Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Israel striking Iran: Maybe it will happen?

Longtime grasshoppers know I’ve been skeptical about Israel actually carrying through on threats to strike Iran in an attempt to degrade the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But I’ve heard two comments lately that have me recalibrating a bit: With the U.S. military out of Iraq in about six weeks, there is a new opportunity for ...

xnir/Flickr
xnir/Flickr
xnir/Flickr

Longtime grasshoppers know I've been skeptical about Israel actually carrying through on threats to strike Iran in an attempt to degrade the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

But I've heard two comments lately that have me recalibrating a bit:

With the U.S. military out of Iraq in about six weeks, there is a new opportunity for a direct flight straight across Iraq. "We have no authorities or arrangements to defend the [Iraqi] skies," a U.S. Air Force general helpfully notes. The Iraqi military isn't capable of stopping an Israeli air flotilla or maybe even detecting it, if done right. Israel even could put up some refuelers over the western desert, with some fighters protecting them. And maybe even take over an airstrip out there to use for emergency landings, or combat search and rescue. If you find this argument persuasive, then New Year's Eve may be the time to do it. I mean, who is going to stop them? Syria has its own problems, and Saudi Arabia probably would be happy to help. Also, I think the more Israel talks about doing it, the more inured Iranian air defenders become.

Longtime grasshoppers know I’ve been skeptical about Israel actually carrying through on threats to strike Iran in an attempt to degrade the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

But I’ve heard two comments lately that have me recalibrating a bit:

  • With the U.S. military out of Iraq in about six weeks, there is a new opportunity for a direct flight straight across Iraq. "We have no authorities or arrangements to defend the [Iraqi] skies," a U.S. Air Force general helpfully notes. The Iraqi military isn’t capable of stopping an Israeli air flotilla or maybe even detecting it, if done right. Israel even could put up some refuelers over the western desert, with some fighters protecting them. And maybe even take over an airstrip out there to use for emergency landings, or combat search and rescue. If you find this argument persuasive, then New Year’s Eve may be the time to do it. I mean, who is going to stop them? Syria has its own problems, and Saudi Arabia probably would be happy to help.
  • Also, I think the more Israel talks about doing it, the more inured Iranian air defenders become.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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