In my previous post, I noted some of the difficulties that need to be taken into consideration before we can discuss any strike on Iran. This post will discuss one in particular – the distance between Iran and Israel – and how we can solve that problem.
From Israel to Iran is a huge distance. To the nearest reactor, we need to travel 1400 km; to the farthest, the distance is closer to 2500 km.
As I noted previously, this distance is totally do-able – as long as we have permission to fly over other countries’ airspace. That permission *will* be given, because the entire Middle East wants Iran nuke-free.
However, the major question is if we can count on the permission on the return journey….or if our planes will be shot down. After all, once Iran’s nukes are no longer an issue, and Israel can’t afford to start a war over 3 planes…why not shoot them down?
It’s a solvable problem, provided that the other country: 1) has an invested interest in keeping our planes safe, 2) owes us a debt, or 3) bears us zero enmity and has zero interest in starting up. But it’s also the problem that has kept us from actually striking Iran until now.
This image from CNN is wrong for several reasons (so is the article, surprise surprise), but it gives you a basic idea of the different routes our planes can take on the return journey.
What CNN got right is that there are at least four sites that need to be taken out simultaneously. These include Iran’s nuclear reactors, uranium refinement facilities, weapon research and production facilities, and any university with nuclear knowledge. A decent guess would be about eight different targets.
So the next question is: Do we want to bring all our planes home via the same route? Or are we okay with some coming home from the north or west, and some coming home from the south? And can we refuel in midair?
Let’s assume that all we care about is getting our planes and pilots safely home. It would be nice if they all came back via the same route, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
The planes that we would be using *can* be refueled midair, but that means sending fuel tankers for the planes, and tankers for the tankers, too. That’s a lot of planes to send out all at once.
But maybe we can send the tankers ahead of time, and let them wait for the strike alongside a friendly army. Or, we might be able to rely on that same friendly country to refuel our planes on the ground, Entebbe-style.
The point is, if we make the right connections, with the right countries, we *can* get our planes safely to Iran, and then safely home after the strike. I think it’s safe to say that we have almost all of those connections now, if not all of them.
Success depends on our ability to keep everything hush-hush until Iran’s nukes are history, Entebbe-style. Again, that secrecy is heavily dependent on the other countries involved. However, as we’ve said earlier, the entire Middle East knows the consequences of outing Israel before the deed has been done. Once Iran realizes what happened, secrecy doesn’t matter. The only thing that *does* matter is ensuring that we fly home over safe airspace.
Complete success also depends on our ability to locate – and strike – the Iranian scientists who worked on the project, all at once, and within five minutes of destroying their nuclear facilities. It’s true, we can technically wipe out the scientists in a later strike – but that would probably mean hunting them down, in a dangerous and time-consuming game of cat and mouse.
To sum up: Yes, we have neighbors that we can ally with, even on the return journey. No, we don’t have everything worked out yet (or at least I don’t – maybe the army does). Yes, it is a big project and a big risk. No, it is not a suicide mission, unless we make it that way.
Up next: Does Israel have the bunker busters necessary to do the job?