Iran, nuclear capability, and the road ahead

Israel has developed unique capabilities to face the existential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Sooner rather than later, the country must eliminate Iran’s means of mass destruction.

By ILAN POMERANC
 MOHSEN NAZIRI ASL, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, arrives for an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, in September. There are still many who try to play down any real risk of a nuclear attack on Israel from Iran if Tehran were to attain such weapons, says writer. (photo credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)
MOHSEN NAZIRI ASL, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, arrives for an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, in September. There are still many who try to play down any real risk of a nuclear attack on Israel from Iran if Tehran were to attain such weapons, says writer.
(photo credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Before the genocidal and sadistic massacre of October 7, there were still some in Israel who questioned whether it was realistic that Iran would use a nuclear weapon against the country, even if the regime in Tehran were to attain such weaponry. 

After October 7 there are fewer in Israel who have any such doubts. On the other hand, throughout the world, there are still many who attempt to play down any real risk of a potential nuclear attack on Israel from Iran, were it to attain such weapons.

The thoroughness and relentless determination with which the Hamas-ISIS atrocities were carried out on October 7 echoed the Holocaust and left no doubt as to the genocidal intent of Iran and its allies. Once again, the nation of Israel had seared into its consciousness the basic understanding that when someone declares that they intend to destroy you, they mean what they say. Fundamental to preventing such an event is proactive offensive action.

The conventional wisdom of naysayers around the world is that a nuclear armed Iran would only leverage those weapons to guarantee the survival of the regime. They believe that the Iranian revolutionary theocracy and its military elites, the IRGC, are rational and can be cajoled and incentivized into acting in line with international red lines.

This line of thinking postulates that since, according to foreign reports, Israel has nuclear arms and the means to deliver them by air, sea, and land, including an operational second-strike capability, the Iranians would never be as suicidal as to attack Israel with nuclear weapons. 

A missile is launched during an annual drill in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran (credit: REUTERS)

The premise is that the very pioneers of the suicide bomber and the suicidal human wave assaults of the Iran-Iraq war would “never be so suicidal”; that a regime which abuses and kills its own citizens with impunity “would not risk those same citizens lives” in the name of the “holiest” of holy wars.  

No hesitation to cause mass destruction against Israel

The reality is that Iran would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against Israel in one way or another. 

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Iran would see in a second Holocaust – by way of a nuclear attack – the solidification of its neo-Persian empire its version of the proverbial Caliphate and the culmination of history with the perpetuation of the appearance of the Mahdi. When Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was president, he even took the practical step, in a very impractical eschatological context, to purposely expand a main highway in Tehran for the soon to re-appear 12th imam.

GIVEN THE international community’s reactions when Israel is forced to defend itself – including its shift from solidarity to criticism and even condemnation of Israel soon after the October 7 atrocities, it would not surprise the Iranians if the world would be more preoccupied with preventing an Israeli counterstrike, than with an initial genocidal Iranian nuclear attack.  

An assumption can be made that the nations of the world would decry any attempt by Israel to execute a nuclear counterstrike, as they would declare it a trigger for an apocalyptic global conflagration.  

In such a scenario, Israel would ignore the international community regardless, but a potential future Iranian nuclear doctrine would take into account the world’s hallmark hypocrisy and separate standard for Israel.

In the Iranian calculus, due to Israel’s geographic size and the concentration of its population in the central part of the country, only a limited number of nuclear weapons would be necessary to bring the country to its knees. 

 The Iranians, if they achieved nuclear capability, could also opt not to immediately target an Israeli population center or critical installations. Instead, they could explode a nuclear device high in the atmosphere above Israel in a way that would produce an electromagnetic pulse. Such an EMP attack would severely impact the country’s unhardened electronics and technology, meaning that most civilian infrastructure and the overall economy would be affected, while actual casualties would be low in comparison to a direct nuclear blast. 

In the Iranian regime’s twisted thinking, this could serve to avoid an immediate, pernicious global reaction.

On October 6, 1973, a surprise aerial and artillery bombardment initiated the Yom Kippur War. Fifty years later – almost to the day – on October 7, a massive rocket barrage provided cover for a Hamas-ISIS invasion. An Iranian EMP first strike would be exponentially more devastating than those opening salvos.

It would cause mass chaos and confusion severely hampering any Israeli effort to mobilize and mount an effective defense. The Iranians could then mount a massive joint conventional assault on Israel, with their proxies and allies from multiple directions.  

A nuclear Iran could also develop tactical nuclear weapons, which have a smaller radius of destruction, and therefore cause less devastation. In recent years, nuclear-armed nations such as the United States, Russia, and China have, in fact, openly alluded to the formulation of doctrines on limited and tactical nuclear weapons use.

IRAN’S RATIONAL march toward an irrational goal and sacrifice – potentially on a grand scale – is unavoidable. Like the sacrifice of the martyrs of the Islamic Revolution, and of the Iran-Iraq War.   An Israeli counterstrike, whose size and scope are not fully comprehended by Tehran, would in their minds perhaps kill hundreds of thousands or even a few million, and maybe destroy a city or two.  

In such a “final battle,” the eschatological fulfilment of the Islamic Revolution’s worldview, immense devastation, would not be a loss at all, but instead part and parcel of a sacred martyrdom for the sake of the End of Days.  

The actual total destruction of Iran as a functioning state that would come with an Israeli counterstrike does not figure into the Mahdist calculations of the Islamic Republic.

As for nuclear treaties, seemingly practical diplomacy, feigned collaboration in fighting ISIS and other Salafist groups in Syria and Iraq, they are all part of Iran’s great geostrategic chess game. An effective, years long effort to lull world powers and global public opinion into thinking that Iran will “play ball.”  

The Middle East, and really most of the world, are in a dynamic and fluid state. The United States is trying very hard to avoid further embroilment in the region and, for years now, has wanted to exit the Middle East. It has been exhausted and battered by post 9/11 conflicts and attempts at installing democratic systems in the region.  

Theoretically, if the Iran-backed Houthis sink a US warship and kill hundreds of Americans, or if US bases in the region are overrun, and a few taken over by Iranian proxies [killing dozens or hundreds of US and allied troops in the process] then perhaps the US and her allies would consider hitting back directly at Iran.  

This does not, however, guarantee that they would choose to attack the Iranian nuclear program.  

Moreover, even if the program was part of a counterstrike, it does not necessarily mean that all the critical targets related to the program would be attacked. Maybe only one or two sites would be hit with the mistaken belief that such action would send a stern message, and force Iran back to the negotiating table. Or more mistakenly, that it would prompt the ayatollahs to do what Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi did – and surrender the rest of its program.

The US is trying hard to avoid the creation of circumstances that would pit it directly against Iran, including reports in recent days of overtures made by Washington to Tehran. This makes direct US-with-allies action against Iran an even more remote possibility.

The State of Israel cannot afford such theoretical scenarios and wishful thinking.  

The United States of America was unsuccessful in preventing nuclear weapon development by North Korea or Pakistan, and it did not even attempt to do so by force. Both have become proliferators of WMD technology and techniques.

North Korea directly threatens tens of thousands of US troops stationed in Japan and South Korea, key US allies. Furthermore, the North Koreans have developed capabilities that allow them to strike the US mainland directly with nuclear arms.

Only one country on Earth has destroyed nuclear facilities, and subsequently nuclear programs, not once, but twice. That country is of course Israel.  

In the last 25 years, Israel has developed new and unique capabilities specifically to face the existential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Sooner rather than later, as the situation stands today, the State of Israel will once again have to eliminate the forces of evil’s means of mass destruction.

The writer is an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur and a member of the Israel Leadership Forum. He is involved with various Israel advocacy causes including working with Christian Zionist and pro-Israel Noahide groups.

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BY ILAN POMERANC