Presidential Polls, Israel, and Iran's Nuclear Ambition

As the Romney-Ryan ticket inches ahead in the polls, one of the little noticed implications just may be the avoidance, at least for a time, of World War III.

World War III? How does that work?

According to high-level U.S. intelligence sources, Israel will likely unilaterally launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities and is basing the timing of that strike, in part, on the U.S. presidential election. Sources say Israel is more likely to consider delaying the strike until spring if they are optimistic that there will be a leadership change in Washington.

An article in the Israeli National News in early August suggested that the Israeli political and military leadership, in order to put Tehran’s experiments with atomic playthings out of business, is prepared to unleash a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) against Iran sometime this fall by exploding a nuclear device high above the Iranian desert. Such a strike would send intense electromagnetic radiation over as much as 1,000 square miles, frying Iran’s electrical grid and bring its oil business, transportation, defense capabilities and most everything else that operates electronically to a grinding halt. 

Nobody would be injured, radiation would stay in the stratosphere, and the Iranians wouldn’t know anything had happened until they flipped on the lights. In short order, food supplies would be consumed and would perish; all forms of communications would be out of business; transportation would stop; and the country would undergo economic collapse. That would just be the collateral damage. The real benefit, for Israel, would be that Iran’s uranium-enriching centrifuges would be frozen solid for years to come.

An added benefit? Retaliation by Iran would be minimal, as its airplanes would be grounded, missiles stuck in their silos, even military vehicles rendered useless. Of course, Israel would likely be attacked by Iran’s non-state proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, but sources that are familiar with Israeli defenses say they could defend themselves against such attacks to a great extent, and damage would be controllable.

Israel would certainly count on its closest ally for support in defending itself against such an attack – another reason why it might be more likely to strike before the US election. To ensure continued support from Jewish donors and voters, Obama would be hard-pressed to deny support to Israel shortly before November 6.

It would be a first, all right – the first nuclear strike since August, 1945, the first to start a war, and the first time an Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapon has departed science fiction and entered reality.

Washington intelligence hands experienced in Mid East politics tell me that this is no pipe dream.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, barring some miraculous about face on the part of the regime in Tehran, are prepared to take the unilateral decision to launch a strike. And sources say an Israeli strike would not end with the EMP: 

For lasting effect, I believe there will be a decapitation aspect to the target set: not just the political leadership but also the scientific community and the command structure of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). If the Israelis can manage to find a series of individual cars in the midst of rush hours in various cities and put limpets on them to blow up particular scientists, they can find the houses where they live and strike them. Cutting off the heads of lots of snakes.

The Israelis are famous for being as creative as anybody in their understanding of warfare and use of innovative techniques. A 1980s bombing raid, in other words, is no longer the go-to weapon in the country’s arsenal; instead look for multiple tactics, from special operations and undercover attacks, cyber warfare, industrial sabotage to unexpected explosions and unexplained accidents.

But back to those Obama-Romney polls. Netanyahu doesn’t trust Obama and is convinced that if Obama is re-elected Israel will be in for very tough times—if it will even survive—and that the US would do little or nothing to prevent Iran from arming itself with nukes. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Not only is there waning confidence that Mr. Obama is prepared to take military action on his own, but there's also a fear that a re-elected President Obama will take a much harsher line on an Israeli attack than he would before the first Tuesday in November.”  So if it looks like Obama is pulling ahead in the polls, off goes the Israeli Jericho III missile and boom goes its 750kg nuclear device.

The matter was exacerbated last week when the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog of nuclear activity in Iran, reported that Tehran has doubled the number of centrifuges churning out nuclear fuel in bunkers far below the ground over the past year despite pressure from the West. And suspicion of Tehran’s intentions only increases as it continues to deny UN inspectors into its nuclear sites.

Israel recognizes, according to Ilan Berman, Vice President of the right-leaning American Foreign Policy Council and an expert on Israel-Iranian relations, that it is now on its own, and that if it is going to interfere with Tehran’s nuclear intentions it will have to do so itself. Further, says Berman, Israeli politicians are realistic enough to know that whatever they do, they are unlikely to shut Tehran’s nuclear program down – or diminish Iran’s nuclear ambitions -- but will more likely delay the venture for an undetermined number of years.

It is during that window, while Iran rebuilds whatever the Israelis destroyed, that they think they’d get more help from a Republican Administration in Washington than from Obama.

So, according to one of my US intelligence sources, “while the digital age may have rendered moon phases obsolete, my old training still has me paying attention to dark nights – try the  moonless 15-17th of both September and October. But who knows?”

Mr. Regnery is the former President of Regnery Publishing, was Publisher of The American Spectator, and served in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department.


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