement of hostilities. It could, in fact, continue to play a very different, but still more or less productive role, during any ensuing conflict.

If an enemy state’s response to an Israeli preemption were limited to hard-target, conventional strikes, it is improbable that Israel would ever resort to nuclear counter-retaliation. But if the enemy state’s conventional retaliation were an all-out strike directed toward Israel’s civilian populations, as well as to Israeli military targets, an Israeli nuclear counter-retaliation could not be ruled out.

Such a counter-retaliation could be excluded only if the enemy state’s conventional retaliations were entirely proportionate to Israel’s preemption; confined entirely to Israeli military targets; circumscribed by the legal limits of “military necessity”; and accompanied by explicit and verifiable assurances of no further escalation.

It is almost inconceivable that Israel would ever decide to preempt any enemy state aggression with a defensive nuclear strike. While particular circumstances could arise where such a defensive strike would be completely rational, and also be entirely lawful according to the authoritative 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (which refused to prohibit certain residual resorts to nuclear weapons that are presumed essential to national survival), it is still implausible that Israel would ever permit itself to reach such distinctly all-or-nothing circumstances.

Also worth mentioning is that Israel remains pledged to a military doctrine of “purity of arms” and to incomparably strict compliance with humanitarian international law, especially the imperative minimization of collateral, or non-combatant, harm.

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.

3 Responses to “Israel, Iran, And The Shiite Apocalypse (Second of Three Parts)”

  1. Accordion Rich Richard says:

    Mutual Nuclear Deterrence works and works well.

    Mutual Nuclear Deterrence does not need Mutal Assured Destruction to work.

    Mutual Nuclear Deterrence is Civilized Deterrence.

    with MND you have it or you don't.

    technically Iran has already acheived MND with Israel and the US.

    MND makes both venues unsafe for war…

    MND civilizes both governments towards each other.

    Israel would like to be the one undeterred nuclear power in the mideast.

    good for Israel bad for all other mideast nations…

    a few nukes can deter many nukes….

    It will be a good day when it becomes clear to all the world that Iran has indeed acheived Mutual Nuclear Deterrence MND with Israel.

    And yes I believe Iran can be trusted with Nukes….

    I worry more about Israel than I do about Iran.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You have missed a 'hell of a lot' regarding the mindset of the Iranian Apocalyptic-minded leaders.

    Can't you grasp the fact that Iran's Islamofascist leaders actually plan and PRAY FOR Nuclear Conflagration, as required to usher in The Mahdi or Islamic Messiah?

  3. Accordion Rich Richard says:

    Did you miss this very simple understanding?

    No nation needs or wants Nukes except to deter sociopathic belligerent governments from attacking.

    Nations do not seek nukes to nuke their enemies.. to do so would be to nuke themselves…. they seek NUKES to DETER their enemies.

    I can tell you are heavily steeped in sociopathic propaganda.

    I prefer clear thinking and having a fully functional humane social conscience and my own self respect.

    "These are they who when the saving thought came shot it for a spy."… Auden

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Last known photo of Or Ashraf, taken in Himalayas before the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that killed him.
Body of Missing Israeli Hiker, Or Ashraf, Found in Nepal
Latest Indepth Stories
The Maersk Tigris

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

Hundreds of Israeli-Ethiopians clash with police in a protest in Jerusalem against  police brutality and alleged racism.

If some Israeli cops got a Jewish education & learned to love Jews, Israel would be a better place

United Nations

No where in the world is there the level of intervention by foreign countries as exists in Israel.

Baltimore Raven's Ray Lewis.

The Ravens’ Ray Lewis screamed that violence is never the answer.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Obama is the latest incarnation of our ancient enemies who arise every generation with a new face

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

Jews thank Hashem at every step. We thank Him for our most basic physical existence. We thank Hashem for every step, for every breath, for every aspect of our elevation from the dust.

Jewish settlement of the land and the resulting employment opportunities drew the Arabs to Palestine

Mon. May 11, 2015@5 PM, history’s largest Shofar blowing will occur outside the UJA-Fed. Building

Looking to fight supporters of terrorism? Just boycott Qatari owned Al Jazeera

A 10 pm curfew and strong show of force Tuesday night helped restore order to most of the city, and put an end to riots in Baltimore.

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/israel-iran-and-the-shiite-apocalypse-second-of-three-parts/2012/07/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: