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What Happens After (If) Israel Attacks Iran?

And how that discussion is impoverished

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If Israel launches military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, what happens next? The New York Times takeaway today is to quote a former Israeli official: “1991 plus 2006 plus Buenos Aires times 3 or 5.” That is, missiles aimed at Israel from Iran and from Lebanon, and attacks like that on the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994. Attacks on U.S. interests would be more modified and likely wouldn’t be anything so dire that it would prompt massive U.S. retaliation. Still, the United States has quietly beefed up its presence near the Strait of Hormuz so that it is ready to act if Iran seeks to close the crucial energy byway—an American red line.

At the same time, in the heat of a crisis, anything could happen, which is why some U.S. military strategists are worried that even an Israeli attack privately opposed by the U.S. could nonetheless draw the U.S. into a subsequent conflict. (Although, no, Iranian rockets won’t hit the East Coast.)

Ehud Eiran has a great article that takes stock of much of this but then notes that it’s actually a rather narrow conversation we’re having, one largely in the realm of military/paramilitary/terrorist actions. What about the impact on U.S.-Israel relations? Israel’s relations with other countries? How will the Israeli public respond? What about energy markets? If Iran were on the verge of obtaining a workable nuclear weapon, you could argue that these concerns are simply trumped, but not even Israelis suggest that’s true—they suggest, rather, that the “zone of immunity” is nigh, an assertion belied by reports that U.S. bunker-busters are capable of getting even to Iran’s fortified underground facilities.

“There is a gap in Israel’s debate about Iran,” Eiran argues. He goes on, and I’d add that the same is largely true of American discourse as well:

Although Israeli experts focus heavily on the immediate implications of the “day after,” they neglect, with a few exceptions, the broader repercussions of an attack. …

A lack of open discussion leaves the Israel Defense Forces as the primary source of information and analysis on a strike. The IDF, given its narrow focus on the military aspects of an attack, may fail to fully consider its potential political and diplomatic impact. A more public debate might strengthen those in the bureaucracy who are urging the Israeli government to weigh those other factors as carefully as the military planning. The elevation of those voices could then prevent Israeli leaders from operating on the basis of limited information and faulty assumptions. If history is any guide, Israeli policymakers could benefit from such an expansion of the conversation. Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 began with a war plan that the public had not vetted. The operation ended after overwhelming pressure from civil society, a process that took nearly two decades.

U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes [NYT]
U.S. Bulks Up Iran Defenses [WSJ]
Israeli Attack on Iran Might Pull U.S. Into New War [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
Calm Down. Iranian Rockets Can’t (and Won’t) Hit the East Coast. [Wired]
What Happens After Israel Attacks Iran [Foreign Affairs]

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Cassandra has company. Good.

Giulia says:

Try the French version of “each one to his own (taste)”

N. BOYACK says:

i cannot understand why israel was permitted
to have nuclear facilities in the first
place and how long are we going to support

    Israel is not governed by fanatics. They did not acquire atom bombs to destroy other people. Iran said that their aim is to destroy Israel.

nosuprise says:


Mike says:

What happens? Iran sinks a ship or two in the Strait, closing it to all traffic. Tankers aren’t going to sail in a warzone.

Iran launches a massive missile attack on Israel. Not nukes, just conventional. Thousands of them.

Russia and China come to the aid of Iran. China responds to our aggression by dumping dollars on the world market. Or worse, OPEC votes to sell oil in a currency other than the dollar.

If Israel attacks Iran, the world economy can tank.

Benjovski says:

Obama must realize that he is not dealing with rational people. He is dealing with religious fanatics that prefer dying to living. How do you negotiate with irrational violent “martyrs” always looking for an excuse for a Jihad?

If Israel does launch an attack on Iran the outcome will depend upon its effectiveness. If it destroys Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons, then the region will be relieved. If not then Iran will promote this as evidence of their strength and continue. Even if Iran’s weapons are destroyed it will not inherently stop them from trying to make more, and the cycle will carry on.
Ultimately the Iranian nuclear development activity will only stop when the government stops wanting it. That change in desire will only come about either with a change of government or the government supporters facing such a massively destructive threat that they step back. Neither is likely in the short term.
Perhaps the best answer is to make absolutely clear to Iran that if it uses or threatens the use of its nuclear weapons that it will face an attack of such proportions that it will cease to exist as a nation. Binary chemical & biological weapons could devastate the country to the point that it couldn’t prosecute war.
The Iranian government acts violently and only understands violence, anything else is weakness and informs them accordingly. What an awful scenario

David Zohar says:

The Iranians stood up to Saddam Huseein for eight long years -longer than the Second World War.

Does Israel, outnumbered ten to one in population by Iran, have that sort of stamina?

Can its overworked and understaffed medical system cope with the large numbers of casualties that can be expected? There is an appalling lack of air raid shelters and first aid equipment.

War would be disastrous for the Israeli economy which just made it through the recent economic tsunamis. No wonder foreign capital is already fleeing the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Common sense supports the diplomatic track as preferable to military action -which can only be used as a last resort. I am repelled by American armchair experts from the right wing who are willing to fight Iran to the last Israeli.

My compliments to President Obama.

David Zohar
(Retired Israeli diplomat).

shimon ansbacher says:

On the other side, in wiev of what Iran intents, what will happen if Israel doesn’t stop Iran threats ? What happens if Iran makes a full attack on Israel ? Who will help Israel’s in time to save her ? Why are those nations who express their apparent willingness to do so don’t cut now all their many relations and ties with Iran but meanwhile only prevaricate to save face ? I remember 1939-1940 when most stood on the sidelines as urgent help for millions victimised was needed. Are they waiting calmly for a repeated jewish holocaust ? Why are those questions not discussed by those highbrow academics ?


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What Happens After (If) Israel Attacks Iran?

And how that discussion is impoverished

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