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THE FUTILITY OF PRE-EMPTION: A DECISION-THEORY MODEL FOR ISRAELS STRATEGIC CHOICE ON IRANS NUCLEAR PROGRAM

By

Kayvon Afshari
Submitted to The Wilf Family Department of Politics New York University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

New York 2012

2012, Kayvon Afshari

Abstract
While Israeli leaders frequently assert that all options are on the table regarding a preemptive strike on Irans nuclear facilities, a unilateral strike is unlikely to materialize based on Israels strategic choice between pre-emption and acceptance laid out in this paper. A utility function assessing the costs and benefits of both choices demonstrates that acceptance of the Iranian nuclear program is clearly the better option than attempting to destroy it. This is because of four primary reasons (1) a pre-emptive attack is unlikely to be successful, (2) Iran is very likely to retaliate after such an attack, (3) Iran possesses a significant non-nuclear arsenal for retaliation, and (4) the costs of a nuclear Iran, while significant, are not threatening enough to make a strike the better option. Safely assuming that Iran, Israel, and the United States are well aware of the important factors discussed in this paper as well as the unattractiveness of the Israeli military option, this paper proposes that American foreign policy should move away from signaling pre-emption and the dual track approach and instead focus on diplomacy including direct engagement. While this will certainly prove difficult, this course of action should be pursued sooner rather than later, since diplomacy would become even more challenging if Iran achieves the technological ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION 2. THE DECISION MAKING MODEL 3. PROBABILITY OF STRIKE SUCCESS 4. PROBABILITY OF IRANIAN RETALIATION 5. NONNUCLEAR RISK 5.1 BALLISTIC MISSILES 5.2 HEZBOLLAH 5.3 HAMAS 5.4 ISRAELI MISSILE DEFENSE 5.5 U.S. RESPONSE 5.5.1 STRAIT OF HORMUZ AND OIL PRICES 5.5.2 AFGHANISTAN 5.6 SYRIAN INVOLVEMENT 5.7 COALITION BREAKUP 5.8 DOMESTIC POLITICS 6. PROBABILITY OF NUCLEAR ACQUISITION 7. NUCLEAR RISK 7.1 FIRST STRIKE 7.2 REGIONAL BALANCE OF POWER 7.3 CRISES BEHAVIOR 1 2 6 9 11 11 12 13 14 16 17 20 21 23 24 25 28 28 31 33

7.4 REGIONAL PROLIFERATION 7.5 NUCLEAR TERRORISM 8. QUANTITATIVE APPROACH 9. ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATIONS 10. CONCLUSION: AMERICAN APPROACH BIBLIOGRAPHY

35 39 41 44 45 47

List of Tables
Table 1: Non-Nuclear Risk Components Table 2: Nuclear Risk Components Table 3: Probabilities of Strike Success and Nuclear Acquisition

List of Abbreviations
CIA HEU IAEA IAF IDF IMF INSS IRGC ISIS LEU MEK NATO NPT SAM Central Intelligence Agency Highly Enriched Uranium International Atomic Energy Agency Israeli Air Force Israel Defense Forces International Monetary Fund Institute for National Strategic Studies Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Institute for Science and International Security Low Enriched Uranium Mujahedin e Khalq North Atlantic Treaty Organization Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Surface to Air Missile

1. Introduction
This paper develops a decision-making model to explain under what circumstances Israel would launch a unilateral pre-emptive strike on Irans nuclear program and under what circumstances it would not do so. The model assesses the costs and benefits of Israels strategic choice between pre-emption and acceptance by incorporating the following four factors: (1) probability of strike success, (2) probability of nuclear acquisition, (3) the risk that non-nuclear retaliation poses, and (4) the risk that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose. After developing the theoretical model, each factor is qualitatively researched at length using open-source material. On the topic of non-nuclear risk, this paper explores the subtopics of ballistic missiles, Hezbollah, Hamas, Israeli missile defense, the American response, the Strait of Hormuz and oil prices, Afghanistan, Syrian involvement, breakup of the sanctions regime, and Iranian domestic politics. With regard to nuclear risk, sections are devoted to first strike, balance of power, crises behavior, and regional proliferation. A specific approach to assessing the concept of risk as a function of threat, vulnerability, and consequences is explained and employed in order to assign values to each of the components. After addressing the qualitative research, which comprises this papers main body of work, the quantitative approach is undertaken using estimates for the requisite values. Based on the qualitative research, the quantitative estimates, and the models functional form, this paper predicts that Israel will not launch a unilateral pre-emptive strike on Irans nuclear program in the next five years.

2. The Decision Making Model


UStrike = PStrikeSuccess x PAcquisition x R*Nuclear - RNonnuclear - (1-PStrikeSuccess) x PAcquisition x RNuclear
Strike Benefits Retaliation Cost Nuclear Retaliation Cost

Unonstrike= - (PAcquisition x RNuclear)


Non-strike Cost

*Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequences

The utility functions outlined above offer a useful framework for conceptualizing how the most important factors interact with one another to shape Israels strategic choice on whether to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive strike on Irans nuclear facilities. The four most salient factors are (1) probability of strike success (PStrikeSuccess), (2) probability of nuclear acquisition (PAcquisition), (3) the risk that non-nuclear retaliation poses (RNonNuclear), and (4) the risk that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose (RNuclear). The benefits of a successful strike are equal to the risk that Iranian nuclear weapons would pose, since a successful strike is defined as preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability in the next five years, the timeline employed in this paper. In order to capture the benefits and uncertainty of the strike option, this model multiplies the risk of Iranian nuclear weapons (RNuclear) by the probability Iran will acquire a weapons capability (PAcquisition) and by the probability that a strike would be successful (PStrikeSuccess). This essentially represents the benefits of a strike, and its value strictly increases as the probabilities approach 1 and the risk compounds. Theoretically, if the probability of strike success (PStrikeSuccess) were zero, then regardless of the risk level (RNuclear) and the likelihood of acquiring a weapons capability (PAcquisition), Israel would not benefit at all from striking.

This utility is subtracted by the risk of a broad non-nuclear response, representing a retaliatory cost of pre-emption, with strictly decreasing utility from increasing values for RNonnuclear. The sources of this response include components like Irans non-nuclear arsenal as well as the American response. Finally, Israel must consider the possibility that her pre-emptive strike may prove unsuccessful and lead to a nuclear retaliation. This is captured by multiplying nuclear risk (RNuclear) by the likelihood of acquisition (PAcquisition) and by the probability a strike will be unsuccessful (1- PStrikeSuccess). Theoretically, if a strike were certain to be successful (PStrikeSuccess = 1), then this term would equal zero and Israel would be unconcerned about the chances of nuclear retaliation. In terms of the non-strike option, the costs to Israel are equal to its expected chances Iran would acquire a nuclear weapons capability multiplied by the requisite risk it would face. This signifies the costs of acceptance, and creates decreasing utility as the terms values increase. While non-strikes utility is by definition negative, this paper argues that the cost of acceptance is greater than the cost of pre-emption. Because of this inequality and the safe assumption that Israel will pursue a course that suits its interests, Israel will not strike. This paper employs the Israeli red line with regard to Irans nuclear development, rather than the US definition of an assembled weapon. This red line was outlined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak as the moment most of the uranium is being enriched at a protected site, also referred to as Irans immune space.1

Avi Issacharoff, Israel and U.S. at Odds over Timetables and Red Lines for Iran, Haaretz, January 15, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/printedition/news/israel-and-u-s-at-odds-over-timetables-and-red-lines-for-iran-1.407346.

In addition, this paper utilizes a common risk assessment approach similar to the Risk Analysis and Management for Critical Asset Protection (RAMCAP) developed by ASME Innovative Technologies Institute. Under this framework, risk is calculated as the product of threat, vulnerability, and consequences. The threat is measured between 0 and 1 and represents the likelihood that a specific attack will be intended and initiated for example the likelihood an aggressor would launch a given quantity of missiles. According to the RAMCAP definition, threat is: Any indication, circumstance or event with the potential to cause the loss of, or damage to, an asset or population. [] [T]hreat is based on the analysis of the intention and capability of an adversary to undertake actions that would be detrimental to an asset or population.2

The vulnerability is also measured between 0 and 1 and represents the targets inability to suppress an already-initiated attack such as the unsuccessful rate of missile defense. The RAMCAP framework offers a more specific definition of vulnerability: Any weakness in an assets or infrastructures design, implementation or operation that can be exploited by an adversary. Such weaknesses can occur in building characteristics, equipment properties, personnel behavior, locations of people, equipment and buildings or operational and personnel practices.3

Finally, for the purposes of this paper the consequences are measured relatively between 0 and 10 and capture the cost that a successful attack would impose for example the comparative payloads between various ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapon. Consequences are defined by the RAMCAP framework as:

Risk Analysis and Management for Critical Asset Protection (Washington, D.C.: ASME Innovative Technologies Institute, LLC, May 2006), 12. Ibid.

The outcome of an event occurrence, including immediate, short and long-term, direct and indirect losses and effects. Loss may include human casualties, monetary and economic damages and environmental impact, and may also include less tangible and therefore less quantifiable effects, including political ramifications, decreased morale, reductions in operational effectiveness or other impacts.4

With these definitions and the common risk assessment approach in mind, one can begin qualitatively researching the most important factors shaping Israels strategic choice. The four variables addressed in this paper are (1.) the probability of strike success, (2.) the risk of Irans nonnuclear arsenal, (3.) the probability of Iranian nuclear acquisition, and (4.) the risk of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Ibid.

3. Probability of Strike Success


The Iranians learned the lessons of Israels 1981 strike on Osirak and have distributed their many nuclear facilities throughout the country, making it near impossible for Israel to destroy all of them.5 Instead, to successfully pre-empt, the Israeli Air Force would have to strike at least the two uranium enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordow, which would cut off the Islamic Republic from the ability to indigenously enrich weapons grade uranium. Naturally, these two sites are the most difficult to destroy and are underground with concrete reinforcements. They would also likely have to destroy the Arak heavy water reactor, which could be used to reprocess spent fuel into a plutonium bomb. Natanz is Irans main enrichment site and includes two large halls located between 8-23 meters underground protected by multiple layers of concrete, requiring a sustained bombing campaign. Analysts Austin Long and Whitney Raas concluded that if the Israeli Air Force used twenty-five 5,000-pound bunker busters there was still only a 45% chance of success.6 The Fordow uranium enrichment site is located in a mountain under 90 meters of rock and concrete and is substantially tougher to target than Natanz.7 While Long believes success is possible, he wrote that destroying it would require targeting many weapons on a single aimpoint to burrow through rock, and this has never been attempted against a target buried this deep. He concluded that if the angle-of-arrival control was good, there was anywhere between a 35-90% success rate. Beyond destructibility, Israels second challenge that lowers PStrikeSuccess is traveling the distance between Israels borders and Irans enrichment sites, which poses the following four

Whitney Raas and Austin Long, Osirak Redux? Assessing Israeli Cpaabilities to Destroy Iranian Nuclear Facilities, International Security 31, no. 4 (2007): 12. 6 Ibid. 7 Austin Long, Can They?, Tablet Magazine, November 18, 2011, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/83631/can-they/.

sub-challenges: routes, rights, refueling, and return. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009, said in January that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Irans nuclear program were beyond the capacity of Israel, in part because of the distance and the scale of the task.8 The distance to Natanz is about 1,600 kilometers, and Israel would likely have to traverse Saudi Arabia or Iraq. At the moment, it remains unclear whether Saudi Arabia would stand down its air defenses to allow Israel a corridor.9 The shorter route would be via Iraq, which may not create air defense problems, as the United States has withdrawn its aircraft and radars, and Iraq takes over.10 However, Iraqs airspace may be bolstered in the years to come as it seeks a joint defense agreement with neighboring Gulf countries.11 Furthermore, the distance would mean that Israels fighter jets would have to refuel, and doing so in hostile airspace is a difficult operation with a low probability that they would escape.12 This is partially because Israel is not thought to have sufficient airborne refueling planes. According to IHS Janes, Israel has eight KC-707 American made tankers, though it is not clear how many of them are operational.13 Furthermore, Janes adds that the tankers would then have to be protected by ever more fighter planes, causing the required numbers to skyrocket.

Elisabeth Bumiller, Iran Raid Seen as Complex Task for Israeli Military, The New York Times, February 19, 2012, sec. World / Middle East, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/world/middleeast/iran-raid-seen-as-complex-task-for-israeli-military.html. 9 Saudi Arabia: We Will Not Give Israel Air Corridor for Iran Strike, Haaretz, December 6, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacydefense/saudi-arabia-we-will-not-give-israel-air-corridor-for-iran-strike-1.295672. 10 Long, 2011 11 Iraq Officials Seek Air Defense Deal with Gulf, The Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2011, http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=248086. 12 Rick Francona, Iran - Israels Air Strike Options Update, Middle East Perspectives by Rick Francona, June 22, 2008, http://francona.blogspot.com/2008/06/iran-israels-air-strike-options-update.html. 13 Bumiller, Iran Raid Seen as Complex Task for Israeli Military.

Finally, the Iranian air defense system will also lower the likelihood of strike success. After much back-and-forth, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev stopped a deal to sell the more advanced S-300 surface-to-air system in September 2010, which would have greatly improved Tehrans capabilities.14 Instead, Iran operates a mix of the S-200 and a variant of the US Hawk SAM systems, as well as 29 of its more advanced Tor mobile short-range system15 In addition, an Iranian general claimed they have developed their own indigenous version of the S-300 SAM system, which he said would surpass the Russian system.16 Regardless of the veracity of this claim, because destroying a fortified site like Fordow would require at least 40 minutes of bombing, which may still be insufficient, as plumes from each strike could interfere with laser designation, Long determines that this would give even the inferior Iranian air defense substantial opportunity to interfere with the strike.17 Because the Arak and Esfehan sites are above ground and are not fortified, they do not present the same challenge of destructibility that Fordow or Natanz do. Nonetheless, taking out two additional sites would further complicate an already complicated operation and increase the numbers of strike aircraft and refueling aircraft needed. Indeed, the challenges presented by destructibility, multiple locations, distance, air rights, refueling, and target air defense suggest that PStrikeSuccess is not high.

14 15

Chapter Seven: Middle East and North Africa, The Military Balance 111, no. 1 (2011): 299. Ibid. 16 Better Than S-300: Iran Boasts of Air Defense System RT, September 21, 2011, http://rt.com/news/iran-air-defense-system-015/. 17 Long, 2011

4. Probability of Iranian Retaliation


Whether the operation proved successful or not, Israel would not be dragged into war as some speculate, rather it will have started the war.18 The probability that Iran would retaliate against a strike is very high because Iran has a low threat threshold, and the governments antiIsrael stance is fundamental to its regional strategy and domestic legitimacy. In 1981, Israel was able to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor without reprisals because Iraq had a very high threshold for threat at the time.19 Iraq was in the early, deadly phase of a full-scale war with Iran to the east, significantly constraining Saddam Hussein from opening a war with Israel to his west. Iran in 2011, on the other hand, does not face any resource-consuming constraints nearly as costly as the Iran-Iraq War. To the contrary, the maneuverability of its military capabilities has increased precipitously since the ouster of hostile governments in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Unsurprisingly, Irans military leaders have publicly asserted they would retaliate.20 Secondly, Iranian reprisals are almost certain to materialize because an anti-Israel stance is central to the strategy and legitimacy of the revolutionary government. Since 1979, the Islamic Republics regional program has focused on attaining soft power through the ideology of political Islam in order to bridge the Arab-Persian divide.21 As such, its leaders seek to highlight and capitalize on alleged injustices committed by Israel or what they refer to as the Zionist Entity. Succumbing to an Israeli massive bombing campaign on its prized nuclear facilities

18

Amy Teibel, Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister, Will Not Rule Out Iran Strike, Huffington Post, November 8, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/ehud-barak-israel-iran_n_1081394.html. Tom Moriarty, Entering the Valley of Uncertainty, World Affairs 167, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 73. 20 Herb Keinon, Iran Would Hit Israels Nuclear Facilities If Attacked, The Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2011, http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=247035. 21 Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi, Arab Spring Seen From Tehran, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, July 16, 2011.
19

would be a pill too big to swallow, as it would extinguish Irans soft power campaign among Arabs, 77% of whom believe Iran has the right to its nuclear program.22 Thirdly, the Iranian leadership would have a strong domestic incentive to retaliate because Iranian citizens support the nuclear program and would likely rally around the flag in the face of an unprovoked military attack. A recent RAND Corporation survey found that even Iranian citizens against the leadership are very nationalistic and would demand a response to an attack on their sovereignty. The report added that a significant portion of the Iranian population supports the pursuit of a civil and possibly military nuclear capability.23 For these reasons, it is clear that Iran will retaliate against an overt strike on its territory.

In addition, 57% of Arabs said they believe that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons it would be more positive for the region Shibley Telhami, 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll (Brookings Institution, August 5, 2010), http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/0805_arab_opinion_poll_telhami.aspx. 23 Sarah Beth Elson and Alireza Nader, What Do Iranians Think?: A Survey of Attitudes on the United States, the Nuclear Program, and the Economy, Product Page (RAND Corporation, 2011), http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR910.html.
22

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5. Nonnuclear Risk
Given that retaliation is highly likely, Israeli leaders must be looking very closely at the risk that Irans asymmetric options and conventional weapons pose, as well as the broader regional impacts, which this paper categorizes as non-nuclear risk. Specifically, they must consider the threat, vulnerability, and consequences of (1) Iranian ballistic missiles, (2) Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon, (3) attacks from Palestinian resistance groups, (4) the American response, (5) Irans capacity to temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz, (6) Irans ability to threaten American interests in Afghanistan, (7) the probability of Syrian involvement, (8) how the international coalition supporting sanctions would respond, and (9) the effects on Iranian domestic politics. While some may argue that Iranian retaliation would be limited in order to take mere face-saving measures and avoid entering a prolonged conflict, the bloody history of the Iran-Iraq War suggests that this is not the case. Instead, Iran would be more likely to retaliate swiftly and devastatingly, likely creating a downward spiral of attacks and counterattacks between the two adversaries.

5.1 Ballistic Missiles


The greatest direct threat to Israel from Irans conventional forces is its large ballistic missiles program, the largest deployed ballistic missile force in the Middle East.24 While precise figures are unclear, several sources believe that a variant of the Shahab-3, renamed the Ghadr-1, carries a 750-kilogram payload and extends the missiles range to about 1,600 kilometers.25

24 25

Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess Jr., Irans Military Power (Washington, D.C., 2010), 9. Michael Elleman, Irans Ballistic Missile Program, The United States Institute of Peace, The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy (December 2010).

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Additionally, the newer Sajjil-2 carries a similar payload and a range of about 2,200 km, placing all of Israel within its reach. It also offers the strategic advantage of a shorter launch preparation, meaning it is less vulnerable to pre-emption.26 However, as former UN weapons inspector Michael Elleman points, the main shortcoming of Irans ballistic missiles is their accuracy. While they may prove mediocre or unsuccessful at destroying single fixed military targets, they could be used more effectively as a political tool to intimidate or terrorize an adversarys urban areas, increasing pressure for resolution or concessions.27 While it is difficult to predict how many it might launch, former commander of the Israel Air Force Eitan Ben Eliahu estimates based on past behavior during the Gulf War that Iran might launch between 250 to 300 medium-range missiles.28

5.2 Hezbollah
Beyond conventional warfare, Israel would have difficulty defending against asymmetric warfare fought via proxies. Iran would very likely respond to a pre-emptive strike by directing and supporting Hezbollah to initiate attacks worse than the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. While figures are disputed, according to reports published by the Wall Street Journal, Hezbollah has amassed as many as 50,000 rockets, including guided missiles that can strike targets in Tel Aviv.29 In addition, the organizations leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a 2011 speech that fighters were being trained to slip across the border into Israel in the next war.30

26 27

Ibid. Ibid. 28 Yossi Melman, How Many Missiles Will Be Fired from Iran, Syria, Lebanon in the Next War?, Haaretz, March 7, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/how-many-missiles-will-be-fired-from-iran-syria-lebanon-in-the-next-war-1.248980. 29 Nicholas Blanford, Hezbollah Waits and Prepares, Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2011, sec. Essay, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203699404577044150277949624.html. 30 Ibid.

12

According to the annual Military Balance 2012, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Lebanese group possesses more than 10,000 Katyusha rockets, as well as Fajr-3, Fajr-5 Zelzal-2s, Fateh-110s, an estimated 10 Scud-D missiles, as well as M-600 rockets and Iranian-made C-802 anti-ship missiles.31 During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired almost 4,000 rockets and missiles killing fourdozen Israeli civilians in northern Israel. Today, their stocks are much higher than the 30,000 they previously possessed and include missiles with much longer ranges and payloads as well as the Scuds capable of striking deep into Israel from deep inside Lebanon.32 Israel may choose to launch a simultaneous, pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah in coordination with a strike on Iran. While this would give the IDF the benefit of a surprise attack, the political implications would be costly, according to former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel. He points out that sympathy for Persian Iran may be limited in the Arab world, but sympathy for Arab Lebanon would be higher, especially if Israel were to strike first. Israel can expect condemnation from many quarters for any attack on Iran; it would get more if it were also at war with Hezbollah, and bombing Beirut.33

5.3 Hamas
Similarly, Irans elite Qods Force would likely attempt to use its relationship with Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionist groups to open up a third front in the war from the Gaza Strip as well as inside Israel proper. However, the shifting regional landscape and altering alliances suggest that Hamas may prefer to remain on the sidelines of any broader war between Israel and

31 32

Chapter Eleven: Non-State Groups and Affiliates, The Military Balance 112, no. 1 (February 2012): 481. Bruce Riedel, Israels Dilemma: If It Attacks Iran, Will It Also Have to Hit Hezbollah?, Brookings Institute (February 9, 2012), http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2012/0209_iran_israel_riedel.aspx. 33 Ibid.

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Iran. In fact, a member of the organizations political bureau, Salah Bardawil, said recently, If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war.34 He specifically denied that the group would launch rockets at Israel, even if Iran requested so in response to an attack on its nuclear facilities. While these statements reflect a broader organizational shift away from Iran and Syria as benefactors and toward its Muslim Brotherhood roots, given the bloody history between Hamas and Israel, Netanyahu and his advisors must still consider the probability that Hamas would get involved. The Gaza-based militant group may feel political pressure from the Arab street to get involved, especially if Lebanon is attacked as a result of spiraling counterattacks, or they may simply seize on the opportunity to strike at their adversary when she is preoccupied on multiple fronts. If Hamas goes down this path, their proximity to Israel allows them to conduct attacks with relative ease. The militant group possesses small arms and light weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and artillery rockets.35 While it would be unable to conduct successful attacks against Israeli military targets, it could sow fear in urban areas through multiple terrorist attacks on civilian populations.

5.4 Israeli Missile Defense


When considering the various missile threats that Israel would face from Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran, it is important to consider the role that missile defense would play in decreasing the vulnerability of these various attacks. The United States provided $205 million in

34

35

Hamas Rules Out Military Support for Iran in Any War with Israel, The Guardian, March 6, 2012, sec. World news, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/06/hamas-no-military-aid-for-iran. Chapter Eleven: Non-State Groups and Affiliates, 481.

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2011 to help fund the new Iron Dome system, and Israel is currently seeking an additional $700 million to fund additional batteries and other air-defense weapons.36 Israels new Iron Dome system was recently put to the test in a spate of Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and performed well, according to reports. The Pentagon said that the system successfully shot down 80%, while the Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF said the success rate was 90%.37, 38 The Iron Dome system currently has three batteries deployed in the south to protect against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and is designed to destroy rockets with a range of 4 to 70 kilometers with interceptors that cost about $50,000.39 It is important to note that in absolute terms the system intercepted 27 missiles in the recent episodes, making it difficult to predict its success rate in a sustained barrage of missiles. The Arrow missile defense system is a more-established system, which began joint development with the United States in the 1980s. It is capable of intercepting longer-range ballistic missiles than the Iron Dome system and thus can reduce the vulnerability to Hezbollah, Syrian, and Iranian missiles. While it has not been battle-tested and much is not publicly known about the systems current iteration, the Arrow 3, Israels goal is to achieve a 99.9 per cent success rate by employing a multi-tiered approach that would provide three independent discrete opportunities for interception.40 Using this approach, the Ariel Center for Policy Research concluded in a 2006 editorial that the Arrow 3s interception probability of an incoming ballistic

36

Israel Seeks $700M from U.S. for Missile Defense, UPI, April 6, 2012, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/SecurityIndustry/2012/04/06/Israel-seeks-700M-from-US-for-missile-defense/UPI-98821333737171/. Dan Murphy, Why Israel Is Even Less Likely to Strike Iran Now, The Christian Science Monitor, Back Channels, April 2, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2012/0402/Why-Israel-is-even-less-likely-to-strike-Irannow?cmpid=ema:nws:Daily%20Custom%202%20(04022012)&cmpid=ema:nws:NzQ4MDUzMDYyMAS2. 38 Yaakov Katz and Yaakov Lappin, Iron Dome Ups Its Interception Rate to over 90%, www.JPost.com, March 10, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=261257. 39 Ibid. 40 Arie Stav, The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East: Active Defense and Counter-measures (Sussex Academic Press, 2004), 38.
37

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missile was between 90 and 99.9 per cent.41 It is important to point out, however, that each interceptor costs between $2 million to $3 million, and that it remains to be seen how the Arrow 3 performs in the heat of battle.42

5.5 U.S. Response


In addition to missile threats that would be directed at Israel, the Jewish State also derives negative utility to the extent that Iranian attacks against US interests impact its relationship with its strategic partner. In particular, Iran has the ability to temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz, strike American military assets in the Gulf, as well as significantly complicate the American presence in Afghanistan. Thus far, it seems that the Obama administration has calculated that a Middle East war and tension in a strategic waterway would drive up oil prices, possibly sending the United States into a second recession, and severely decreasing the Presidents likelihood of re-election. In addition, the United States is worried about the possibility of becoming entangled in a broader regional war. In fact, a classified war simulation held in March 2011 and reported in The New York Times forecast that a unilateral Israeli pre-emptive strike would draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead.43 The war game also found that whether or not the United States was told of the unilateral attack in advance, Iran would believe that the United States and Israel were partners in any strike, and therefore considered American forces in the area to be legitimate targets. Iranian jets chased Israeli warplanes after the attack, and Iranians

41 42

Ibid. Eyeing Iran, Israel Slates Missile Shield for 2015, Ynet News, November 15, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L3985020,00.html. 43 Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, U.S. Simulation Forecasts Perils of an Israeli Strike at Iran, The New York Times, February 19, 2012, sec. World / Middle East, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/world/middleeast/united-states-war-game-sees-dire-results-of-an-israeli-attack-oniran.html.

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launched missiles at a US warship in the Gulf, which led to American retaliation and eventually spiraled into a broader war.44 For these reasons, the Obama administration has managed to convey to the Netanyahu government that the United States does not support a pre-emptive strike unless it is absolutely necessary and that it is not yet absolutely necessary. In fact, even if Iran were to test a nuclear weapon, the United States would still pressure Israel to exercise restraint, according to a simulation by the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. In the aftermath of Irans hypothetical nuclear test, the US administration exerted heavy behind-the-scenes pressure on Israel not to wage a military strike against Iran, with an implied threat that an Israeli action would harm US-Israel relations.45 Instead, the US examined the possibility of a formal defense pact or including Israel as a NATO member. The Israeli cost that an American response imposes is made up of two subcomponents: (1.) the Strait of Hormuz and oil prices, and (2.) Iranian retaliation in Afghanistan. 5.5.1 Strait of Hormuz and Oil Prices Irans naval war games are intended to send a clear signal to Israel, the United States, and the international community: that the Revolutionary Guards have the capability and to close off the Strait of Hormuz. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey seems to partly agree, telling CBS News Face the Nation, Theyve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz, adding, Weve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.46

44 45

Ibid. Yoel Guzansky and Yonathan Lerner, Iran: A Strategic Simulation (Institute for National Security Studies, January 2012), 6. 46 Kathleen Hunter and Viola Gienger, Iran Able to Block Strait of Hormuz, General Dempsey Says on CBS, Bloomberg, January 9, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-08/iran-able-to-block-strait-of-hormuz-general-dempsey-tells-cbs.html.

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How long exactly that period of time would last would prove vitally important, as it would precipitate an oil shock from a strategic waterway. About one fifth of globally traded oil and 90% of Persian Gulf oil passes through this narrow transit point on Irans southern border, and, as such, its stability affects the price of oil as well as the world economy.47, 48 Iran has taken steps to arm itself along its southern maritime border and thus beef up its strategy of deterrence in the Strait of Hormuz. In particular, the IRGC maintains more than 100 ships, as well as many smaller coastal patrol speedboats, which are difficult to detect with radar, and can easily outmaneuver the large surface combatants deployed by the US. In addition, Iran has acquired modern weaponry in support of asymmetric naval warfare such as magnetic, acoustic, and pressure-sensitive mines, ship launched missiles, and four to seven miniature submarines. In particular, Irans C-801 and C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles can be used to disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf by attacking commercial ships.49 According to an analysis in International Security, if Iran managed to lay even a relatively small number of its large stockpile of mines in the Strait, it could take many weeks or months for the United States to clear it and restore the full flow of commerce, and even more time for the oil markets to be convinced that stability had returned.50 Moreover, the IMF calculated that an interruption in oil supplies from Iran could increase oil prices by 20 to 30%, with serious consequences for the global economy, while the Government Accountability Office said the immediate effects could cause the price of oil to rise to $200.51,
52

Moodys

Analytics concluded that the US economy would be driven into recession, 2.3 million jobs would

47 48 49

Ibid. C. Talmadge, Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz, International Security 33, no. 1 (2008): 82. Chapter Seven: Middle East and North Africa, 298. 50 Talmadge, Closing Time., 84. 51 IMF Warns of Oil Risk from Iran, FRANCE 24, March 20, 2012, http://www.france24.com/en/20120320-imf-warns-oil-risk-iran. 52 Steve Simon, An Israeli Strike on Iran, Council on Foreign Relations Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 5, November 2009.

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be lost by the first quarter of 2013 compared to the baseline, and real GDP would contract by an annualized 1.1% in the second quarter of 2012.53 However, as Iran expert and former National Security Council staff member Gary Sick points out, it is not just the strategic waterway that could be used to disrupt oil prices. In retaliating against an Israeli attack (that would be perceived as carried out with American coordination), there could be unexplained pipeline explosions in Iraq, which might remove another million barrels per day, attacks on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, as well as cyberattacks and sabotage on Arab delivery and loading ports along the Gulf.54 Nevertheless, there are mitigating steps that could dampen somewhat the effects of an oil disruption, including Saudi Arabia tapping its surplus and the United States releasing its strategic reserves. Saudi Arabias oil minister, Ali Naimi, says the Kingdom has a surplus of 2.5 million barrels per day that it can bring on to the market if needed.55 However, this may be an overly optimistic scenario of Saudi Arabias usual role as the markets swing supplier. While the Saudis and others offset the missing 1.5 million barrels a day during the Libyan crisis, an Iranian cutoff would present a greater challenge of 2.2 million bpd. Furthermore, the Kingdoms own domestic energy demand has increased steadily at 10% per year and now consumes more than a quarter of its own oil production nearly 3 million bpd.56 According to journalist and author Jim Krane,

53

Chris Lafakis, Odds and Costs of an Iran Oil Shock, Moodys Analytics Dismal Scientist, March 7, 2012, http://www.economy.com/dismal/article_free.asp?cid=229078&tid=5FCB4BBF-D759-422D-BD25-BFF7D505D457. 54 Gary Sick, What If Israel Bombs Iran? - CNN.com, CNN, March 30, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/30/opinion/sick-israeliran/index.html. 55 Guy Chazan in Doha and Geoff Dyer in Washington, Saudis Battle to Calm Oil Fears, Financial Times, March 20, 2012, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0d34f9fe-72b6-11e1-9be9-00144feab49a.html. 56 Jim Krane, The End of the Saudi Oil Reserve Margin, Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2012, sec. Opinion, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303816504577319571732227492.html?mod=googlenews_wsj.

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evidence of Saudi Arabias diminished role since the 1970s as swing provider is the fact that American gas prices are near $4 per gallon in an election season.57 Another step would be the US opening its strategic petroleum reserve to ease the supply disruption. The domestic stock consists of about 695.9 million barrels of oil;58 in 2011, the country consumed approximately 19 million barrels per day.59 Based on this average daily consumption, the strategic oil reserve could meet domestic demand on its own for 36.6 days. Still, with jobs, gas prices, and the economy looming in the minds of American voters this election season, the prospects of a Middle East crisis affecting oil supply routes would have a devastating impact on Obamas reelection campaign. Naturally, the Netanyahu administration would not want to sow tension in their relationship with the American President, and thus must consider this non-nuclear risk when assessing their strategic choice on preemption. 5.5.2 Afghanistan Another non-nuclear retaliatory risk to the Obama administration is Irans capacity to increase anti-Americanism and violence in Afghanistan, as the US prepares to withdraw troops in 2014. Despite the sectarian and ideological disputes between Irans Shia ayatollahs and Afghanistans Sunni Taliban leaders, the two groups met in Tehran for an Islamic Awakening conference in September 2011.60 The conference, attended by more than 700 scholars and political figures, is an example of Irans efforts to cultivate deeper ties with the insurgent group in order to influence Afghanistan as the American role begins to recede. The cooperation,

57 58

Ibid. Strategic Petroleum Reserve Inventory, Strategic Petroleum Reserve Project Management Office (United States Department of Energy, February 29, 2012), http://www.spr.doe.gov/dir/dir.html. 59 International Energy Statistics, Independent Statistics & Analysis (U.S. Energy Information Administration, n.d.), http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3.cfm. 60 Ernesto Londoo, Irans Hosting of Taliban Reflects Desire for Greater Role, The Washington Post, September 29, 2011, sec. World, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/irans-hosting-of-taliban-reflects-desire-for-greaterrole/2011/09/28/gIQAkmwO7K_story.html.

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however, also extends to the military realm as well, as some US military and intelligence officials have claimed that Iran is helping train Taliban fighters within its borders.61 Furthermore, the New York Times reported that in the wake of the recent Quran burning scandal, Iranian agents operating inside Afghanistan tried to instigate violent protests in order to exploit public outrage, according to American officials.62 More importantly, General John Allen testified in front of Congress that Iran continued to fuel the flames of violence by supporting the insurgency, and that Iran could do more if they chose to, but they have not.63 In particular, NATO forces are watching for the possible delivery by Iran of more advanced weapons including explosively formed projectiles that have proven deadly in Iraq by piercing American armored vehicles. Should Iran choose to do more, as General Allen pointed out, in retaliation for what it would perceive as a joint pre-emptive strike, it would indeed represent a risk to the Obama administrations withdrawal and a cost to Israels strategic partnership with the United States.

5.6 Syrian Involvement


Because of Syrias intense domestic instability, the role that it would play in the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran is one of the hardest factors to reasonably predict. The ongoing civil war and internal threats to Assads rule will likely push his reaction to a strike toward the extremities: constrained rhetorical attacks or an active military assault. On the one hand, Bashar al-Assad is facing the most serious and sustained threat to his rule since taking over from his father in 2000. His brutal campaign to quell the revolt is

61

Taliban Fighters Training in Iran, U.S. Officials Say, CNN, March 23, 2010, http://articles.cnn.com/2010-03-23/world/iran.taliban_1_talibanfighters-afghan-taliban-iranian-official?_s=PM:WORLD. 62 Thomas Schmitt, Alissa J. Rubin, and Eric Shanker, Irans Efforts to Stir Afghan Violence Provoke Concern, The New York Times, April 4, 2012, sec. World / Asia Pacific, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/05/world/asia/irans-efforts-to-stir-afghan-violence-provoke-concern.html. 63 Ibid.

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exhausting a great deal of government resources and time, and has led to several high-profile defections. Intuitively, it would seem that the last action the Syrian President would undertake would be to engage in a war with his neighbor, since it may utilize scarce military resources that could better serve his tenacious grip on power at home. On the other hand, he could pursue an externalization strategy, betting that he could galvanize the majority of Syrians against their long-standing enemy and rekindle his governments ostensible legitimacy by striking Israel. In order to convince average Syrians to rally around the flag, he would likely begin with immediate rhetorical attacks on the Jewish State for striking a fellow Islamic state and Assads only remaining regional ally, as well as reminders of the need to recapture the Golan Heights. In fact, according to new information, Iranian officials seem to be advising the Syrian President to pursue precisely this externalization strategy in order to distract Syrians from the problems at home and focus on their southern border instead. In emails that were allegedly intercepted by the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group, Iranian officials recommended that Assad divert attention toward Israel and the Palestinian cause in order to deflect criticism of his crackdown. According to one of the alleged memos, an Iranian official wrote, Here the subject of Israel comes up and it becomes necessary to put stress on the particular merits of the president by linking the foreign pressures on Syria, which differs in its toughness and content to other countries in crisis, with the geographical proximity to Israel and the position of the people and the regime towards Israel.64 Whether Assad would follow this apparent diversionary advice to the extent of a military operation is unclear, but it is certainly a factor Israel is considering. An active Assad could

64

Robert Booth, Mona Mahmood, and Luke Harding, Exclusive: Secret Assad Emails Lift Lid on Life of Leaders Inner Circle, The Guardian, March 14, 2012, sec. World news, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/14/assad-emails-lift-lid-inner-circle.

22

retaliate by delivering arms to Hezbollah or by serving as a conduit for Iranian arms transfers. Additionally, because of the close proximity and shared border, Syria could launch its own ballistic missiles or chemical weapons at its neighbor. As former CIA officer Bruce Riedel wrote recently, Since Syria has several hundred Scud missiles, and toxic-chemical warheads for them, the country is a serious military problem for any planner contemplating action.65

5.7 Coalition Breakup


Israels leadership also must consider that a pre-emptive strike imposes the risk of breaking up an anti-Iran coalition that has taken a great deal of diplomatic effort to craft. While the latest round of multilateral Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran included the support of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China, it is very unlikely that this coalition would remain intact in the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike. As Gary Sick points out, Both the Europeans and the Americans had operated on the tacit belief that crippling sanctions were an alternative to war. With the outbreak of war, that assumption would no longer be valid.66 Furthermore, all relevant UN resolutions on the Iranian nuclear program have been carefully written to avoid similar loopholes that allowed the United States to claim legal authority for striking Iraq. This was done specifically because most of the nations supporting sanctions are resolutely opposed to military action.67 Therefore, a pre-emptive strike would include the requisite cost to Israel of a diminished international diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran.

65 66

Riedel, Israels Dilemma. Sick, What If Israel Bombs Iran?. 67 Tony Karon, Will the Elections Change Obamas Iran Policy?, Time, November 3, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2029201,00.html.

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5.8 Domestic Politics


Finally, Netanyahu and his advisors are likely considering the effect that a pre-emptive strike would have on Iranian politics and the Islamic Republics domestic popularity. Since the Green Movements spark was lit and harshly extinguished after the 2009 elections, observers have been wondering whether the demonstrations across the Arab world will return to Tehran. Despite the noticeable impotence of the movement to affect Iranian politics today, there remains a great deal of homegrown restiveness, especially among Tehrans youth. An overt pre-emptive strike on Irans territory by Israel could go a long way in reversing that trend. Despite frustration with the government, the nuclear program actually enjoys popularity in Iran, where it is viewed as a symbol of national pride. According to a 2011 RAND Corporation survey, 87% of Iranians strongly favor the development of nuclear energy for civilian use, and 98% believe it is a national right. On the issue of assembling a nuclear weapon, 41% strongly oppose it while 32% strongly favor it 68 Regardless of their position on a weapon, Iranian citizens would very likely rally to support their government in the face of an unprovoked military attack on an ostensibly civilian program that has yet to produce a single bomb. This effect would help externalize the Islamic Republics domestic challenges, and would rekindle the governments legitimacy, presenting a longer-term problem for Israels approach to dealing with Iran. Clearly, the costs of retaliation are both high and multifaceted, from ballistic missile warfare likely involving countervalue targets, proxy terrorist attacks on civilians, a temporary closure of a strategic waterway, breaking up the anti-Iran coalition, and the other costs outlined in this section.
68

Elson and Nader, What Do Iranians Think?: A Survey of Attitudes on the United States, the Nuclear Program, and the Economy, 11.

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6. Probability of Nuclear Acquisition


One of the significant issues of contention between the United States and Israel over Irans nuclear program is where exactly the red line that would prompt military action should be drawn. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta outlined the American red line on Face the Nation as the development of a nuclear weapon.69 The Israeli red line, however, has a much nearer timetable. Mr. Panettas Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, defined it as Irans zone of immunity, the point at which sufficient stocks of low-enriched uranium as well as working centrifuges have been transferred to the Fordow uranium enrichment plant. Because the plant, built beneath hundreds of feet of mountain, may be immune to a conventional attack, the Israeli pre-emptive strike option would become impotent. Even if the IDF were to successfully destroy all of the other facilities including Arak, Natanz, Isfahan, and Bushehr, Iran would still have a viable path to the bomb via its reinforced Fordow plant. According to intelligence assessments, if Iran were to make the outright decision to weaponize, it would take anywhere from six to 18 months to enrich weapons-grade uranium and assemble a deliverable nuclear device.70 Because this papers model focuses on Israels strategic choice between pre-emption and acceptance, the Israeli definition of a zone of immunity is employed to assess the probability of acquisition. By reviewing the status and recent progress of Irans nuclear work, it is clear that this probability over the next five years is quite high, that is to say, it is highly likely that, barring an attack, Iran will have an immune capability to assemble a nuclear weapon from its heavily reinforced uranium enrichment site at Fordow.

69

70

Face the Nation Transcript: January 8, 2012, Face the Nation (CBS News, January 8, 2012), http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3460_16257354647/face-the-nation-transcript-january-8-2012/. Katz Yaakov, Analysis: Israels Red Line, The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=252902.

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The Institute for Science and International Security, one of the best sources for analyzing Irans nuclear development, offers a useful assessment of the February 2012 IAEA report. In the report, the authors highlight that Fordow currently has four cascades of 174 original design IR-1 centrifuges producing 19.75% low enriched uranium, and that Iran recently installed 2,088 empty centrifuge outer casings along with the requisite feed and withdrawal piping.71 The next step would be to install rotor assemblies to make the centrifuges operational, the timing of which is unclear because of US sanctions preventing the sale of materials, according to Albright. Perhaps more importantly, Irans total LEU production (mostly 3.5% LEU) at its Natanz facility is reported to be 5,451 kg, which, if further enriched to weapons grade, is enough to make over four nuclear weapons, according to ISIS.72 If Iran were to transfer sufficient stocks of its Natanz LEU to its fortified Fordow site, as well as operationalize the currently empty centrifuge casings, it would then reach the zone of immunity and will have met this models definition of nuclear acquisition. However, its certainty is mitigated somewhat by the ongoing covert operations aimed at slowing down or destroying Irans nuclear program. The Stuxnet virus, which altered the rotor speed of Irans centrifuges, along with targeted assassinations of Iranian scientists tied to the nuclear program represents a challenge to Irans path to a bomb capability. While the source of the malware has not been proven, many have suggested that Israel and/or the United States were behind the operation.73 74 75 Similarly, NBC News broadcast an exclusive report in February 2012 in which two senior US officials said that Israels Mossad cooperated with Iranian opposition

71

David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Christina Walrond, ISIS Analysis of IAEA Iran Safeguards Report (Institute for Science and International Security, February 24, 2012), 3. 72 Ibid., 1. 73 William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger, Stuxnet Worm Used Against Iran Was Tested in Israel, The New York Times, January 15, 2011, sec. World / Middle East, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/world/middleeast/16stuxnet.html. 74 US and Israel Blamed for Stuxnet, BBC, March 4, 2011, sec. Technology, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12633240. 75 Falkenrath Interview on Stuxnet Computer Virus - Video, Bloomberg, September 24, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/video/63225920/.

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group Mujahedin e Khalq in the assassination of Iranian scientists.76 Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh recently reported in The New Yorker Magazine that the American Joint Special Operations Command trained the MEK at a site in Nevada from 2005 until sometime before President Obama took office.77 While the cyber warfare and sabotage diminish the value of PAcquisition somewhat by eliminating resources from the program, they cannot cause the level of setback that a successful bombing campaign can. Based on this definition, the development Iran has already undertaken, and the relatively low operational hurdles toward achieving a weapons capability, this paper believes that Iranian acquisition is likely to take place in the next five years.

76

Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, Israel Teams with Terror Group to Kill Irans Nuclear Scientists, U.S. Officials Tell NBC News, Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC News, February 9, 2012), http://rockcenter.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/09/10354553-israel-teams-withterror-group-to-kill-irans-nuclear-scientists-us-officials-tell-nbc-news. 77 Seymour M. Hersh, Our Men in Iran?, The New Yorker Blogs, April 6, 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/04/mek.html.

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7. Nuclear Risk
Certainly one of the most important factors in Israels strategic choice is exactly how much of a risk Iranian nuclear weapons would pose to Israel. Whether in the form of an assembled weapon or an ambiguous capability that has both the weapons design and sufficient stocks of uranium, it is clear that this acquisition would be a regional, and perhaps global, game changer. Coupled with hostile Iranian rhetoric toward the Jewish State, many Israelis view this prospect as a dire threat. On the other hand, some counter that the Iranian-Israeli nuclear dynamic may prove to follow the strict logic of mutually-assured destruction that kept the Cold War cold. Finally, there are non-military implications of Iranian nuclear weapons about which Israel is rightly concerned. In particular, this paper continues to utilize the logically-consistent risk assessment approach to calculating nuclear risk for the following categories: (1.) first strike, (2.) regional balance of power, (3.) regional proliferation, (4.) crises behavior, and (5.) Iranian bandwagoning.

7.1 First Strike


The fundamental discussion over whether Israel should fear an Iranian nuclear first strike centers on whether Irans leaders can be deterred or not. The discussion over whether they can be deterred, in turn, depends on whether they are rational actors or not. Americas top-ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said on CNN, We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.78 Similarly, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded, Tehrans decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush

78

Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China, Fareed Zakaria, GPS, February 17, 2012, http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/17/watch-gps-martin-dempsey-on-syria-iran-and-china/.

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to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.79 Additionally, in 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that, We continue to judge Irans nuclear decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran.80 If Iran is indeed a rational actor capable of calculating the costs and benefits of various decisions, then the logic for deterrence against first-strike with Israel is sound. Indeed, Israel is believed to possess up to 200 nuclear warheads that can be delivered via aircraft, its Jericho 1 SRBMs and Jericho 2 IRBMs, as well as via submarine.81 In particular, its apparent ability to launch a nuclear weapon from a submarine means that even if an aggressor were to destroy all 20,700 square kilometers of Israel, she would still maintain second-strike capability. Furthermore, Iran possesses densely-populated cities and industrial centers, ensuring the presence of countervalue targets for Israel. In fact, in January, Israels Institute for National Security Studies conducted a simulation in which Iran actually tested a nuclear weapon to see how other states would respond. Interestingly in the game, the Israeli Prime Ministers Office asserted that Iran would not be in a hurry to attack Israel, and that Israel is well protected by advanced systems and will know how to respond if necessary, essentially outlining the tenets of deterrence.82 The authors continued: In the days following the test, Israel decided to accelerate the Arrow [missile defense] project and emphasize that Israel has second-strike capability and the capability to afford the decision makers full physical protection, and that Israel itself is well protected The fact that Irans territory is larger than Israels does not make Iran less vulnerable, since ultimately, in the event of a nuclear attack, the targets will be the large

79

Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities: National Intelligence Estimate, National Intelligence Estimate (National Intelligence Council, November 2007). J.R. Clapper, Statement for the Record on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2011), 6. 81 Chapter Seven: Middle East and North Africa, 329. 82 Guzansky and Lerner, Iran: A Strategic Simulation, 10.
80

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cities. Irans cities are just as vulnerable as Israels, and perhaps even more so [emphasis added].83

Clearly then, we can conclude that when calculating the risk posed by nuclear weapons, the threat [intent to initiate use of the weapon] is extremely low. This is not the case, however, when it comes to calculating the vulnerability [ability to defend against an initiated strike] nor the consequences of a nuclear strike on Israel. The vulnerability is very high, since there is no proven method for destroying or impeding the path of a nuke that has already been launched. This has led to the pro-deterrence maxim that the best defense against a nuclear weapon is to have nuclear weapons of your own. Certainly the consequences of a successful nuclear weapons attack are extremely high. Although it has become common to refer to the prospect of a successful Iranian nuclear attack on Israel as an existential threat, the truth is that the consequences are much less damaging and that they could in no way destroy the entire territory of Israel, nor the state. In fact, they could not destroy an entire city. This is because the radius of destruction from an Iranian nuclear weapon would be far smaller than the size of Israel.84 The chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and former military scientist, Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, told the Jerusalem Post in November 2011, One nuclear bomb won't destroy a state, not even a neighborhood in Tel Aviv. An atomic bomb like the one the Iranians want to build has a radius of 500 meters of death and destruction, and 1,000 meters of lighter damage."85 Professor Ben Yisrael elaborated on the theoretical civilian casualties, telling Ynet News in 2007 that, "In Tel Aviv, 20 to 30,000 people live in a 500 meter

83 84

Ibid. Dr. Y, A Quick Note About Iranian Nuclear Weapons..., Federation of American Scientists, Sciencewonk, February 16, 2012, http://www.fas.org/blogs/sciencewonk/2012/02/a-quick-note-about-iranian-nuclear-weapons/. 85 Israel Can Live with Iranian Nuclear Bomb, www.JPost.com, n.d., http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?ID=244919&R=R1.

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radius, a number equivalent to the total count of casualties in all of Israel's wars until today In any case, just like earthquakes we've seen, it doesn't destroy a state in which seven million people live.86 Furthermore, in a February 2012 interview with Russia Today, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy agreed unequivocally that there is no existential threat, adding that I believe the leadership believes that in order to arouse international public opinion, in order to mount pressure on the Iranians, it is necessary to impress upon the world at large that this is a serious international threat. Certainly, this is not to say that the consequences of a successful nuclear attack would not be horrific, as they would create a great deal of death and destruction and would leave the long-term risk of radiation as well. Furthermore the costs are not restricted to the level of physical damage but extend to the realm of economic, political, social, emotional, and mental damage as well. Indeed, it is possible that a successful nuclear explosion could kill some of Israels brightest citizens, bankrupt some of its most important high tech industries, instigate precipitous immigration, decrease exports, and bring about a host of other requisite costs that would come with a nuclear attack. However, in assessing the relative consequences of various military capabilities, it is important not to exaggerate them but to base them in reality. As such, this paper incorporates a high cost for the consequences of a nuclear attack but certainly not an existential cost.

7.2 Regional Balance of Power


Nevertheless, Israeli leaders are likely more concerned about the non-military implications of an Iranian nuclear weapon and what they would mean for the regional balance of

86

MK: Nuclear Bomb Wont Destroy Israel, Ynet, n.d., http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3462993,00.html.

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power. A nuclear weapons capability could go a long way toward achieving Irans quest for reclaiming regional hegemony. As a fallen empire of Achaemenid, Sassanian, and Safavid proportions, regional supremacy is more the norm than the exception in Irans 3,000-year history.87 Because Irans government for the past thirty years is anti-Israel, from the Israeli perspective any increase in the Islamic Republics power in absolute terms will be viewed in the context of a zero-sum game and therefore as a relative loss for Israel. Pulitzer-prize winning author Daniel Yergin wrote about how Iranian nuclear weapons would affect the Middle Eastern balance of power in his recent book The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. An Iran with nuclear weapons would change the balance of power in the Gulf It could assert itself as the dominant regional power. Iran could directly threaten to use the weapons in the regionor actually use themalthough the latter would likely trigger a massive and devastating response. But such weapons would also provide it with a license to project its power and influence with what it might regard as impunity throughout the regionboth directly and through its proxies.88 Additionally, the INSS simulation of a scenario in which Iran tests a nuclear device concluded the test provided Iran with additional playing cards.89 The game showed that an Iran with nuclear weapons would attempt to use them to reach an agreement with the major powers to improve its regional position. These attempts included an Iranian-proposed agreement that Iran would not use nuclear weapons if the international community guaranteed that it would not be attacked. Iran also argued, perhaps most frightening to Israel, that in exchange for a change in its behavior the economic sanctions imposed on it should be lifted and significant aid in development of oil and gas fields should follow.90 While the changes in behavior and promises to

87 88

Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), 39. Daniel Yergin, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World (New York: Penguin Press, 2011). 89 Guzansky and Lerner, Iran: A Strategic Simulation, 9. 90 Ibid.

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not use nuclear weapons may help reach an agreement with the international community, Israel, which stands to lose the most from non-compliance, would likely view the verbal promises very suspiciously. As such, the interstate hostility and zero-sum nature of the Israeli-Iranian relationship suggests that the consequences of the balance of power tilting in Irans favor would come at significant cost for Israel.

7.3 Crises Behavior


Beyond the balance of power issue, Israel is also concerned about the closely-linked issue of crises behavior. In particular, Israel worries about the possibility that Iran would act more aggressively or adventuresome in future crises, such as a repeat Lebanon war between the IDF and Hezbollah. A NATO research paper published in January concluded nuclear weapons would provide [Irans] leadership with political leverage and room for maneuver to support or conduct non-nuclear operations.91 The author cited a 2005 statement by Irans Major General Jafaari who said that, in addition to its own capabilities, Iran has also excellent deterrence capabilities outside its [own borders] and if necessary it will utilize them. A nuclear-armed Iran could extend a formal nuclear umbrella to its Lebanese proxy, or, more likely, it may send ambiguous signals that it would back them up in conflict. Either scenario would prove more costly to the IDF than the status quo of a non-nuclear Iran, because Hezbollah would show great confidence in a confrontation if it assumes (rightly or wrongly) that it has nuclear protection. In addition, in the heat of a conflict, Israel would have to limit the scope of its attacks to avoid uncontrolled escalation.92 The absence of a reliable communications channel would make the

91

92

Jean-Loup Samaan, The Day After Iran Goes Nuclear: Implications for NATO, NATO Defense College Research Division, no. No. 71 (January 2012): 3. Ibid.

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situation extremely unstable and make escalation control very difficult, possibly leading to full-scale war or even a nuclear exchange. On the other hand, it is possible that a nuclear-armed Iran would act more cautiously in regional crises, precisely because of the fear of uncontrolled nuclear escalation. While there are important differences to note when drawing an analogy, the India-Pakistan nuclear relationship helps elucidate this scenario. Like Iran and Israel, the two South Asian countries have a deep-seeded mistrust of one another as well as institutionalized enmity spanning decades. In addition, they have a specific territory, Kashmir, over which to fight, an exacerbating component missing in the Iranian-Israeli relationship. Yet despite (or rather because of) their massive payloads, the introduction of nuclear weapons has, according to Sumit Ganguly writing in the journal International Security, reduced the risk of full-scale war in the region and have therefore contributed to strategic stability.93 Upon examining each states behavior in various crises, Ganguly concludes that nuclear deterrence is robust in South Asia and that crises were contained at levels considerably short of full scale war.94 These propitious conclusions are tempered, however, by the stability/instability paradox, which suggests that nuclear weapons may incentivize a revisionist state to engage in low-level conventional conflict. Paul Kapur explains this paradox in the South Asian context, but its lessons have clear implications for the Middle Eastern context as well: Limited Indo-Pakistani conventional conflict is unlikely to provoke an immediate nuclear confrontation. However, in the event that a limited conventional confrontation subsequently spirals into a full-sale conventional conflict, escalation to the nuclear level becomes a serious possibility. This danger of nuclear escalation allows weak, revisionist

93 94

Sumit Ganguly, Nuclear Stability in South Asia, International Security 33, no. 2 (2008): 47. Ibid., 65.

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Pakistan to undertake limited conventional aggression against India in hopes of altering regional boundaries without provoking a full-scale Indian conventional response.95 This paradox, applied to an Israeli-Iranian nuclear relation, suggests that full-scale conventional conflict would become less likely, but that Iran would be more likely to engage in lower-level conflict because it would believe that reprisals would be limited for fear of nuclear escalation. Critics argue, however, that this analogy and the extrapolation that broad stability would ensue between Israel and Iran are misplaced because of fundamental differences. For example, India and Pakistan, despite their hostility, do recognize each other as a legitimate state and recognize their respective governments. Iran, on the other hand, does not formally recognize the Jewish State of Israel and calls for its elimination. Furthermore, they argue that the Islamic Republics foreign policy is primarily religiously-inspired and that President Ahmadinejads references to the Hidden Imam suggest that his crises behavior would be fundamentally different than that of Pakistans leaders. While these differences are true and noteworthy, it is unlikely that they would prove powerful enough to alter crises behavior in the face of sober calculations over military capabilities, the expected outcomes of crisis escalation, and the expected benefits of escalation control. Either way, crises behavior is an important risk with low consequences compared to a nuclear detonation which Israel is taking into consideration in its strategic calculus between strike and non-strike.

7.4 Regional Proliferation


Another risk to Israel, should Iran acquire an overt nuclear weapons capability, is the possibility of regional nuclear proliferation. Much has been made of the cascade of

95

Paul Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent: Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Conflict in South Asia (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007), 41.

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proliferation that would arguably ensue through Saudi, Egyptian, and Turkish nuclear acquisition. However, the likelihood of this scenario playing out is low for several reasons. First of all, none of these states nuclearized in response to the apparent nuclearization of Israel, a state with which they have much more troubled relations than with Iran, and a state against which they cannot count on US backing, unlike against Iran.96 In addition, these states would be unlikely to nuclearize because the United States would dissuade them from doing so, as demonstrated by the historical record. It has been several years since North Korea became a nuclear weapons state, and yet Japan and South Korea, despite having a latent weapons capability, have not gone down the same path, largely thanks to extensive US efforts.97 In particular, Washington extended security assurances including protection under its strategic nuclear umbrella. In the Middle East, the conversation has already begun, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton candidly suggesting in 2009 that in response to Iranian acquisition, the United States could extend a defense umbrella to friends and allies in the Middle East.98 Furthermore, because all Middle Eastern countries (besides Iran and Israel) are at least 10 to 15 years away from reaching a weapons capability, the United States is afforded an ample timeframe to extend security assurances to other regional states, eliminating their own incentives for a domestic deterrent.99 Turkey, for example, has no fissile material, cannot mine or enrich uranium, and does not possess the technology to reprocess spent fuel.100 Egypt is way ahead of Turkey in developing

96

Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, The Flawed Logic of Striking Iran, Foreign Affairs, January 17, 2012, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137036/alexandre-debs-and-nuno-p-monteiro/the-flawed-logic-of-striking-iran. Johan Bergenas, The Nuclear Domino Myth, Foreign Affairs, August 31, 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66738/johanbergenas/the-nuclear-domino-myth. 98 Mike Shuster, Iran Prompts Debate Over Mideast Defense Umbrella: NPR, NPR.org, August 26, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112222260. 99 Bergenas, The Nuclear Domino Myth. 100 Steven a. Cook, Dont Fear a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East, Foreign Policy, April 2, 2012, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/02/don_t_fear_a_nuclear_arms_race.
97

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nuclear infrastructure, but the dire state of its economy cannot support a nuclear program. In 2009, former President Hosni Mubarak spent $160 million on consultancy to determine locations for 10 planned nuclear power plants.101 Yet each of these plants would cost $1.5 billion, a significant cost for a country that has spent about $26 billion of its $36 billion foreign currency reserves to stay afloat.102 Saudi Arabia, which has no nuclear facilities or scientific infrastructure to support them, does possess the necessary funds to acquire a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. The Saudis could either directly acquire an assembled device from the Pakistanis, or they could develop a nuclear program subcontracted with Pakistani know-how. However, regional expert Stephen A. Cook points out that there are at least two disincentives to this path. First, there would be international outrage if Riyadh acquired an assembled weapon in breach of its NPT obligations. The United States, which extends its implicit nuclear umbrella, would be among the outraged. And second, the Saudis may feel uncomfortable with having their hypothetical nuclear program run by another country.103 Furthermore, fear over the nuclear domino scenario has abounded since the inception of nuclear weapons, yet it has not materialized. In the last 65 years since their introduction, only nine countries developed nuclear weapons; in the last 40 years, only India, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, and North Korea nuclearized, while South Africa, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all voluntarily disarmed. According to proliferation expert Johan Bergenas, it is precisely because of the extensive non-proliferation work and security guarantees that the nuclear domino chain never fell.104 Furthermore, he points out that the United States is involved in promoting a culture of nonproliferation in the Middle East. In 2009, Washington signed an agreement with the United

101 102

Profile for Egypt | NTI, NTI: Nuclear Threat Initiative, November 2011, http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/egypt/nuclear/. Cook, Dont Fear a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East. 103 Ibid. 104 Bergenas, The Nuclear Domino Myth.

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Arab Emirates to forego enrichment and reprocessing in exchange for help developing a civilian program, with similar offers being extended to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. At the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, the United States supported the idea of a regional meeting in 2012 to establish a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East.105 Despite these mitigating circumstances, there is still some level of risk to Israel (and others) that Iranian nuclear weapons could lead to more states embarking down that path. In the INSS simulation in which Iran actually tested a nuclear weapon (a much higher level of overt acquisition than breakout capability), the report found that nuclear proliferation cannot be ruled out, even if it does not occur at a rapid pace, as has generally been envisioned.106 Specifically, the simulation predicted that Saudi Arabia would press the American President for clarifications the US would take, seek a nuclear guarantee, and plead with the Pakistani President to redeem the nuclear commitments that were formalized between the two countries.107 Similarly, a NATO paper said there have been repeated affirmations that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have arranged a deal under which Pakistan could station nuclear weapons in the Kingdom if Riyadh was to react to a nuclear-armed Iran.108 Whether or not they would go through with the affirmations is unclear, but the NATO paper points out that as long as the weapons were not under the control of the recipient country, nothing would, in theory, legally prevent the Pakistan option. In the case of Turkey, the INSS simulation of an Iranian nuclear test found that Turkey responded more moderately because of its interest in avoiding conflict with Iran. In the game, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan declared, Turkey opposes Irans move, but it respects the

105 106

Ibid. Guzansky and Lerner, Iran: A Strategic Simulation, 7. 107 Ibid., 13. 108 Samaan, The Day After Iran Goes Nuclear: Implications for NATO, 6.

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desire of the Iranian people and calls for the renewal of the talks that were halted on a nuclearfree Middle East.109 Nevertheless, Turkey sent quiet backchannel messages to the US with an implied threat that it would examine the nuclear option. In the simulation, the Egyptian case was explored with the assumption that the regime was not Islamic. Naturally, with Egypt undergoing fundamental transition, its response to an Iranian nuclear test will differ somewhat depending on the nature of the government and its regional policy. Nevertheless, the Egyptian simulated response was to press for the US to issue a public commitment to a nuclear deterrent umbrella, as well as to request American aid in developing a civilian nuclear capability.110 This step, in particular, underlines the expectation that Iranian acquisition would not necessarily cause the proverbial cascade of proliferation but could more likely lead to a strategy of nuclear hedging in which some Middle Eastern states would not barrel down the path of assembling a nuclear weapon but could indigenously develop on the civilian side of the nuclear fuel cycle in order to retain the future military option.111 While regional proliferation is certainly a risk Israels decision makers must be contemplating, it is clear that it has been hyped, and that even a hypothetical nuclear test would not serve as a tipping point that would lead neighbors to urgently develop nuclear weapons.

7.5 Nuclear Terrorism


Another nuclear risk that Israel is likely considering is the remote possibility that even if Iran would not engage in a nuclear first strike, it may pass an assembled nuclear weapon to a terrorist proxy. This is very unlikely for at least two reasons.

109 110 111

Guzansky and Lerner, Iran: A Strategic Simulation, 1213. Ibid., 12. Samaan, The Day After Iran Goes Nuclear: Implications for NATO, 6.

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First of all, if Iran were to assemble a nuclear weapon to be passed to a terrorist group, it would involve a great deal of sacrifice of time, money, resources, and potential exposure. A fully assembled hypothetical nuclear weapon would represent a great investment, one that the government would guard closely rather than pass on to a fringe group that it does not control and that did not sacrifice in order to acquire it. Additionally, there would be an implicit assumption on the part of Western nations that Middle Eastern terrorists detonating a nuclear weapon in Israel would have received it from Iran; the emerging science of nuclear forensics offers the possibility of proving so.

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8. Quantitative Approach
In order to undertake the quantitative approach and solve for the utilities derived from each choice, one must first assess the various risks associated with each of the components of non-nuclear risk (RNonNuclear) and nuclear risk (RNuclear). The sum of the values of these components equals the aggregate nuclear and non-nuclear risk. The values for risk are assigned by multiplying threat, vulnerability, and consequences, as described in the introduction. Values in this paper were assigned in consultation with expert Matthew Kroenig, the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. While Kroenigs advice helped inform and adjust values, final decisions are the authors own. Based on the qualitative research, this paper assigns estimates for threat, vulnerability, and consequences for the components of non-nuclear risk as follows:
Table 1: Non-Nuclear Risk

Threat Vulnerability Consequences Risk

Ballistic Missiles 0.6 0.3 4 0.72

Hezbollah 0.5 0.3 4 0.6

Hamas 0.2 0.5 2 0.2

US Response 1 1 4 4

Syria 0.2 0.3 2 0.12

Coalition Breakup 0.8 1 1 0.8

Domestic Politics 0.95 1 0.6 0.57

RNonNuc

7.01

Based on these estimates, non-nuclear risk is assigned the value 7.29. Employing the same approach and using the qualitative research outlined in previous sections, this paper estimates the following values for the subcomponents of nuclear risk:

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Table 2: Nuclear Risk

First Strike Threat Vulnerability Consequences Risk 0.05 0.8 10 0.4

Balance of Power 0.8 0.9 2 1.44

Crises Behavior 0.8 0.8 3 1.92

Saudi 0.6 1 1 0.6

Egypt 0.1 1 2 0.2

Turkey 0.1 1 2 0.2

RNuc

4.76

With an estimated value of 3.97 for nuclear risk, next we can assign estimates for the probability of strike success as well as the probability of acquisition, based on each sections research and in consultation with Kroenig.
Table 3: Probabilities

PStrikeSuccess PAcquisition 0.35 0.85

With estimates assigned to all of the necessary variables, one can plug the values into the model to determine utility derived from each formula.

UStrike= PStrikeSuccess x PAcquisition x R*Nuclear - RNonnuclear - (1-PStrikeSuccess) x PAcquisition x RNuclear UStrike = .35 x .85 x 4.76 7.01 .65 x .85 x 4.76 = -8.2238 Unonstrike = - (PAcquisition x RNuclear)
Unonstrike= -(.85 x 4.76) = -4.046 It is clear that based on the models functional form and the estimates assigned that acceptance is the better choice for Israel when compared to the strike option. Because these are estimates, it could very well be that Israel perceives a probability of strike success higher than 42

35%, or its vulnerability to Iranian ballistic missiles to be lower than 30%. However, given that the utility derived from acceptance is significantly greater than that of striking, it is unlikely that enough of the estimates would be sufficiently inaccurate to swing the models prediction in the opposite direction.

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9. Alternative Explanations
It is also important to point out that one of the most important factors is the US role in the strategic choice. In fact, if the US were to push for an Israeli unilateral strike and signal that the operation would slightly improve the American-Israeli relationship, the model predicts that Israel would then be incentivized to strike. Naturally, much will depend on the outcome of the upcoming American presidential elections and the post-election position of the winner. Additionally, the model has its limitations in that it is specifically designed to assess the costs and benefits of a unilateral Israeli strike. The strategic choice for a US or joint operation would be entirely different, with a much higher probability of strike success.

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10. Conclusion: American Approach


Given this model and its conclusions, the United States must presume that Iran is also aware of Israels strategic calculus and that an Israeli military strike is essentially off the table. This suggests that Israeli threats will continue to prove ineffectual in stopping Irans nuclear program. Rather, the models lesson for the US is consistent with calls for diplomatic engagement from a growing number of experts and policy makers, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates;Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass; former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk; Ambassador John Limbert; and Iran experts Suzanne Maloney, Ray Takeyh, Gary Sick, and Juan Cole.112 113 114 115 Fortunately, the diplomatic track has recently been rekindled with P5+1 nuclear talks that took place in April in Istanbul. American officials should be actively pursuing a diplomatic solution that accepts the principle of Irans inalienable right to uranium enrichment along with suitable inspections and safeguards. In particular, the US should offer incentives to convince Iran to sign the Additional Protocol in order to give increased powers of inspection to the IAEA. A fuel swap could also be arranged in order to incentivize Iran into shipping out its uranium enriched to 20% as well as temporarily freeze its Fordow facility. In return, the US could pledge to avoid seeking regime change in Tehran, condemn and work towards preventing the assassinations and sabotage, as well as gradually lift economic sanctions, which would be directly tied to compliance. To do so, it would be helpful to work with states outside of the P5+1

112 113

Karen DeYoung, Gates: U.S. Should Engage Iran With Incentives, Pressure, Washington Post, May 15, 2008. Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk, Beyond Iraq, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009. 114 Suzanne Maloney and Ray Takeyh, Engage Iran, Brookings Institution, Fall 2007. 115 Leading Diplomats, Experts and Organizations Call on Obama to Reinvigorate Diplomacy with Iran, NIAC Insight, January 20, 2011.

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framework, such as Turkey and Brazil, who have spent more time engaged in recent diplomacy with Iran than the entire P5+1 combined.116 Unfortunately, the US Congress is moving in the opposite direction, by adopting a provision to the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905) that would restrict diplomatic contact. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by the end of 2011 and will be considered by the Senate next, includes a provision that would make it illegal for any government employee to engage in official or unofficial contact with anyone who (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.117 Because this provision can be loosely interpreted in a way that would preclude formal diplomacy with Iranian officials, it is a counterproductive step. Undoubtedly, pursuing diplomacy in a relationship that has been hostile for over thirty years will be very difficult. Yet despite the difficulty, this should be a top priority for any American president, as time is not necessarily on the US side. Irans nuclear technology is likely to progress and finding a diplomatic settlement will prove much more difficult after Iran has the capability to build a weapon. The diplomatic endeavor is better pursued now rather than later.

116 117

Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi, Want to Defuse the Iran Crisis? Foreign Policy. November 12, 2010. H.R. 1905: Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011, GovTrack.com; Joint Letter Calls for Congress to Oppose Legal Restrictions on Iran Diplomacy, NIAC News, December 8, 2011.

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