Israeli Strike on Iran Nuclear Sites Back on Agenda

Israeli strike on Iran is again becoming a real option, for the first time since 2012; expert says IDF capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli Strike on Iran Nuclear Sites Back on Agenda 1
Israeli strike on Iran soon? (Photo: Yuval Shmueli, IDF/Creative Commons)

Iran is enriching uranium to a “much higher degree” than expected, the UN atomic watchdog recently announced. As Tehran moves closer to acquiring the means to build nuclear weapons, the IDF refreshes its plans for a bombing mission deep in Iranian territory.

The big question is whether Iran will move so close to building a bomb as to trigger preemptive action by Israel.

Notably, the IDF’s 2020 intelligence assessment estimated that Iran will have enough uranium for one bomb by the fall of 2020. An intelligence expert later warned that the Iranians are accelerating the pace of enrichment.

Given Tehran’s ambitions, the IDF must prepare for a clash with Iran and its regional proxies this year, veteran military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai wrote.

F-35s ready for Iran strike

It now appears that the IDF is indeed getting ready for a potential strike. The army is taking operational steps to prepare for the mission, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir said recently. He did not elaborate, but made clear that Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons.

The army estimates that a major strike in Iran will almost certainly spark a regional conflict. “In the next war we won’t be fighting one enemy, but rather a coalition of enemies,” Zamir said.  

Details of the military preparations are classified, but the Air Force has been training for long-distance flights. Such sessions include cooperation with allied countries that allow IDF pilots to train far beyond Israel’s borders.

If and when the IDF strikes, it will utilize the latest addition to its arsenal, the F-35i jets. The stealth fighters, upgraded with Israeli technology, have a range of 2,200 kilometers, putting Iranian nuclear sites well in range. Iran’s weak air defenses are currently unequipped to deal with Israel’s air power.

Expert: IDF can paralyze Iran

The IDF’s ability to attack Iran has been “vastly underestimated,” a military expert recently argued. An Israeli strike on Iran could certainly destroy its nuclear and missile sites, including factories and research centers, analyst Kenneth S. Brower wrote.

Iran’s air defenses and air force will be no match for the IDF, Brower wrote in a study published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He said that Israel has the military capabilities to stage an extended offensive that includes hundreds of daily strikes with precision-guided weapons.

In case of an all-out war, Israel can completely paralyze Iran’s strategic sites and infrastructure, Brower added. This would entail raids on oil facilities, transportation networks and communications. The IDF would be able to achieve this in 4-5 days, he predicted.

Will Israel strike this year?    

The IDF may target Iran’s nuclear program this year, analyst Michael Makovsky argued. However, other experts say that an Israeli strike on Iran will only come after other options are exhausted. Israel can also sabotage Iranian nuclear facilities via special operations or cyber attacks. But such moves can only delay Iran’s progress for so long.

Israel seriously considered bombing Iran back in 2012, according to various reports. At the time, the US detected unusual Air Force maneuvers and took steps to prevent an attack. Since then, there were no indications that a strike was imminent.

But eight years later, the military option is back on the agenda. As Israel watches and prepares to act, much depends on Iran’s conduct in the coming months. If and when Tehran crosses a red line, the Air Force will be given the order to strike.