Article co-written by retired generals James Cartwright and Amos Yadlin states that it would be preferable for the U.S., rather than Israel, to carry out an attack on Iran.
A theoretical scenario for a military assault on nuclear sites in Iran by the end of this year was published on Wednesday by two former senior officers from Israel and the United States. The officers state that the international community must first exhaust non-military efforts to pressure Iran and conclude that, if an attack is necessary, it is preferable to come from America rather than Israel.
“Given the spectrum of other available options, military force should only be employed against the program as a last resort,” write retired four-star American general James Cartwright, recently the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence and Israel Air Force chief of staff. “Yet the military option must still be credible, and ready to use if necessary. This case study is intended solely to stimulate and inform further discussion on the potential repercussions of different strike options.”
The case study was published simultaneously on the website of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, of which Yadlin is the director, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The report lays out the following hypothetical scenario: “The prime minister of Israel has just received a phone call from the White House relaying the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence assessment: international sanctions and negotiations with Iran have yet to persuade the regime to halt its nuclear drive. Tehran previously rejected a generous U.S. offer that would have allowed it to enrich uranium in exchange for strong nuclear safeguards, and the program continues to advance unabated. After agreeing to convene in Washing¬ton in one week to discuss strategy going forward, the prime minister and president each call a meeting with their national security advisers.
“The [American] president’s team acknowledges that the United States is war weary, debt laden, and politically gridlocked. With U.S. forces having just withdrawn from Iraq and on a path to end combat operations in Afghanistan by late 2014, many hope that the attendant diversion of resources will spring the country from its financial woes and accelerate its economic recovery.
“Nevertheless, the president, the prime minister, and their advisers reaffirm that a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable threat to U.S. and Israeli national security, with the president reiterating his strong and repeated 2012 commitment to prevention. Each leader then reviews the red lines that the regime has already crossed since 2004 regarding enrichment of nuclear material, as well as the UN Security Council resolutions it has violated in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. They also consider the fact that five rounds of diplomatic negotiations (in Geneva, Istanbul, Baghdad, Moscow, and Kazakhstan) have failed.
“In light of these concerns, both leaders agree that the time has come to ready their contingency options for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But if such action does indeed become necessary, they ask, which country should launch the attack—the United States or Israel?”
According to Cartwright and Yadlin, “The U.S. military’s superior capabilities- including B-2 stealth bombers, air refueling craft, advanced drones, and 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrators – are more likely to severely damage Iranian targets. Yet the United States has no operational experience in strikes against such facilities, unlike Israel, which successfully conducted similar opera¬tions against the Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 and, according to foreign reports, against a Syrian reactor in 2007.”
They add that any Israeli action would require its planes to cross the airspace of at least one other country (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Syria). In contrast, an American attack could be conducted directly from American military bases or from American aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere.
In the event that the countries pursue military action, Cartwright and Yadlin recommend an American surgical strike on Iranian nuclear sites, but not a full aerial campaign against Iran’s entire military forces. The two also object to a broad approach with ground forces because, they reason, a limited attack will enable Iran to respond in a limited manner and not drag the entire region into war.
According to Cartwright and Yadlin, an Israeli attack on Iran would provoke greater criticism from the Arab world than an American attack, but they also think that the strength of an expected Arab reaction should not be exaggerated. They acknowledge that Sunni public opinion is far from supportive of Iran because of the latter’s support of the Assad regime in the murderous Syrian civil war.
The authors do present a few reasons in favor of an Israeli attack. They point out that Israel’s moral basis for bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, as the country directly threatened with destruction, is stronger than America’s. They also mention that the United States is not interested in another war with an Islamic country after its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.