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Mid-Morning Art Thread | Main | 28 Google Layabouts Stage a Sit-In in the Company's NY and California Offices to Pressure It Into Dropping a Contract With Israel; Google Actually Fires the Radicals
April 18, 2024

Israel vs. Iran [Diogenes]

There was an interesting story in the news the other day following the Iranian attack on Israel, discussing how "surprised and disappointed" the Iranians, Syrians, Yemenis, and their assorted allies in Hamas and Houthis and Hezbollah were. The attack failed and failed spectacularly. And this is being studied in places such as Washington DC, Moscow, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, etc., Just how did Israel pull off such an incredible defense? All know of the Iron Dome over Jerusalem and much of Israel. During the attack on Oct 7, when thousands of missiles and artillery rounds were fired, the Dome mostly did its job and while people were surprised, and pleased, it wasn't exactly unexpected. It has worked before. But the Iranian attack was a three-pronged event using slower drones, faster cruise missiles, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. This was different, not just in who was attacking, but the methodology. The success of the defense has got a lot of people thinking and planning and, frankly, worried.

Being over 29, I can recall back in my youth the days of East vs West...The Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact vs the United States and NATO. Berlin and Europe were divided. Each side had enough nukes to destroy each other several times over. Fortunately, to date the nukes have not been used. There are a lot of reasons for this, but a primary one is called Mutually Assured Destruction, commonly known as MAD. This was the subject of jokes and derision by comics and lefties for years, and yet MAD works. MAD says that you cannot achieve a successful first strike because one side cannot kill enough of the other before they strike back. Simple. So, in a the bi-polar global war scenario, this was stabilizing, and accepted by each side.


The creation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile systems (ABMs) resulted in a series of negotiations, because this was destabilized the MAD doctrine. A viable ABM system allows one side to defeat a first strike, then free it to launch a strike of their own-- and win. So both sides agreed to stop building and limited themselves to one system. The US put its ABM system around some of the missile fields; the Russians put theirs around Moscow.

Now let's consider a Regional Conflict. Over time nuclear weapons have proliferated. Pakistan, India, China, France, and Great Britian have nukes, and likely others such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa (maybe), and presumably, Israel. In the bipolar years, nobody gave much thought to Regional Conflicts. Why? Regional powers didn't have nukes, so why bother. But not anymore. This begs the question then -- and the reason a lot of thinkers are busy late into the night -- can a Regional Nuclear War be fought, and won?

We know now that something on the order of 300 vehicles were launched at Israel of which about 120 were ballistic missiles. Only five of these made it to Israel. The rest were shot down or experienced launch failures or crashed enroute. All the drones and cruise missiles were destroyed. Israel claims that they destroyed 99% of the attacking systems. So the math mostly tracks. The success was due to a layered defense including aircraft from Israel, the US, France, Britian, and Jordan in air defense mode (oh...and the Navy).

Israel's Ballistic Missile Defense system, the Iron Dome is centered on the Arrow 3 (also developed by the US) an exo-atmosphere intercept missile; the Arrow 2 which engages targets in the upper atmosphere (actual altitudes are classified); and for lower level targets (artillery, drones, rockets and missiles that got past the Arrow 2) they use David's Sling. (Gotta love that name!) Iron Dome and the air forces gave Israel a significant defense in depth. Formidable.

So with this background the question today is, is there a regional first strike option in play in the Middle East? Do Israel's enemies have a first strike capability? My opinion? No. Given the Iron Dome defense, the only system that can get through are ballistic missiles and even then, it is a very low probability. It would take hundreds of missiles and warheads (that they don't have) and given a 99% probability of failure, that would be the classic nuking yourself in the foot.

Now, does Israel have a first strike capability? Short answer is, again in my opinion? Yes, assuming they have nukes. The political and international ramifications aside, they could eliminate Iran, or any hostile neighbor easily. Will they do it? Probably not, but it clearly remains an option.

What does it mean for the greater world? In the bi-polar world of the Cold War (East vs West), MAD was stabilizing, and anti-missile systems would upset this stability. But in a non-bi-polar world, where nukes have proliferated, things are more unstable. Ironically (and this is the funny part), a missile defense system is a way to stabilize things. If Regional Country X knows its attack will fail, because it will lose 99% of his missiles, then it won't attack, especially if the warhead falls on its own head, or an ally.

Crazy world huh?

This logic is also a reason the Poles and Czechs were angry at Obama for cancelling the Theater Missile Defense system going into Europe.

Can MAD exist in a regional context? I think it can, but the likelihood of weapon use in oneies and twoies goes up dramatically. More so given there are other delivery options: trains, cars, airlines, etc. Better question is can MAD exist in the Middle East? Just how crazy are the muzzies? This would keep me awake at night.

Now let's flip it. Would it help if Iran had its own Iron Dome? It would certainly help the Iranians, but even with Russian support, they are years away from developing one...and in enough quantity to cover the country. (Hint: Iran is big!)

Lastly, how do you differentiate a “regional” anti-missile system from a “strategic” one? And this is at the heart of international concerns now.

Some interesting days ahead!

["Diogenes" has multiple graduate degrees with a focus on the Middle East, and an Army Intelligence Officer graduate of both the Army and USMC Command and Staff Colleges.]

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:00 AM

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