Iran: It’s Time to Negotiate the Terms of Your Surrender

Iran announced Tuesday that it will grant UN inspectors access to its Parchin military compound, previously off-limits to international inspection. Parchin is believed to be the location for advanced nuclear weaponization testing.  But – and there’s always an Iranian “but” in such cases – Iran insists that the conditions for the inspection must still be negotiated.

Earlier this week, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, declared, “We have our credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices [at Parchin].”

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued an invitation to Iran this week, “on behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America … to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue. “  Ashton’s invitation was reportedly in response to an Iranian diplomatic feeler.

Is something happening here?  Is there some movement on the Iranian diplomatic front, or are we seeing more Iranian delaying tactics while it pushes ahead on its nuclear weaponization?

Economic sanctions against Iran may not be as “crippling and biting” as Washington officials claim, but they are certainly hobbling and nibbling away at Iran’s economy, particularly its oil exports.

In the weeks prior to the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister to Washington, all sorts of predictions of an impending Israeli attack on Iran were presented by sophomoric pundits, science fiction writers, and pretentiously omniscient analysts.  Combat scenarios, flight routes, refueling requirements, and bomb tonnage calculations were presented as if the writers had an inside line to the Israeli army’s Bor combat center.

There is so much fantasizing about if, how and when Israel will attack Iran that perhaps – just maybe — the far-fetched reports are having a deterring effect on the Iranians.  Lord knows Israel’s deterrence strength had been eroded recently by senior American officials publicly stating that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program was beyond Israel’s reach and capability.  Just a month ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN, “It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran.” 

Israel did not appear to have a powerful ally willing to “watch its back.” 

A kid can’t scare off a neighborhood bully by saying, “I’m going to get my big brother, and he’s a ballet dancer.”  It’s a different story when the kid says “I’m going to get my big brother, and his name is Chuck Norris and he’s ready to kick butt.”

Deterrence is as much psychological as it is measured in missile range or bomb tonnage.  The colossal, commanding AIPAC Conference in Washington this week was a mega-megaton political event of strategic significance that set off even the seismographs in Teheran.

Even if some viewed the U.S. Administration’s response to Netanyahu this week as less than whole-hearted (including this writer who noted that President Obama warned against an Iranian “nuclear weapon” and not “nuclear capability”), the Iranians must view the Washington confab and accompanying declarations as confirmation of their worst fears of a world domination conspiracy of the “Elders of Zion.”   

Perhaps the Iranians’ response on inspecting the Parchin base is related to both the military fantasies being written and the political show of strength in Washington.  (Admitted, this suggestion assumes that Iran’s leaders are “rational” and seek life and do not seek an apocryphal Armageddon in order to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Prophet.)

I have not had access to secret Israeli data in a decade since I left a senior Israeli diplomatic post in Washington, but some of the attack descriptions below are based on actual scenarios and weapons systems likely to be deployed in an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. And some of the descriptions are more fantasies presented to bolster Israel’s deterrence and inflate Iranian fears.

Iran should take heed and believe the worst.

News reports suggest Israel may use intermediate-range “Jericho” missiles to attack Iranian sites, obviating the need for airborne tankers to refuel jet fighters.  Are the missiles tipped with conventional or nuclear warheads? Who knows?  Are they accurate?  Israel has already launched several satellites into orbit; the rocketry and precision guidance are not much different from a long-range ground-to-ground missile.

Ahmadinejad: Don’t forget Israel’s submarines which don’t need to enter the Arabian Gulf (you insist on calling it the Persian Gulf) to fire their medium-range missiles or cruise missiles.  They can be on station in the Indian Ocean or Oman Sea and still launch with incredible accuracy.

You can assume that Israeli satellites and sensitive spy cameras and sensors are watching every truck that moves a Shahab missile or barrel of enriched uranium.  Look at the commercial satellite photos of Iranian nuclear facilities at Fordu, Natanz and Isfahan published by Der Spiegel this week to see how exposed Iran is.

Every weapon that could be fired at Iran is guided by a satellite GPS or other pinpoint navigation systems.  The long-range Zelzal missiles you provided Hizbullah to fire at Israel were destroyed in the first minutes of the 2006 Lebanon war, some while poised on their launchers. 

Besides the defensive anti-missile systems Israel has deployed to protect Israeli skies, Iran should wonder what happened to the “boost-phase intercept” drones Israel considered developing in the 1990s. The system, Israel’s weapons developers explained then,  would shoot down long-range Iranian missiles right after their launch as they are slowly lifting off and still in Iranian airspace.

It’s a mistake for armchair generals to count every long-range missile in the Iranian or Syrian arsenal; what counts are the launchers, generally a fraction of the number of missiles.  Presume that every launcher already has target crosshairs painted on it.

Iran has many enemies in its immediate vicinity.  Israel may not have to fly its planes 1,000 miles to reach Iranian targets, as reporters and analysts claim.  Maybe Israeli planes can take off or refuel in Georgia or Azerbaijan – both recent victims of Iranian-sent terrorists.  Perhaps there are also landing strips on the Arabian Peninsula or even in Kurdish areas in the region that will welcome planes destroying the ayatollah regime’s weaponry.

Several decades ago, an Israeli helicopter pilot, running low on fuel, landed on an American aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.  According to legend, when he was confronted and berated by the carrier’s captain, he responded, “I thought it was one of ours.”  The lesson: there are other places for planes, fuel tankers, and drones to operate from.

Iran believes that Israel is a nuclear power.  With all of Iran’s efforts to bury its nuclear centrifuges deep under mountains, Iran may also believe that Israeli nuclear devices make sense.  The warnings about fallout would be unnecessary if Israel uses the neutron bombs that “experts” have claimed over the years that Israel has in its quiver.  These are all reporters’ fantasies – or maybe not — that should cause Iranian leaders to lose sleep.

Iran may be living off of past glories, remembering the successes its proxy Hizbullah achieved in the 2006 Lebanon war.  But Israel’s army was poorly trained and equipped for the fight in 2006, having squandered resources to carry out the painful Gaza “disengagement” in 2005.  Even worse, Israel and the IDF were miserably led at the time, with a prime minister who publicly and shamelessly stated, “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies….”

That is certainly not the way Israel’s Prime Minister or IDF generals are talking today.

About the Author
Lenny Ben-David served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. Today he is director of publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a public affairs consultant and publishes He is the author of "American Interests in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs."