Iran’s Maginot Line
[This article originally appeared in American Thinker, November 22, 2011.]
One of the most important skills in warfare is the art of misdirection. Like the magician who draws attention to one hand doing one thing while the other hand does another, the attacker who can beguile his enemy into diverting most of his resources to repelling an attack expected in one area, and then attack in another, gains a significant advantage. It was the key to victory at Normandy, and, this writer would argue, our failure to attack Iran when the whole world was focused on Iraq will go down as one of history’s greatest missed opportunities. Had we done so, needless to say and notwithstanding the anticipated howls of protest from the “international community,” we would be looking at a much safer and more stable Middle East than what we have today.
Israel, too, has blundered. But also, to her credit, she has demonstrated, time and again, the ability to learn from those mistakes and to avoid repeating them. Nor is she a slouch at the art of misdirection.
And when, in prepping past attacks such as those on the nascent nuclear capabilities of Iraq and Syria or the hostage rescue at Entebbe, have the Israelis ever broadcast their intentions beforehand?
So, as the urgency and bellicosity of Israel’s diplomatic rhetoric has intensified over the past few weeks, this writer can’t help wondering whether something else, less obvious, might be going on.
Is Israel practicing the art of misdirection?
One of the keys to Israel’s swift victory in the ’67 Six-Day War was her ability to destroy Egypt’s air force while most of it was still on the ground, achieving at the outset the air superiority essential to victory in modern warfare. Conversely, one of the key obstacles to victory in the ’73 Yom Kippur War was Egypt’s Russian-made surface-to-air Missiles, which, to Israel’s dismay, proved surprisingly effective in downing Israeli aircraft. Surely, giving insufficient consideration to an enemy’s air defenses is a mistake the Israel Air Force (IAF) would take special care not to repeat. Indeed, it is good to remember that, while Iran’s growing nuclear capability is of course a major Israeli casus belli, Israel has made it clear that Iran’s potential acquisition of advanced Russian S-300 SAMs, capable of neutralizing Israel’s vaunted air superiority, would be another..
Consider also, as many have pointed out, that given how deeply underground Iran has embedded its nuclear facilities, a single Israeli attack on those facilities most likely would only delay, not end Iran’s nuclear program, making (unless the Iranian regime falls in the meantime) one or more repeat attacks necessary.
It would thus seem that the logical goal of an initial Israeli attack would be not to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability (though, like the Jewish grandmother offering the chicken soup, “it couldn’t hurt”), but to destroy Iran’s air-defense capabilities. In other words, don’t settle for evading Iran’s air force on the way to attacking her nuclear sites — destroy it, preferably while it is still on the ground. Ditto for her ground-to-air missiles and launchers. Then go after the nuke sites.
For Israel, the choices could not be clearer: allow Iran control of its airspace, able to deter any IAF attack, and an Iranian bomb becomes inevitable. But deprive Iran of that control, dominate the sky above Iran, and Israel would be free to attack Iran’s nuclear sites — and Republican Guard, and Navy, and Air Force (should Iran attempt to rebuild it) — anywhere, anytime, as often as necessary. And, thanks to Israel’s spy satellites and modern GPS targeting, the inability of a single Israeli guided bomb to penetrate to the depth of Iran’s buried nuclear production sites probably would be irrelevant; if the first bomb fails to do the job, send in another right after it, and another. With Israel in command of the sky above, she would have, literally, all the time in the world to finish the job.
And of course, Israel would also have all the time it needs to destroy Iran’s ballistic missiles and launchers — the ones capable of reaching Israel…and, in time, us.
But would that really be necessary? Much is made of Iran’s deeply buried nuclear sites. But those sites are useless if the Iranians can’t get to them. Therefore, it may not be necessary to destroy the sites, but merely to seal the entrances. With luck, the IAF might even trap some essential personnel (and Ahmadinejad?) inside. Ideally, the IAF would do enough damage to render the underground facilities inaccessible for a considerable time. But again, with the IAF controlling the airspace, Israel could allow the Iranians to spend considerable time, effort, and money clearing the entrances and then seal them again — and again, and again, as often as Iran tries to unseal them. Most likely, the Iranians, knowing this, would not even bother, but in any case, preventing access to Iran’s nuclear production sites would be much easier than destroying the sites themselves, while achieving the same practical effect..
But the important point to take from this is the obvious fact that the deeper Iran buries her sites, the harder it will be to restore access to them if Israel seals the entrances.
By burying her nuclear facilities so deeply below the ground to shield them from attack, could Iran, ironically, have succeeded only in creating an Iranian Maginot Line?