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Thread: Israel's raid on Syria: Prelude to a nuke crisis?

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    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Default Israel's raid on Syria: Prelude to a nuke crisis?

    http://aimpoints.hq.af.mil/display.cfm?id=21426

    Although some may argue this falls outside the realm of small wars, I think there may be a nexus. Here are some questions I have:

    1) What would the impact of an attack be on the pro-democracy forces within Iran?

    2) What effect would it have on our current small wars efforts, especially Iraq? In particular, how would it effect the usefulness of our air assets?

    3) I'm not familiar with Iran's conventional power, but assuming it is better than Saddam's army (i.e. it will fight), do we face a hybrid or protean war? In other words, could Iran combine its conventional forces and tactics with its use of hezbollah and other terrorist-type forces to fight the war?

    Is it possible that after being attacked, Iran launches rockets and missles (conventional and/or chemical) into Israel, US bases in Iraq/Afghanistan, and other regional US allies? As this is occuring, could not Hezbollah then attack into northern Israel while Quds forces infiltrate more heavily into Iraq? Could not these forces also infiltrate or activate in the US and/or Europe? If so, could we not be fighting a conventional war while simultaneously fighting a small one at various places in the world?
    -john bellflower

    Rule of Law in Afghanistan

    "You must, therefore know that there are two means of fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases, is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to have recourse to the second." -- Niccolo Machiavelli (from The Prince)

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    Assuming that the Israelis really did hit an important, nuclear-related target... (They may have. They may not have. They may have thought they did, but didn't. They may even have been doing something else. based on what is available open-source, it is still not clear whether to file this one under "Osirak" or "al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant, Sudan" or something in between)


    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
    http://aimpoints.hq.af.mil/display.cfm?id=21426
    1) What would the impact of an attack be on the pro-democracy forces within Iran?
    My sense--reinforced by talking with pro-democracy students and some members of the reformist camp in Tehran --is that it would further marginalize them by spurring a considerable "rally around the flag" effect.

    2) What effect would it have on our current small wars efforts, especially Iraq? In particular, how would it effect the usefulness of our air assets?
    There are two effects to be considered here: the extent to which a conflict with Iran would bleed away resources needed in Iraq, and the extent to which it would complicate the political and military environment within Iraq itself. The two are linked, of course.

    I'll leave others to address how much CAS capability might be diverted to Iran (or flying CAPs over Iraq, post-strike).

    I do think the Iranians would step up their efforts to complicate the US position in Iraq by several orders of magnitude, even at the risk of destabilizing the (friendly) Maliki government. A US strike would convince Tehran that the removal of US combat forces from Iraq (and Afghanistan) was a vital, overriding national interest--their Cuban Missile Crisis, as it were.


    3) I'm not familiar with Iran's conventional power, but assuming it is better than Saddam's army (i.e. it will fight), do we face a hybrid or protean war? In other words, could Iran combine its conventional forces and tactics with its use of hezbollah and other terrorist-type forces to fight the war?
    Yes, it will fight, although its massively out-classed. I do hope no one is thinking of inserting conventional ground forces in Iran, however.

    Is it possible that after being attacked, Iran launches rockets and missles (conventional and/or chemical) into Israel, US bases in Iraq/Afghanistan, and other regional US allies?
    I think Iranian escalation to WMD use is unlikely, unless an attack against its nuclear facilities caused substantial radiological contamination. Conventional retalition is reasonably likely (much depends on the scope and duration of a US attack).

    As this is occuring, could not Hezbollah then attack into northern Israel while Quds forces infiltrate more heavily into Iraq?
    There's some debate on the former--it would do Hizbullah considerable political damage in Lebanon to be seen to be retaliating at Tehran's behest.. on the other hand, if a US strike were prolonged and very damaging (and targeted vital national assets such as refineries) Iranian pressure on its Lebanese ally to do something would be substantial. Certainly, IRGC activity in Iraq would increase dramatically.

    Could not these forces also infiltrate or activate in the US and/or Europe? If so, could we not be fighting a conventional war while simultaneously fighting a small one at various places in the world?
    There's a lot of debate over the capabilities of the Iranian MOIS and IRGC abroad, and the willingness to use those for retaliation. There's equal debate on the capabilities of Hizbullah's External Security Organization. It is all rather unclear.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    1) What would the impact of an attack be on the pro-democracy forces within Iran?
    Akbar Ganji is probably the best person to speak on this, given his place as the most famous and effective dissident inside Iran.

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    Default One Day It's Chemical, The Other, Nuclear

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,....world/mideast

    "LONDON — A Syrian military installation rocked by an explosion in July was being used to develop chemical weapons, and Iranian engineers were among those killed, a respected defense publication reported Wednesday.

    Jane's Defence Weekly said the blast hit the site of a joint Iranian/Syrian project to fit short-range ballistic missiles with chemical warheads"


    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,297732,00.html

    "Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to Sunday Times report citing informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

    The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say."

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    Council Member Tom OC's Avatar
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    The Iranian regime has gone on record saying they will eliminate Israel and crush America. One can take this as a sign their animus toward Israel is greater, but they will definitely try to draw America into another front as well as hit us, I believe, from within, but not in the spectacular way they intend to hit Israel. I would imagine we would get hit with disruption mainly, and some step-up for our forces in Iraq. Israel might get hit from many sides, or in one place. It depends I think, not on the terrorist groups Iran supports, but any help they receive from conventional Islamic forces which, heretofor, have seen Iran as a failed Islamic superpower because it is too Shiite. Any prelude, then, is likely to be religious rather than military. I hope there's no unusual astronomical phenomena scheduled in the near future.

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    Default Iranian retaliation

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    It depends I think, not on the terrorist groups Iran supports, but any help they receive from conventional Islamic forces which, heretofor, have seen Iran as a failed Islamic superpower because it is too Shiite.
    I'm not sure who you are thinking of here...

    As I've suggested before, Iran's retaliatory response will depend in large part on both the scale and duration of any US strike. Is it over within a few hours (in which case, Iran will be looking to reestablish a measure of deterrence, but at a time of its own choosing), or does it last an extended period of time and target critical leadership and economic targets (in which case retaliation may be intended to force the US to back down)? Do US attacks actually severely damage Iranian nuclear facilities, or are critical components missed (possibly due to weak intel), leaving the Iranians less than shocked-and-awed.

    Throughout, Tehran will be well aware that the US controls far more rungs of the conventional escalatory ladder, and that there is little it can do to stop American (air) forces from expanding their target mix in response to Iranian escalation.

    In terms of immediate responses, attacks against US naval assets in the Gulf, and military facilities in the Gulf, would seem quite likely. The latter also have the advantage, from Iran's point of view, of warning GCC states of the costs of hosting US facilities. Both responses have some military merit too, potentially imparing US capabilities, or causing real casualties. Taking down several USN ships (or a CV!) would be a real coup for Tehran--if I were an Iranian military planner, this is where I would be putting a lot of my effort.

    Attempting to close Straits of Hormuz would both affect Iranian oil exports and risk retaliation against the Iranian oil industry (and especially its limited and very vulnerable gasoline refining capacity). It might be hinted at (a few mines bobbing in the sea lanes, a tanker or two hit, etc), but I think its likely to be generally held back as a deterrent response, to be used only if the US escalates its own targeting or in the event of a significant radiological event due to a US strike).

    Attacking Israel is risky, especially if the IDF isn't involved (although Iran may be unclear on whether it is or isn't). Saddam did it in 1991 with the hope of driving a wedge between the West and the Arab members of the coalition--the Iranians won't be in a position to do this, however. Hitting Israel with conventionally-armed MRBMs will invite a similar Israeli conventional response, likely targeted against vulnerable economic targets. A non-conventional strike against Israel.. the response would be massive, and very possibly non-conventional too.

    In Iraq (and Afghanistan) there would be stepped-up assistance to anti-American forces. In Iraq this mainly means JAM.. I don't see Tehran being able to make the leap to virulently anti-Shi'ite Sunni groups. We would likely see more direct, covert IRGC/al-Quds actions, although these would take some time to prepare.

    In Afghanistan the Taliban are a problematic "ally" too given their anti-Shi'ite history, but some stepped-up contact/cooperation is likely.

    We've already discussed the possibilities of (potentially deniable) Iranian operations abroad, as well as the limits of Hizbullah. Palestinian Islamic Jihad might be willing to do something at Iranian behest--but PIJ is stretched to the limits of their already limited capabilities (that is, trying to do stuff all the time) and so this doesn't mean much. Hamas has its own interests, and despite financial assistance from Iran is in no way beholden to Tehran. Iran also has contact with various Fateh/AMB cells in the northern West Bank, but this is reall just a financial arrangement (they'll take money from anyone), they have very limited capabilities, and they really don't follow orders (even from Fateh!).

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Iranian retaliation
    Sir, what do you think about the possibility of Iranian strikes on Saudi petroleum infrastructure? Where would that be on the Iranian escalatory ladder?


    I believe the most underreported story in the world right now is the Saudi-Iranian fight over control of OPEC. In a convoluted way, I see a lot of what is happening these days, related to it.

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    What are the ramifications of hitting an Iranian nuclear processing site with respect to the release of radioactive material? Is this effectively a dirty bomb effect? Would the radioactive dispersion be Chernobyl like? What area might be contaminated and how badly?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    Sir, what do you think about the possibility of Iranian strikes on Saudi petroleum infrastructure? Where would that be on the Iranian escalatory ladder?
    A serious strike, rather than a warning blow? Very high up, since they would risk losing theirs in return.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJackson View Post
    What are the ramifications of hitting an Iranian nuclear processing site with respect to the release of radioactive material? Is this effectively a dirty bomb effect? Would the radioactive dispersion be Chernobyl like? What area might be contaminated and how badly?
    Many of the same questions and speculative comments regarding Iran are beginning to be asked over and over again as time passes and the media focus on the country peaks and falls again.

    I would ask that newer members please read through the large Iran threads and take the time to look through the many useful links within before jumping in.

    Iran: Open Thread Until H-Hour

    Negotiate With Iran?

    As regards possible effects of a strike on Iran, I will throw up a few previously-posted links here:

    CNS-MIIS, 12 Aug 04: A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences

    CSIS, 7 Apr 06: Iranian Nuclear Weapons? The Options if Diplomacy Fails

    CSIS, 30 Aug 06: Iranian Nuclear Weapons? Options for Sanctions and Military Strikes

    CSIS, 5 Mar 07: Israeli and US Strikes on Iran: A Speculative Analysis

    Oxford Research Group, Mar 07: Would Air Strikes Work? Understanding Iran's Nuclear Programme and the Possible Consequences of a Military Strike

    ...and Appendix C (page 89 of the 104 page pdf file) of the Aug 05 McNair Paper Reassessing the Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran, titled Walking the Tightrope: Israeli Options in Response to Iranian Nuclear Developments is an interesting read.

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    Default The Die is Cast, the Dye Applied

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli...cle%2FShowFull

    "Leading US democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton defended on Wednesday Israel's alleged air strike in Syria, saying that it was justified by intelligence reports which indicated that North Korea was helping Damascus build a nuclear facility."

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    Default Israeli attack targeted a Syrian nuclear reactor?

    DEBKAfile Exclusive: Damascus states willingness for early talks with Washington on Golan and “other issues,” denies Israeli attack targeted a Syrian nuclear reactor

    October 24, 2007, 11:18 PM (GMT+02:00)

    Syria’s openness to dialogue with the United States, according to one statement, covers unspecified “other issues’ related to Israel as well as Lebanon and Iraq.

    In a second statement issued Wednesday night, Oct. 24, Damascus denied American media disclosures Wednesday that a nuclear reactor was the target of the Israeli attack near the Syrian Desert village of A-Tibnah on Sept. 6.

    The Syrian statements, delivered by Dr. Fawzi Shueiebi, over Syrian state television, cited DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly as primary sources for Syrian policy-making on these issues.

    DEBKAfile’s military sources report now that the media disclosures Wednesday in the United States confirm the revelation in DNW 320 of Oct. 5 that Damascus was setting up an installation for making “dirty bombs.”

    DNW 321 first reported Washington’s intention to start a dialogue with Damascus on Oct. 12.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Credibility gap?

    This source is of questionable value. I gave up reading it when they reported sometime ago OBL was moving to Iraq! Even Israelis caution as to citing it.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Something Certainly Is Afoot.....

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli...cle%2FShowFull

    Oct 25, 2007 0:56 | Updated Oct 25, 2007 5:00
    US to speed up stealth fighter delivery

    ""We asked that for every two jets manufactured for the US, one be manufactured for Israel," a senior defense official said, adding that acquisition of the aircraft would greatly increase Israel's deterrence as Iran races toward nuclear power.
    "This plane can fly into downtown Teheran without anyone even knowing about it since it can't be detected on radar," the official said. "

    If it is duck-like, it maybe is:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,304800,00.html


    Report: Satellite Images Show Syrian Facility Resembling N. Korean Nuke Reactor
    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    I'm trying to track down the source/rumor that is reporting IAF bombed an experimental greenhouse where Palestinian women were working to develop a hybrid olive that is capable of producing tons of olives from a single tree.
    Last edited by goesh; 10-25-2007 at 12:47 PM.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Related Links:

    ISIS Imagery Brief: Suspect Reactor Construction Site in Eastern Syria: The Site of the September 6 Israeli Raid? by David Albright and Paul Brannan. INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, October 24, 2007 (PDF)
    Phantoms Over Syria: Eveything Israel wants you to know about its secret airstrike, by Philip Giraldi. The American Conservative, October 22, 2007.

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    Default Debka File

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    This source is of questionable value. I gave up reading it when they reported sometime ago OBL was moving to Iraq! Even Israelis caution as to citing it.
    Yep, agreed.

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    CSIS, 24 Oct 07:

    The Israeli “Nuclear Reactor Strike” and SyrianWeapons of Mass Destruction: A Background Analysis
    The circumstances surrounding an Israeli strike on what may have been a Syrian nuclear reactor are still unclear. It is not yet certain that Syria was building a reactor, and if it were, what capacity it would have for producing fissile material, when it might have produced enough material for a weapon, and how Syria planned to deploy any nuclear capability it developed. Major questions remain about the level of North Korean support Syria did or did not receive, and about the level of Syrian-Iranian cooperation if any.

    There are, however, several things that are clear about Syria’s position, and that put any Syrian nuclear efforts in context. In brief:

    - Syria has fallen far behind Israel in conventional capability and has no practical chance of catching up.

    - Syrian capabilities for asymmetric warfare, and the its ability to use allies like the Hezbollah, can irritate or provoke Israel, but not defeat it or deter it from using its massive supremacy in long-range precision strike capability.

    - Syrian chemical and possible biological capabilities do not give it a meaningful deterrent to Israel, do not rival Israel’s status as a nuclear power, and might do more to justify an Israeli use of nuclear weapons in retaliation than achieve strategic benefits.

    - The Syrian air force is approaching obsolescence as a force. Although Syria has some “modern aircraft,” it lacks the mix of airborne and groundbased sensor and battle management assets, the mix of munitions, IS&R assets, and sortie sustainability it needs to compete. It faces de facto air supremacy from the Israeli air force.

    - Missiles are Syria’s only way of striking at Israel with some confidence of success, but Syria still faces steadily more effective Israeli ballistic missile defenses, plus Israeli ability to target and destroy Syria’s larger missile systems with Israel’s precision strike assets.

    Seen from this perspective, a Syrian effort to achieve a “break out” by covertly developing nuclear weapons has a kind of logic.....
    Complete 24 page paper at the link.


    By the way, Debkafile falls into the same category as WorldNetDaily, the Northeast Intelligence Network and The Enquirer. In the main, it is piled high with steaming crap. At best, it is extremely unreliable as a source. Yet, if you're willing to spend the time trawling through their muck, there are occasionally leads to be gleaned that can be followed to useful information. But you are far better served by the vast spectrum of consistently reliable sources openly available rather than wasting time with their nonsense.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 10-28-2007 at 11:00 PM.

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    CSIS, 19 Nov 07: Iran, Israel and Nuclear War: An Illustrative Scenario Analysis
    The attached briefing provides the material used in a scenario analysis and interactive game that looks at some of the consequences of a future nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran, and the possible impact of its expansion to cover targets in Syria, Egypt, and the Gulf.

    There is no way to predict the forces each side will have in the future, or how they might target those forces and use them in war. It does seem clear, however, that both sides would probably be forced to target the other's population centers in any scenario that escalated beyond an initial demonstrative strike.

    It also seems likely that such a conflict would quickly become existential in the sense that both sides would seek to inflict the maximum possible casualties on its opponent, and to destroy its ability to recover as a nation.

    The analysis indicates that Israeli might have the near to mid-term advantage in such a struggle, at least in terms of the ability to inflict more damage on the Persian ethnic population and economy of Iran. Iran is much larger than Israel, but its population is heavily urbanized and extremely vulnerable to boosted and thermonuclear weapons.

    This advantage seems likely to continue until Iran obtained boosted or thermonuclear weapons. The outcome would be so costly to both sides, however, any such advantage would little or no practical value. It is unclear that either nation could reconstitute itself on anything like a prewar basis, if at all.
    Complete 77 slide presentation in a pdf file at the link.

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Cool Syrian WWTP's = Syrian waste water treatment plants

    Rural domestic wastewater. According to the Ministry of Environment, an estimated 45 percent of the rural population is connected to wastewater treatment facilities. However, this percentage seems to be high since there are only two treatment plants operational (World Bank, 2001). Wastewater from these villages is often used untreated in irrigation. During the last decade, considerable efforts have been put into the construction of water treatment plants in major cities. Recently the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) of Damascus and Homs came into operation, and several are under construction in Hamat, Aleppo, Tartous, Latakia, Edleb, Daraa and Soueida. These wastewater treatment plants are expected to be completed within the next five years.

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:...ient=firefox-a

    About 200 miles away 'open channel flow', ie dump it in the streets and let it run towards the lowest point (which was the tigris) was for the most part the economical solution. Fertilization of crops with sewage was an ongoing solution....best tomatoes I have ever eaten. You got much more bang for the buck spending scarce dollars on a WTP (water treatment plant).

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default Water requirements estimate...

    In 2000, thermoelectric power generation required an average of 20.6 gallons of water per kWh
    http://www.physorg.com/news111926048.html

    For the geographical site referenced by Global Security, someone with time on their hands could back into the water requirements needed for this supposed industrial site (or any other) by using data requirements from various open source engineering references and then compare their requirements estimate against the hydrologic estimates produced for the region/site from various open source agricultural/engineering references and software (hec-hms, hec-ras, etc).

    Rainwater appears to range 140 to 600 mm/year for the area (yes, that is a big range), while the Anatolian GAP Dam program supposedly allows Turkey to stop the water flow to downstream folks (Syria, Iraq, etc) for somewhere between several days to several weeks depending on who you talk to (and as I was reminded you can't drink oil). The presence of nearby local dams, and/or water truck delivery (common in this region) of course can skew the rainfall analysis...

    It's mental gymnastics like this that always takes me back to the classic 'there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns' statement. As we all know too well one has to know the difference between the requirements of horseshoes, hand grenades, and a tight shot group....

    My guess is that the Israeli's do...
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 12-31-2007 at 02:37 AM.

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