The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Credible Threat? US Sells Weapons Package to Israel and Gulf Allies

Hagel

The Obama administration seems to be trying a new tactic in its negotiations with Iran: using Israel as a credible military threat without having to threaten Iran itself. That’s the official read on yesterday’s $10 billion weapons sale to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The FT reports that the US describes the package “as a direct response to the potential threat from Iran,” and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried to bolster the move with what looks like full-throated support for Israel should it decide a strike is necessary:

Speaking on his first visit to Israel since taking over as secretary of defence, Mr Hagel said that the country had the right to decide by itself whether to attack Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

“Israel is a sovereign nation; every sovereign nation has a right to defend itself,” he said.

Unfortunately, the administration’s attempt here to tighten the screws on Tehran by using Israel as a credible threat of force is unlikely to impress the mullahs. The weapons package to Israel does not include the Pentagon’s new bunker-buster bomb, which many believe would be necessary to seriously damage Iran’s underground facility at Fordow. More, the NYT reports that, at 30,000 pounds, the bomb can only be carried by a B-2 bomber, which Israel doesn’t have and which the Obama administration won’t even discuss selling. Giving Israel everything it needs to carry out a strike except the requisite bomb and aircraft isn’t exactly the checkmate that will persuade the mullahs to throw up their arms, abandon their nukes and commit harakiri.

Despite its efforts, the administration can’t sidestep the dilemma it faces. The longer the mullahs think the US isn’t actually willing to act to prevent them from acquiring nukes, the closer we get to facing a nuclear Iran, a war with Iran, or both.

[Chuck Hagel image courtesy of Wikipedia]

Published on April 23, 2013 3:24 pm
  • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

    Weren’t Iran’s nuclear ambitions one of Uncle Sam’s minor headaches once? And he refused to take an aspirin?

    Now the issue has grown to a massive brain tumor and a desperate Uncle Sam is preparing to blow his brains out as a cure.

    There should be some kind of universal health care for countries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

    I would prefer to see Israel do the deed if possible. Just as they did with Iraq and Syria, as a pure act of self-defense. We should give them the tools.

    I would hate to see the US “go to war” with Iran over this if a quicker, cleaner solution exists.

    • Corlyss Drinkard

      I see. Like the Brits in WW 1, far better to send Aussies, Kiwis, and Canadians to the slaughter than British. Why spend your own blood on your objectives when you can jack some other poor slob into spending his.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Burke/507873299 John Burke

    To be sure, Israel would prefer to attack Iran with the most advanced weapons available and better yet would like to see the US, with its vastly greater armaments, do the job. That said, I think everyone has been underestimating both the punch Israel could bring to such an attack and the degree of military risk it would assume if it concluded it had no alternative. Israel is supposed to lack bunker busters, lack refueling capacity, lack the number of aircraft needed for a successful strike or two or three.

    But consider the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq’s Osarik reactor (I know, one target, not hardened, but bear with me). That target was destroyed by eight strike fighter-bombers, covered by another six fighters. They flew unchallenged both ways through the airspace of three Arab countries. They made the round trip withour refueling by carrying added fuel tanks under their wings. They spent two minutes at the target, destroyed it totally, and pulled it off without losing a single plane or pilot.

    Moving to the present, Israel has no bunker busters? Who says? This technologically advanced country with one of the world’s best militaries could not over the past decade as Iran loomed larger as an existential threat develop its own bunker busters?

    Israel needs a B-2 to deliver a bunker buster? Not so. Fancier new ones maybe, but the US dropped them on Tora Bora from a C-130
    transport — and Israel has C-130s.

    Israel doesn’t have enough refueling aircraft to make the multiple strikes on five or six targets? First, for some targets, the Osarik tactic of adding fuel tanks to F-16As might suffice. Second, Israel has some refuelers, it can modify some of its C-130s to that purpose, and the US is now providing more. Plus, Israel may overfly targets if it can arrange landings in a neighboring country. And given the stakes, would Israel not accept the risk of losing some planes and crews forced to ditch in the Gulf?

    Israel doesn’t have enough striking power, ie, not enough planes? This is the least persuasive argument. The Osarik target was destroyed by eight aircraft (it really needed only four). Multiply that by 10 and Israel would have plenty of its nearly 200 suitable aircraft left — and of course, there is little reason to think that the first 80 won’t return and be able to fly another mission.

    What’s more, seldom noticed, Israel has an impressive armory of cruise missiles that can be fired from air, sea or land, and is known to be developing ballistic missiles.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    And if Israel acts? Why, Obama will be the first to condemn it.

    I swear this is the most pernicious and perverse administration in my lifetime. Cowardly, duplicitous, arrogant, petty, amateurish, incompetent, verging on the moronic, unctuous, sycophantic, solipsistic, slavish to every minority whiner, grandiose, opportunistic to the defiance of systematic policy, proudly ignorant, and feckless to mind-numbing degree.