The Vienna deal has been signed and likely will soon be ratified, which raises the question: Will any government intervene militarily to stop the nearly inevitable Iranian nuclear buildup?
Obviously it will not be the American or Russian governments or any of the other four signatories. Practically speaking, the question comes down to Israel, where a consensus holds that the Vienna deal makes an Israeli attack more likely. But no one outside the Israeli security apparatus, including myself, knows its intentions. That ignorance leaves me free to speculate as follows.
Aerial bombing makes for a dramatic tale.
Aerial. Airplanes crossed international boundaries and dropped bombs in the 1981 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear installation and in the 2007 attack on a Syrian one, making this the default assumption for Iran. Studies show this to be difficult but attainable. Alternatively, bombs can be delivered via rockets.
Special ops. These are already underway: computer virus attacks on Iranian systems unconnected to the Internet that should be immune, assassinations of top-ranking Iranian nuclear scientists, and explosions at nuclear installations. Presumably, Israelis had a hand in at least some of these attacks and, presumably, they could increase their size and scope, possibly disrupting the entire nuclear program. Unlike the dispatch of planes across several countries, special operations have the advantage of reaching places like Fordow, far from Israel, and of leaving little or no signature.
Nuclear weapons. This doomsday weapon, which tends to be little discussed, would probably be launched from submarines. It hugely raises the stakes and so would only be resorted to, in the spirit of "Never Again," if the Israelis were desperate.
Of these alternatives, I predict the Netanyahu government will most likely opt for the second, which is also the most challenging to pull off (especially now that the great powers promised to help the Iranians protect their nuclear infrastructure). Were this unsuccessful, it will turn to planes, with nuclear weapons as a last resort. (July 16, 2015)
- I noted that this is speculative, not based on any inside Israeli information.
- That Israel might attack in the three ways I sketched can hardly come as news to the Iranian security establishment. Judging by the extraordinary performance of the Iranian negotiators in Vienna, who ran rings around their P5+1 counterparts, it is fully up to speed.
My purpose in writing this analysis, if this really needs pointing out, is to alert the public that the next main issue in the Iranian nuclear buildup is an armed Israeli response.
July 17, 2015 update: A poll by the Panels Politics Polling Institute finds 47 percent of Israeli supporting a unilateral strike on Iran. They answered the question: "Do you support independent military action by Israel against Iran if such action is needed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?" In addition, 35 percent said no and 18 percent expressed no opinion. Comment: This figure includes the nearly 20 percent of Israel that is Arab and Muslim, suggesting the percentage of Jewish Israelis is about 60 percent.