The Spectacle Blog

Israel’s Limits in an Iran Attack

By on 8.20.10 | 10:52PM

Reading Jeffrey Goldberg's long Atlantic Monthly article about prospects for an Israeli air strike against Iran's nuclear program, the strongest arguments against such an attack come from military sources:

Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling-perhaps, if speculation rife in intelligence circles is to be believed, with secret Saudi cooperation. . . .
[P]olitical limitations would not allow Israel to make repeated sorties over Iran. "The Saudis can let us go once," one general told me. "They'll turn their radar off when we're on our way to Iran, and we'll come back fast. Our problem is not Iranian air defenses, because we have ways of neutralizing that. Our problem is that the Saudis will look very guilty in the eyes of the world if we keep flying over their territory." . . .

This doesn't mean such an attack couldn't take place, of course. But the fact that IDF generals clearly see the difficulties -- including the diplomatic difficulties -- of such an attack tends to suggest that it would be a last-resort measure. It isn't very likely, and it isn't likely to happen soon.

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