One of the questions most asked of me is: “When will Israel attack Iran?”
The question behind the question is obvious. Israel will be in the crosshairs of a nuclear armed Iran. That threat is unacceptable. That threat is undeniable. What point, for Israel, is the point of no return?
After a hiatus that has run much too long, nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are scheduled to resume in Vienna on November 29th. This information comes from Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.
It was released by way of a tweet that read: "In a phone call with @enriquemora, we agreed to start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna." Enrique Mora is the European Union Envoy to the talks.
The end result of these talks is almost beside the point. Iran does what Iran wants to do. Talks, negotiations, bargaining points — they are all Iranian smoke screen. Iran wants nuclear weapons.
And unless there is a seismic shift in the Iranian politic, one way or another, this year or in the next few years, Iranian leadership will achieve their goal.
Once Iran has nuclear that capability, it will be too late. Too late for Israel, too late for the Western world. But Israel needs to address several important issues before striking at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Israeli military establishment has multidimensional weapons, many of which would be aptly used in an attack. Israel needs to determine exactly which of those weapons would be most effective.
In making that decision, Israel needs to determine whether they want to set back Iran’s nuclear project or destroy it.
An obvious option is using a conventional weapon and conducting a conventional strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This would be in the model of Israel’s 1981 raid on Osirak, Iraq’s nuclear facility. While that raid was a success ... today it would be an even more daring and dangerous operation.
And while a coordinated multi-target strike on Iran’s nuclear sites by Israeli planes and missiles is a possibility, it is neither the first option nor the safest. It is not the safest for either the Israeli pilots involved in the attack or for the Iranian people on the ground. It has real risks and it does not have the highest level of potential success.
The best option of all, right now, has been used before to curtail Iranian nuclear development. What is it? It is — a hack. A cyber-hack.
Cyberwarfare, the future of warfare. Fewer people will be hurt by a cyberattack, using computer hacking, than by a conventional warfare attack.
Israel has, several times over, launched cyberattacks against Iran’s nuclear development system. Each and every one has been very effective.
And as Iran advances their nuclear work, I expect that they will be struck again by a sophisticated cyber-hack which will, in all probability, be similar to the malicious computer worm Stuxnet that was discovered, in 2010, by Iran, after it had invaded its nuclear network. Stuxnet was just one attack. Other cyberattacks followed.
The most recent hack, a hack that crippled Iran and turned ordinary Iranians into raging protesters, involved shutting down the gasoline stations — all of them, across the country. For several days people could not fill their cars with gasoline. Iranians were livid.
Israel needs to set back Iran’s nuclear plans several years. That kind of hack will need to be extremely broad-based. It will require attacking multiple aspects of the Iranian nuclear system.
For the traditionalist, the cyberattack does not seem effective. They would argue that nothing is better than an air strike with bunker buster bombs hitting a full array of targets throughout Iran. “Shock and Awe!” they would say.
But the times they are a-changin’ and the traditional way might not be the best way. Not to mention that it would, without question, leave Israel open to a counterattack by Iran.
Israel would need to be certain that they could repel a counter strike that would, without a doubt, be directed at civilian targets. As much as Israel cares about their soldiers, Israel cares — cares very much — about their civilians.
Israel needs absolute self-assurance that its citizens are safe from that counter-strike, whether it is carried out directly by Iran or comes in the form of strikes from Iranian proxies in Lebanon and Syria.
For their part, Iran is goading Israel, hoping that Jerusalem will launch a conventional strike against them. They are waiting and planning.
And the plan is to counterattack by launching rockets not only from Iran but also from Syria and from Lebanon. And they will use a full array of weapons — short-range, long-range, guided and unguided.
Iran is just waiting for this opportunity. And that is why Iran has stockpiled well over 150,00 missiles and rockets in Hezbollah weapons caches.
Even with Israel’s famed Iron Dome defense system, it will be very difficult to intercept all of these rockets.
So, when will it happen? I can’t give you an answer. Will it destroy the system or set it back? Not sure.
But how will it happen? I’m expecting that cyberattack. And I won’t be surprised if it happens sometime soon.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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