Nuclear Chess: Is Israel Ready to Strike Iran?

How close is Israel to finalizing its plans to attack Iran? Reports that IDF is drawing up new proposals could be deceptive.

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Is Israel ready to strike Iran? (Photo: Ffikretow/iStock)

The IDF is reportedly drawing up new plans for a strike on Iran’s nuclear project. The army says that they will cost billions and is asking for extra funds. On Monday, PM Netanyahu convened a high-level meeting to discuss where this money will come from, Kan News reported.

The above information was leaked to the media, likely by senior officials. It suggests that Israel’s latest preparations for a military assault on Iran are at early stages. But is this true? As is often the case, reality could be very different than what is being projected publicly.

Israel is clearly interested in publicizing specific information and creating a certain impression. But in some ways the story seems to make little sense.

Air Force training for months

The IDF has been working on strike plans for the past decade and invested huge sums in building the needed capabilities. Some of this money was presumably spent on training maneuvers and munitions that are still relevant today, even if the plans were shelved for a time.

Moreover, the IDF deputy chief claimed back in September 2020 that the army is taking steps to prepare for a strike. More recently, the Air Force has been training for long-range missions and maneuvers such as aerial refueling. Iran is clearly the focus of these sessions.  

So, is the IDF really working on new plans as it says? Or is the army in fact revising and rehearsing existing plans? If so, Israel’s preparations for a strike on Iran are more advanced than the latest reports indicate.

Is Israel misleading Iran?

The IDF’s publicity campaign is likely meant to achieve several aims: Deterring Iran, pressing the US Administration ahead of new nuclear talks, and securing a larger budget. But what if Israel has another objective in mind?

The latest reports from Israel may lull Iran into a false sense of security and induce it to let its guard down. The risk of an Israeli strike is low for now if the IDF is only starting to design new attack plans, Tehran may conclude. Misleading the Iranians about the timing of an assault is certainly a supreme interest for Israel.

However, assessing Israel’s true intentions and capabilities is difficult. Some experts say that the IDF can’t destroy Iran’s nuclear sites, which are spread over a large area and partly hidden underground. At most, Israel can delay the program but not erase Iranian know-how, they argue.

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Can the Air Force do it? (Archive: Peter R. Foster IDMA/Shutterstock.com)

Other observers say that the Israeli Air Force is capable of unleashing a devastating attack on Iran with hundreds of daily raids. They claim that the IDF can eliminate Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure and paralyze the country. They further note that Iran’s lacking air power and defenses are no match for Israel’s war machine.  

Other factors to consider are Israel’s political turmoil and the COVID-19 crisis. Conditions for an IDF strike on Iran are far from ideal, certainly as President Biden seems committed to diplomatic moves. Much also depends on Iran’s nuclear progress, which is hard to ascertain.  

Strange night in Tehran

For now, it may be useful to take note of unusual developments or activities in Iran. For example, the strange events in Tehran on the night of January 29. City residents were reportedly spooked by air raid sirens and flights were diverted, as Iranian officials struggled to come up with an explanation.

Some sources blamed a technical problem while others insisted that bad weather was at fault. But what if someone was testing Iran’s air defenses and triggered a nervous response? Or did something else happen that the regime prefers to keep quiet? We may never know for sure.

One way or another, Israel’s and Iran’s plans and decisions will be discussed by a small group of leaders behind closed doors. Some information may leak, but the truly important developments will take place behind the scenes, far from the media’s eyes.