Israeli Military Presents Iran Strike Scenarios, but Can't Say What They'll Achieve

Although the Israeli army is preparing its Iran target bank and advanced weaponry, it would still be difficult to determine the consequences of a strike

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, Iran, in 2019.
Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, Iran, in 2019.Credit: /AP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli military has presented the country's political leadership with several possible scenarios for striking targets in Iran, but emphasized that it would be difficult to determine the outcome of such strikes or assess how it would affect Tehran's nuclear program.

The military says that as part of its preparations in past months for a possible attack on Iran, it has been acquiring advanced weapons, conducting air force training exercises and collecting new strike targets for Military Intelligence's target bank. The IDF was given an additional budget of 9 billion shekels ($2.9 billion) for this purpose.

Military officials said the IDF will be ready to strike Iran as soon as the government gives its approval. According to the military, it is also preparing for the consequences of striking Iran, including a round of fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In this scenario, the IDF is laying the groundwork to make the terror groups pay a heavy toll, and to make significant gains on these fronts.

According to the IDF's assessment, Iran has increased and improved its air defense array over the past years, making an air strike more complex. The Iranians have also managed to significantly increase their arsenal of long-range missiles, which can easily hit any point in Israel. Due to this development, the Israeli military signed several contracts over the past year worth billions of shekels in order to expand and strengthen Israel's air defense.

The estimates presented to the government state that should Iran decide to build a nuclear bomb, it could reach that goal within two years. This is largely in line with previous assessments by Israel's military intelligence.

The IDF is also working with regional partners in Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece and some Gulf states to gather intelligence and perform joint counter-terrorism operations, among other operational activity. Defense officials say this partnership strengthens the ties between Israel and its neighbors, and could grant greater legitimacy to a potential Israeli military action in Iran.

Maintaining the edge

According to estimates presented to the security establishment last week, enemy states confronting Israel, including Syria and Lebanon, are in dire economic and social straits. This state of affairs redirects their ability to invest militarily in favor of their domestic challenges. At the same time, the IDF assesses that it has succeeded in thwarting some 70 percent of munitions shipments from Iran, Syria, and Iraq into Lebanon.

This forced the Iranians to transfer munitions in smaller shipments, at times on civilian airline flights, so that Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, as well as Hezbollah's missile array, have been hampered. However, despite the setbacks, the IDF does believe that Hezbollah managed to increase its arsenal of precision missiles.

The data presented by the security establishment suggests that in the past year, the IDF has maintained deterrence vis-à-vis Israel’s enemy states. In a talk with military correspondents, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that “The IDF’s ability to maneuver has improved considerably, built on our ability to transfer quality intelligence to troops, increasing the amount of armaments and personnel [in the ground forces] and the assignment of fire operators and attack cells in various ranks.”

Sources in the security establishment say that Israeli intelligence is vastly superior to its Iranian counterpart. In order to maintain this strategic edge, significant additional budgets were allocated to Military Intelligence, among other things for advanced cyber systems for more effective target collection.

In addition, 900 million shekels were allocated to building a stretch of fencing along the Lebanon border. The IDF says that once the project is finished, the fence will include advanced technology, which will improve the army's ability to respond in case of an attempt to breach it.

Goods for Gaza

As for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the IDF assessed that the organization has sustained a heavy blow following the latest round of fighting last May. According to estimates, Hamas has begun rebuilding its military force and rocket production facilities. However, the IDF estimates that it failed during the operation to deal significant damage to Hamas' long-range rocket array. The military believes that the current relative quiet between Israel and the Strip stems from civilian aid transferred to Gaza in recent weeks. The IDF intends to continue with this aid into the coming year, and to allow goods to enter the coastal enclave.

In addition, the Israeli intelligence establishment noted that the recent year saw talks between Israel and Hamas on returning the Israeli civilians and the bodies of Israeli soldiers that the organization has been holding captive. Certain progress has been made, but the establishment notes that there are still major disagreements between the sides.

Despite the wave of terror attacks over the past month and a half, the number of Palestinian terror attacks against Jews has decreased in comparison to previous years, the IDF noted. On the other hand, there has been an increase in nationalist crimes by Jewish settlers against Palestinians. The IDF has realized that the many incidents in which soldiers were filmed standing by while settlers abuse Palestinians have tarnished the IDF’s image and lead to international condemnation.

A recently published poll shows that public trust in the IDF is at a nadir compared to recent years. According to the poll, one of the reasons for this was Kochavi's handling of the pension increase for career officers, which happened while Israel's citizens were forced to cope with the harsh economic brunt of the COVID pandemic. In addition, respondents cited incidents in which officers with spotty records were promoted by the IDF chief. “A major goal for the coming year is individual care, with an emphasis on improving the food and medical response,” said Kochavi.

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