Ehud Eilam

The Iranian nuclear challenge

Israel, according to non Israeli sources, has a nuclear arsenal. Iran is eager to possess this unconventional weapon too. Israel’s position is that it cannot afford to allow Iran to get the bomb.

If Iran acquires the bomb, there would be a balance of deterrence between Israel and Iran, and both states would be cognizant of the ramifications of using such a weapon against each other.

For Israel the memory of the Holocaust remains very potent, in particular because of fierce anti Israeli declarations by Iran’s leaders such as by the supreme leader Ali Khamenei. This makes it difficult to ignore the threat and to hope that the Iranian – Israeli conflict would end not in a confrontation, but in the collapse of the regime in Iran. The strategic differences between Israel and Iran might not be that big but Iranian leaders, who have an intransigent religious faith, could be willing to pay a terrifying price in return for destroying Israel. Yet Iran might strive for the bomb for the same reason as Israel, as a last-resort measure.

There could be a Middle Eastern version of a mutually assured destruction (MAD), as it was during the “Cold War” between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yet in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel demonstrated its will to launch a first strike. Iran is fully aware of that and in a situation where both states have nuclear weapons the stakes would be very high.

For such reasons Israel deems it necessary to prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons, even through using force. Yet the Iranian nuclear infrastructure is dispersed and well protected. Annihilating it would be quite a challenge for the Israeli military. The latter would probably rely on various planes mostly fighter – bombers, unmanned air vehicles and maybe also long-range surface-to-surface missiles and Special Forces. Preparing for such a mission has been a complicated process, which include among others intelligence collecting, training air crews, and acquiring weapons such as bunker buster bombs and ongoing evaluations on the political, military and economic levels. Israel has now been dealing with that for years, and it should be ready for a long fight that could last weeks, months and in the worst case even years.

The best military option would be for the United States that is much stronger than Israel, to attack Iran. The United States would not start a ground invasion in order to occupy Iran or part of it. The aim would not be regime change but only to destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Yet, at least for now, there are other options such as hitting Iran with waves of sanctions that would force her to understand that continuing to develop nuclear weapon capability would bring upon her an economic and political catastrophe.

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About the Author
Dr. Ehud Eilam has been dealing and studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the Israeli military and later on he worked for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He is now a writer and an independent researcher. He has a Ph.D and he had published five books He lives now near Boston, MA. His email: