Should Israel attack Iranian nuclear facilities, Iran would likely respond by launching missiles against Israel and terrorist attacks on U.S. civilian and military personnel overseas, The New York Times
Those attacks on America would be carefully planned so as not to provoke a U.S. military response, according to experts who have assessed the situation.
“The Iranians have been pretty good masters of escalation control,” retired Gen. James E. Cartwright, told the Times. Cartwright and other analysts believe the Iranians would target petroleum sites in the Persian Gulf and American troops in Afghanistan.
Officials believe that it would be suicidal for Iran to directly target the U.S. military through missile strikes at American bases. “The balance the Iranians will try to strike is doing damage that is sufficiently significant, but just short of what it would take for America to invade,” said Cartwright, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
There is also a belief in Israel that Iran’s response to a strike would be limited. “If Iran is struck surgically, it will react — no doubt,” a former Israeli official told the Times. “But that reaction will be calculated and in proportion to its capabilities. Iran will not set the Middle East on fire.”
“Is 40 missiles on Tel Aviv nice?” the official asked. “No. But it’s better than a nuclear Iran.”
Attacks against countries supporting Israel, such as the United States, would most likely be anonymous and indirect to give Iran deniability. In addition to trying to block the Strait of Hormuz, Iran might set off car bombs targeting civilians in world capitals, the Times reported.
Tufts University international politics professor Vali Nasr told the Times that Iran would “have to retaliate visibly against Israel to protect its image at home and in the region.” He added that Iran also might seek to escalate problems in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the Obama administration believes that Iran is making progress toward nuclear weapons, there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.
But it is a possibility that Israel will launch a nuclear strike, and that is the focus of American policy makers and a topic for Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are scheduled to meet Monday.
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