Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wargaming Iran And Israel

A recent wargame was conducted by the CSIS involving a nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran in an effort to see what the outcome might be. Gabriel Schoenfeld picked up on it, and analyzes the scenario:

(Hat-tip: Hugh Hewitt)

Should a nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran be called World War V or something else? That’s an irrelevant question. The real issue is who would come out ahead. The answer to such calculation might determine whether such a war erupts in the first place.

Let’s assume the worst about Iran — even if it is a bit of a stretch: that its leaders are in the grip of messianic ideas that might incline them to launch a nuclear fusillade to annihilate Israel even if it meant incurring significant Iranian casualties, including the incineration of major cities.

But would the ayatollahs launch such an attack if they would lose several cities and millions of Iranians — and not manage to destroy Israel? That is the question raised by a new study — based upon a war game — by the military analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for International Studies in Washington D.C. The study does not appear to be on-line yet, but is summarized in Tuesday’s New York Post.

It seems that Israel’s anti-ballistic-missile systems might spare it the worst, not that the results wouldn’t be horrific. According to the Post’s Andy Soltis, among the main points of the study are:

An exchange of nukes would last about 21 days and immediately kill 16 million to 28 million Iranians and 200,000 to 800,000 Israelis.

Long-term deaths, from the effects of radiation and other causes, were not estimated.

The greater Iranian death toll is explained by several factors:

*Israeli bombs have a bigger bang. Israel has produced 1-megaton nukes, while Iran would be unable to produce anything more than 100 kilotons, a weapon with one-tenth the impact.

*Iran would have fewer than 50 nuclear weapons, while Israel would have more than 200.

*Israel also has a homebuilt Arrow-2 missile defense, buttressed by U. S. made anti-missile weaponry. Iran has a limited missile defense.

*Israel’s missiles would be more accurate, due to high-resolution satellite imagery.

If Syria joined its ally Iran in a wider war, it could attack Israel with mustard gas, nerve agents and anthrax in non-nuclear warheads.

That could kill another 800,000 Israelis, but in response, up to 18 million Syrians would die.

The implications of the Cordesman study would seem, at first glance, to cut against the necessity for a preemptive Israeli or American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The logical inference of CSIS study’s conclusions are that Iran would be deterred and Israel could therefore live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

That would be great news but, unfortunately, Israel cannot afford to gamble its future on the outcome of a Washington war-game. The Iranian calculation might differ significantly from Cordesman’s. More to the point, an Iranian nuclear umbrella would significantly embolden an already emboldened Iran in its quest for regional influence and the destruction of Israel by indirect means.

Norman Podhoretz
argued back in June that an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was a strategic neccesity, and he predicted that President Bush was likely to carry out such a strike sometime in the remainder of his term. That always seemed improbable to me given the acute American difficulties in neighboring Iraq. In the wake of the U.S. intelligence community’s estimate that Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003, the possibility of such action seems to have diminished to the vanishing point, even if the intelligence estimate is deeply flawed.

But U.S. action or no U.S. action under Bush, Norman’s case for a strike on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons remains as compelling as before.

Could this scenario come to pass? It could, and it is a nightmare one at that. This goes beyond just chucking a couple of nukes at one another. The scenario shows that the "war" would last almost a month, and highlights the paltry efforts of the Iranians in such a dangerous gambit. Mutual-assured destruction does not figure into the Iranians' thinking one bit. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just crazy enough to sacrifice his people on a massive funeral pyre in an effort to bring about his messianic thoughts, and for the chance to finish what Hitler started.

Unfortunately, based on the wargame itself, we see that he would fail in his task. Iran's population stands at almost 70.5 million people. Losing upwards of 28 million would put a serious dent in a nation that is already starting to teeter from economic problems. Add to the mix the fallout that would occur from such an exchange. Additionally, including Syria in the mix brings forth the memories of the the Samson Option that many in the world are aware of. It is a massive nuclear retaliation where Israel takes out its enemies in one, fell swoop.

While the scenario could indeed be real, it is not one which the world would like to bear witness to. Given the fallout, and the direction of weather patterns, other nations could suffer greatly from such an exchange.

The question remains as to what can we do to help prevent this from occurring. We, like others that have been watching this drama unfold, believe it will fall to either Israel or the United States to preemptively take out Iran's nuclear facilities; a prospect that many disdain. Mr. Schoenfeld cites the piece from Mr. Podhoretz which calls for such action to prevent this from happening, or preventing Iran from using their prospective nuclear weapons to blackmail other nations int he region, or possibly even our allies in Eastern Europe. It is no secret that Iran has missiles capable of reaching areas in Eastern Europe, and that they are working on ones that could reach Western Europe.

The recent NIE has had a great deal of mistakes pointed out by critics. Namely that the primary sources for the conclusions come from Iranians rather than solid fact-finding. No one believes the Iranians have given up their ambitions, and a great deal of experts believe that the NIE has given Iran cover to continue working on them, albeit at an accelerated pace. Israeli intelligence still stands by the estimation that Iran could have a working nuclear warhead by the end of 2008, and no later than spring of 2009. US intelligence claims that it would take Iran much longer to come up with a warhead.

Regardless of the amount of time spent, Iran cannot be allowed to possess such weapons. Not only does it threaten the region, but it threatens our allies and interests there and in Europe. The one thing the NY Post story does not allude to is what would happen to oil prices should these two square off. Some people may think that such a question is irrelevant compared to the amount of death and destruction that would be caused in such an exchange. True, but to disavow the economic catastrophe is to be short-sighted. They average four million barrels of oil a day in Iran, and it is the third-largest oil producing nation in the world. In natural gas they have the second-largest reserve in the world.

There are a great deal of questions that still need to be answered about a scenario such as this. We will be waiting to see what this report shows when the CSIS puts it up on the Internet.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home