Israeli Officials Think Iran Retaliation Threat Is a Bluff, NYT Reports

New York Times says some officials think estimates that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would cause catastrophe are 'partly a bluff,' and that this is accepted at top government levels.

Israeli officials and academic experts think that Iran’s threats of retaliation to a possible strike against it are a bluff, the New York Times reported on Friday.

Citing a number of officials and reports, the New York Times said that estimates that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “would set off a catastrophic series of events” is considered by some to be “partly a bluff,” and that these estimates are accepted at the top levels of the Israeli government.

Iran Navy

The newspaper said it had spoken with eight current and recent top Israeli officials, and that these conversations suggest that “since Israel has been demanding the new sanctions, including an oil embargo and seizure of Iran’s Central Bank assets, it will give the sanctions some months to work; the sanctions are viewed here as probably insufficient; a military attack remains a very real option; and postattack situations are considered less perilous than one in which Iran has nuclear weapons.”

One retired official told the New York Times that based on past scenarios including threats from Saddam Hussein to “burn half of Israel,” and threats from Hezbollah which resulted in limited harm to Israel, “If you put all those retaliations together and add in the terrorism of recent years, we are probably facing some multiple of that.”

“I’m not saying Iran will not react. But it will be nothing like London during World War Two,” the New York Times reported the official as saying, citing an internal report.

The newspaper also said that an upcoming paper by Tel Aviv University’s National Center for Security Studies claims that Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz are also “a bluff.”

The paper, written by former Chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin and Yoel Guzansky, who was head of the Israel National Security Council’s Iran desk until 2009, says that closing the Strait would be against Iran’s interests, and that it would not be able to do this for a significant length of time, the New York Times reported.

“If others are closing the taps on you, why close your own?” the New York Times reported Guzansky as saying.

The newspaper also cites a paper recently published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies arguing that Israeli fears of Iranian missiles are exaggerated, as these would not be able to cause significant physical damage.

A former senior official said he was concerned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak want to attack Iran, and that this would be a military and diplomatic catastrophe, the New York Times reported.

The official said that Israel’s defense establishment prefers sanctions and diplomacy as the means for stopping Iran’s nuclear program, and that any military steps, if needed, would preferably come from the U.S., the New York Times reported.

“Imagine Israel’s isolation after it attacked. For what? A delay of a year and a half? We are successfully delaying them with other methods,” the New York Times cited the official as saying.

On Thursday, former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel must do all it can to operate under the radar against Iran, but should simultaneously prepare for a possible strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities.

Earlier in the week, European Union foreign ministers approved an oil embargo against Iran in a bid so stop its nuclear program. The measure included an immediate embargo on new contracts for Iranian crude and petroleum products while existing ones will be allowed to run until July. In response, two Iranian lawmakers stepped up threats  their country would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's crude flows.