Fighting Iranian fire with fire
Study by top U.S. strategic expert examines military options for dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
Prof. Anthony H. Cordesman is considered a leading strategic expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. A few days ago he and another scholar, Abdullah Toukan, published a new study entitled "Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program." This is a study over 200 pages in length, which discusses Iran's nuclear program, the way the Iranian nuclear threat is perceived by the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, and possible reactions of each of these states. The study concludes that, "if all peaceful options have been exhausted and Iran has left no other means to convince it to stop or change its course in pursuing nuclear weapons, the U.S. is the only country that can launch a successful military strike." But the report also examines the military options of the other players, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and surveys their military power.
The chapter dealing with Israel discusses two possible scenarios: One is an Israeli attack with conventional weapons by planes, and by the launching of Jericho ground-to-ground missiles, ballistic missiles and missiles launched from Dolphin submarines. Another scenario is using nuclear warheads to attack deeply buried nuclear facilities in Iran. According to the report, "Some believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels," the way some of the Iranian nuclear sites were constructed (for example, the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom).
One could have expected a prestigious scholar like Cordesman to be more thorough and serious in this case, and not to use the journalistic jargon "some believe," or that he would at least present another opinion that states exactly the opposite. In a Reuters story, Princeton University physicist Robert Nelson assailed the idea that tactical nuclear weapons, detonated below ground, would pose tolerable risks for civilians and the environment. "This is a dangerous myth. In fact, shallow buried nuclear explosions produce far more local fallout than air or surface explosions of the same yield," he argued.
But most important, Cordesman does not even discuss the question of whether there is even the slightest chance that Israel's leaders would consider ordering the use of nuclear weapons, which the entire world believes and assumes Israel has, for the purpose of an attack. On this issue he pays lip service by saying that "it is very unlikely that any U.S. president would authorize the use of such nuclear weapons, or even allow any other country, even a strong ally such as Israel, to use them [nuclear weapons]." That's all. And even if a president were to allow Israel to use nuclear weapons, would such use would be made of them?
Apparently, even for a highly regarded scholar, the urge to be sensational and to examine all the options, even those that are most clearly groundless, is unconquerable. It should have been firmly stated that Israel is developing a large inventory of nuclear weapons only for the purposes of deterrence and defense, and perhaps as "doomsday" weapons as in Samson's famous last words, "Let me die with the Philistines" when there is a clear and present danger of its being destroyed. An Israel that uses nuclear weapons for an attack will cease to exist as a nation among the nations of the world.
British MPs from all the parliamentary factions are demanding tighter supervision over the sales of arms to Israel. A report by the committee on strategic export controls states that Israel used British equipment during Operation Cast Lead, in contravention of agreements and of its promises. The report, parts of which were published this week in The Guardian Weekly, joins previous incidents that are causing tension in the relations between the two countries. The most important of them is Britain's decision to expel the Mossad representative in London in response to the use allegedly made by the Mossad of passports belonging to British citizens in the Mahmoud Mahbouh assassination.
Another contribution to besmirching Israel's name, although certainly not as powerful or extensive, was that of arms dealer Gideon Sarig. About two weeks ago a London court sentenced Sarig to nine years in prison for illegal arms dealing with Israel. The news was published in the British media and later in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, but did not receive proper attention in Israel. According to the indictment, Sarig, 58, and his British partner were arms brokers who mediated in arms deals without receiving an export license, as required by British law. The indictment claimed that Sarig purchased about 400 shotguns in Turkey and sold them to Israel.
Few details are known about Sarig, who lived in Maida Vale in northwest London. He studied at Tichon Hadash high school in Tel Aviv, and upon completing his military service in the Israel Defense Forces studied economics and insurance and tried his hand at a few businesses. Over 20 years ago he emigrated to England. He had relatively few business dealings with Israel, according to a friend. He brokered several weapons export deals for Israel Military Industries (Taas), and sold civilian equipment to Ispra of Herzliya.
In addition to the illegal commerce with Israel, Sarig and his partner were convicted of smuggling arms to Venezuela, Peru, Senegal, Nigeria, Gabon and mainly Sri Lanka. From 2005-2006, at the height of the bloody civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, Sarig and his partner sold Uzi submachine guns to the Sri Lankan government, as well as bombs from Ukraine and about 4,000 armor-piercing 30 mm. shells.
Sarig's partner in arms smuggling was Howard Freckleton of north London. The two denied the allegations against them, but the jury did not believe them and convicted them unanimously.
A Defense Ministry spokesperson said in response that they had received no request from the British authorities to assist in the investigation. The ministry also claims that they know nothing about any transaction in which Sarig and Israeli companies were involved. In any case, they emphasize that Sarig's name is familiar to them only because his father was a deputy director general at the Defense Ministry in the 1950s and 1960s.