– "From a marketing point of view, you don't
introduce new products in August," explained then–White
House chief of staff Andrew Card in September 2002, in
answer to queries about why the administration of George W
Bush had not launched its campaign to rally public opinion
behind invading Iraq earlier in the summer.
while it's only July – and less than a month after the
United Nations, the European Union and the US Congress
approved new economic sanctions against Iran – a familiar
clutch of Iraq war hawks appear to be preparing the ground
for a major new campaign to rally public opinion behind
military action against the Islamic Republic.
an unexpected breakthrough on the diplomatic front, that
campaign, like the one eight years ago, is likely to move
into high gear this autumn, beginning shortly after the
Labor Day holiday on September 6, that marks the end of the
the following week, the November mid–term election
campaign will be in full swing, and Republican candidates
are expected to make the charge that Democrats and President
Barack Obama are "soft on Iran" their top foreign
policy issue. In any event, veterans of the Bush
administration's pre–Iraq invasion propaganda offensive
are clearly mobilizing their arguments for a similar effort
on Iran, even suggesting that the timetable between campaign
launch and possible military action – a mere six months in
Iraq's case – could be appropriate.
the first quarter of 2011, we will know whether sanctions
are proving effective," wrote Bush's former national
security adviser Stephen Hadley and Israeli Brigadier
General Michael Herzog in a paper published this month by
the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP), a think–tank
closely tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
administration should begin to plan now for a course of
action should sanctions be deemed ineffective by the first
or second quarter of next year. The military option must be
kept on the table both as a means of strengthening diplomacy
and as a worst–case scenario," they asserted.
Hadley and Herzog argued that the administration should
begin planning military options now – presumably to be
ready for possible action as early as next spring – others
are calling for more urgent and demonstrative preparations.
cannot afford to wait indefinitely to determine the
effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions," wrote
Charles Robb, a former Democratic senator, and Air Force
General Charles Wald (retired) in a column published in
Friday's Washington Post, in which they warned that Tehran
"could achieve nuclear weapons capability before the
end of this year, posing a strategically untenable threat to
the United States".
diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to
terminate its nuclear program, the US military has the
capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted
strike on Tehran's nuclear and military facilities,"
column was based on the latest of three reports promoting
the use of military pressure on Iran released by the
Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) since 2008 and overseen by
the BPC's neo–conservative foreign policy director Michael
whose brother is a senior official at WINEP, served as a
consultant to the controversial Pentagon office set up in
the run–up to the Iraq War to find evidence of operational
ties between al–Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a
justification for the invasion.
BPC report, "Meeting the Challenge: When Time Runs Out",
urged the Obama administration, among other immediate steps,
to "augment the Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian
Gulf and Gulf of Oman, including the deployment of an
additional [aircraft] carrier battle group and minesweepers
to the waters off Iran; conduct broad exercises with its
allies in the Persian Gulf; ... initiate a 'strategic
partnership' with Azerbaijan to enhance regional access
..." as a way of demonstrating Washington's readiness
to go to war.
such pressure fails to persuade Iran's leadership, the
United States and its allies would have no choice but to
consider blockading refined petroleum imports into Iran,"
it went on, noting that such a step would "effectively
be an act of war and the US and its allies would have to
prepare for its consequences".
Iraq hawks, most aggressively Bush's former UN ambassador
John Bolton, have insisted that neither diplomacy nor
sanctions, no matter how tough, would be sufficient to
dissuade Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that
military action – preferably by the US, but, if not, by
Israel – would be necessary, and sooner rather than later.
the June 12, 2009, disputed elections and the emergence of
the opposition Green movement in Iran, a few neo–conservatives,
notably Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute
and Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of
Democracies, have argued that a military attack could prove
counter–productive by rallying an otherwise discontented
– and possibly rebellious – population behind the regime.
with the Green movement seemingly unable to challenge the
government in the streets that argument has been losing
ground among the hawks who, in any event, blame the
opposition's alleged weakness on Obama's failure to provide
it with more support.
President Obama waffled while innocent Iranians were killed
by their own government," wrote William Kristol and
Jamie Fly, in Kristol's Weekly Standard last month.
now increasingly clear that the credible threat of a
military strike against Iran's nuclear program is the only
action that could convince the regime to curtail its
ambition," wrote the two men, who direct the Foreign
Policy Initiative, the successor organization of the neo–conservative–led
Project for the New American Century that played a key role
in preparing the ground for the Iraq invasion.
and other hawks have also pounced on reported remarks made
by United Arab Emirates ambassador Yousef al–Otaiba at a
retreat sponsored by The Atlantic magazine in Colorado last
week to nullify another obstacle to military action – the
widespread belief that Washington's Arab allies oppose a
military attack on Iran by the US or Israel as too risky for
their own security and regional stability.
cannot live with a nuclear Iran," Otaiba was quoted as
saying in a Washington Times article by Eli Lake, a
prominent neo–conservative journalist.
Otaiba's ... comments leave no doubt what he and most Arab
officials think about the prospect of a nuclear
revolutionary Shi'ite state," the Wall Street Journal's
editorial board, a major media champion of the Iraq War,
opined. "They desperately want someone, and that means
the US or Israel, to stop it, using force if need be."
was interviewed at the conference by The Atlantic's Jeffrey
Goldberg, an influential US–Israeli writer who, in a
widely noted essay published by The New Yorker magazine in
2002, claimed that Saddam was supporting an al–Qaeda group
in Kurdistan and that the Iraqi leader would soon possess
who asserted in his blog this week that "the idea of a
group of Persian Shi'ites having possession of a nuclear
bomb ... certainly scares [Arab leaders] more than the
reality of the Jewish bomb," is reportedly working on
an essay on the necessity of attacking Iran's nuclear
facilities for publication by The Atlantic in September.
anatomy of an attack on Iran
mid–June, Hugh Tomlinson in the Times of London wrote that
the government of Saudi Arabia conferred on Israel the
"green light" for use of its airspace for an
attack on Iran. This revelation was said to be conventional
wisdom inside the Saudi military. Tomlinson also quoted an
unnamed United States military source stating to the effect
that the US Department of State and the Defense Department
had both said "grace" over this arrangement.
Saudis and Israelis immediately denied the report, while US
officials made no specific comments on the subject. The
silence and denials nixed further media speculation.
reported in the Times of London in July 2009 and referred to
again in Tomlinson's recent article is word of a supposed
meeting between Israel's Mossad chief Meir Dagan and unnamed
Saudi intelligence leaders to discuss such an arrangement
that both governments denied then and now.
the apparent regional political status quo, how might the
Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike Iran undetected on approach
and at the very least unacknowledged on return if the
decision is made in Jerusalem that the existential threat
posed by Iran's arc of nuclear progress can no longer safely
the coordination of logistics and tactics of such a long
distance mission – 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) on the
straight line from Tel Aviv to Iran's uranium enrichment
facility in Natanz – is daunting, the strategic or
political realities must be defined before all else.
of Iraq on a direct bearing to Iran is out of the question.
Such a path would cause friction between the US, responsible
for Iraq's aerial sovereignty, and the next Iraqi government
sure to be of delicate composition. It's safe to assume that
the US views stability in Iraq far higher on the national
interest meter than say apartments in east Jerusalem, thus
for Israel the straight line over Iraq comes at a price that
it can ill afford to pay.
likely route to Iran, beginning at regional dusk preferably
in the dark a new moon, is to fly a great circle around
Iraq. Only careful planning carried out with precision
timing and execution will ensure success. For this route,
almost every applicable IAF logistics and support asset
would be utilized.
first leg for any F–15I and F–16I fighter bombers is a
low–level run up the Mediterranean in the area of the
Syrian town of Latakin, where up to three KC–707s (aerial
tankers) in race track orbit would top up the tanks of the
strike group. This tankage is absolutely necessary for the
shorter–legged F–16I (range 1,300 miles). Refueling the
F–15I (range 2765 miles) is desirable but not a necessity
unless intelligence suggests targets beyond eastern Iran.
skirt Turkish airspace and the ability of the Turkish
military to raise an alarm heard throughout the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the strike group with
two pairs of Gulfstream G–550s: one of each outfitted as a
network–centric collaborative targeting (NCCT) and one
each employing Senior Suter technology must fly low across
northern Syria. The G–550 is a small package with the
range the speed to accompany the strike group round trip
without refueling – therefore up to the challenge.
NCCT aircraft ferrets out air defense radars. The Suter
partner beams a data stream containing, what in computer
parlance is called a a "worm", into air defense
radars with the capability of incapacitating an entire air
defense network, if such a network is under centralized
technology pioneered by the US Air Force and part of the
code named the "Big Safari" program is heady stuff
said to work wonders over Syria during the IAF's strike on
Syria's North Korean–designed nuclear reactor in September
2007. The support of the G–550s will be instrumental every
mile of the mission.
anti–aircraft artillery (AAA) in states hostile to Israel
may necessitate F–16Is in the tried and true AGM–88 high
speed anti–radiation missile (HARM) mission.
another application of high technology was the launch on
June 11, 2007, of Ofek–7, as noted by Richard B Gasparre,
also a source on G–550s in IAF service at
airforce–technology.com, is a "... reconnaissance
satellite, which gives Israeli intelligence specialists site
and system mapping capability of unprecedented
accuracy". Ofek–7 undoubtedly contributed to strike
planning for the IAF's mission to Syria.
powerful tools will be counted on to enable the strike
package to skirt either Turkish or Iraqi airspace for a
short jump of 150 or so miles to reach Iranian airspace
undetected. The distance on a straight line from Latakin to
Tabriz in Iran is 618 miles. The flight is shorter if the
Israelis avoid Turkey and cut the Kurdish corner.
a designated point over northern Iran, the strike group
splits into Q and E–flights. Q–Flight flies southeast
348 miles to reach the known uranium–enrichment sites in
Qom (under construction) and Natanz (operational).
E–Flight homes in on the gas storage development site at
Esfahan and the heavy water reactor complex at Arak on a
more southerly path of 481 miles.
the while in Iranian airspace, the G–550 Suter and NCCT
aircraft work in tandem and with F–16I aircraft to
suppress radars and AAA, while F–15Is designated top cover
guard against any air–to–air threat put up by Iran's air
strike package can count on aid in the form of Popeye Turbo
cruise missiles launched by at least one Israeli submarine
from the Arabian Sea against targets in Iran designed to
shield the Israeli planes, degrade enemy responses and sow
confusion among the Iranian military.
some point, one of the three US Air Force RC–135 Rivet
Joint ELINT (electronic intelligence) platforms in the area
will "see" Iranian air defense radars and hear an
explosion of Iranian voices on open airwaves and quickly
piece together events in Iran. This collected product will
be immediately passed through Central Command to Washington
for dissemination to the principles of the National Security
Council, including US President Barack Obama.
hours earlier, at least three IAF KC–707s would have flown
the 3,500 miles around the Arabian Peninsula, likely painted
up like commercial 707 cargo aircraft, transiting
international airspace to a meeting point over the northern
Persian Gulf. At this extreme range, each KC–707 carries
only an estimated 85,000 lbs of fuel to pass to the hungry
F–16Is flying 451 miles from Qom and 350 miles from
F–16I will require at least 5,000 lbs of jet fuel for the
final leg of nearly 1,000 miles through northern Saudi
Arabia then home. Thus, a hinge point in IAF planning; the
Israelis must determine the mix of F–16Is and KC–707s
committed to the mission.
and over the Persian Gulf, given the presence of US Navy and
Air Force AWACS platforms such as the EC–2 Hawkeye and
E–3 Sentry along with SPY–1 radars of US Navy cruisers
and destroyers, the Israelis can have no expectation at all
that the refueling scrum of the F–16Is will go undetected.
During this evolution, any IAF planes too damaged to make it
home can ditch close to a US Navy ship with a reasonable
expectation of rescue.
will depend on what the US does with the information in
hand. Does Obama choose to inform Iraqi and Gulf Cooperation
Council allies of the situation, or will various US radars
simply go into "diagnostic mode", as if operators
cannot believe what they see?
Obama's decision is to watch and listen, the strike group
can try a run for home across northern Saudi Arabia. Here,
the Saudis have a decision. The Saudi Air Force can defend
the kingdom's airspace, possibly taking loses and handing
out same, or the Israelis can bet on G–550s tricking out
the kingdom's air defenses in a manner that gives the Saudis
an excuse to say they were blinded by the IAF and the
non–cooperation of the US.
flying north, the IAF reaps the benefits of plausible
deniability, a political necessity for US and allied Arab
states. These states can honestly say they had no prior
knowledge of IAF planes winging it to Iran with full racks
of missiles and bombs.
option is available to the Israelis to increase the IAF's
odds of flying the northern leg undetected. This choice is
to strike the "Duchy of Nasrallah" – Hezbollah
under Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon – to create cover and
sow confusion. If the IAF is to strike Iran, immediate
blowback is to be expected from Iran–supported Hezbollah's
extensive inventory of unguided missiles.
June 18, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and task
group including the German frigate Hessen in the company of
an unidentified Israeli naval vessel made a fast transit of
the Suez Canal. The Egyptians not only closed the canal to
all traffic, all fishing boats where docked, while the
Egyptian military lined the banks of the canal. All facets
of this passage rank as extraordinary.
is readily apparent that the US Department of State and the
Pentagon collaborated closely with an Arab country to create
a lane of fast transit not only for US Navy assets and an
attached NATO ally, but for an Israeli ship.
more element, the IDF launched their improved Ofek–9
reconnaissance satellite on June 22. Is this a matter of
timing or of coincidence?
are high in the region, yet little could precipitate a full
diplomatic meltdown quicker than for Iran to directly
challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza. And this confrontation
is in no way limited to Israel and Iran. Such a provocation
could easily inflame public opinion in Sunni Arab states,
where leaders are weary of Tehran's grandstanding on the
question of Israel. Tehran's rhetoric of threats toward
Israel politically undermines Arab governments seen as less
fervent on the subject.
reported on June 24 on Iran's canceled designs to directly
test the Gaza blockade. Hossein Sheikholeslam, secretary
general of the International Conference for the Support of
the Palestinian Intifada, said, "In order not to give
the Zionist regime an excuse, we will send the aid through
other routes and without Iran's name."
comment makes little sense, as the point of Iran's aid
exercise was to win the propaganda war against Israel and
Arab states. Whatever Iran's "excuse", there is
reason now to suspect the Tehran regime will back down if
decisively confronted by a motivated and unified coalition
of area states.
David Moon is a regular contributor from the United States.