‘Two Ways Israel Can Deter A Nuclear Iran’…..By:Professor Louis Beres, My Mentor…..Decision Time Is Imminent

Professor Louis Beres,author of ‘Project Daniel’ (http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-issue/daniel-3.htm, background here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Ren%C3%A9_Beres) must be taken seriously.

His clarion call, for an eminently lawful ( according to all related precepts of international law ) pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program, was delivered to PM Sharon & President Bush on January 16, 2003.

As a foretaste to the above link, read this –

Israel’s Strategic Future
Project Daniel
Final Report

Prepared Especially for Presentation to the Hon. Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
January 16, 2003

“Project Daniel is a private and informed effort to identify the overriding existential threats to Israel and their prospective remedies. These remedies must be both plausible (capable of achievement) and productive. With this in mind,  the Group met in both Washington DC and  New York City on several occasions during 2002. In the periods between meetings, members of the Group regularly exchanged information. The result of this effort is conveyed in the following Final Report: Israel’s Strategic Future. The perspectives expressed in this document are those of the individual members, and do not necessarily reflect views of any institution or government. Our hope is that Project Daniel’s unique configuration of member background and experience will contribute to the strengthening of US-Israel strategic relations and to the ongoing debate over how Israel should best respond to existential threats to its national security.”

“The Group is comprised of the following individual members:

Professor Louis René Beres, Chair, USA

Naaman Belkind, Former Assistant to the Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense for Special Means, Israel

Maj. Gen. (Res.), Israeli Air Force/Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, Israel

Dr. Rand H. FishbeinFormer Professional Staff Member, US Senate Appropriations Committee, and former Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to Senator Daniel K. Inouye, USA

Dr. Adir Pridor, Lt. Col. (Ret.), Israeli Air Force; Former Head of Military Analyses, RAFAEL, Israel

Fmr. MK./Col. (Res.), Israeli Air Force, Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, Israel”

Most importantly, Professor Beres is one of a handful of experts in nuclear warfare, and he literally wrote the book(s) on the subject.

With this in mind, and after all his herculean efforts, he understands more than most what nearing the bewitching hour entails. Take very seriously ‘Two Ways Israel Can Deter A Nuclear Iran’  – 


“Before making his final preemption decisions on a still-nuclearizing Iran, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must first make a carefully informed judgment on Iranian rationality. In essence, he will have to determine, systematically and dispassionately, whether Iranian decision-makers are apt to be rational, irrational, or “mad.” There are, in fact, critically significant differences between these three possible alternatives; the wisdom of any considered Israeli preemption will ultimately depend upon choosing correctly, and also on predicting Iranian policy behavior accurately over time.”

“Words matter. In world politics, irrational does not mean mad, or “crazy.” It does mean valuing certain goals or objectives more highly than national survival. In such rare, but not unprecedented or inconceivable circumstances, a country’s irrational leadership may still maintain a distinct and determinable rank-order of preferences. Unlike trying to influence a genuinely “mad” leadership, it is possible to effectively deter a (“merely”) irrational adversary.”

“For the moment, and despite frequent popular caricatures in the world press, Iran is not a crazy or even radically whimsical state. Although it is true, at least doctrinally, that Iran’s political and clerical leaders could sometime welcome the Shiite apocalypse more highly than avoiding catastrophic destruction, these decision-makers might nonetheless remain subject to alternative deterrent threats. If faced with such bewildering circumstances, wherein an already-nuclear Iran could not be prevented from striking first by the more usual and credible threats of retaliatory destruction, Israel would then need to identify, in advance, other less-orthodox, but still promising, threats of reprisal.”

“Inevitably, such alternative threats would concern those pre-eminent religious preferences and institutions deeply valued by Shiite Iran.”

“A presumptively rational leadership in Tehran would make it easier for Jerusalem to forego the pre-emption option. After all, in such vastly more predictable circumstances, Iran could still be deterred by some or all of the standard military threats linked to “assured destruction.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

“Unless there is an eleventh-hour defensive first strike by Israel, a considered attack that would most likely follow a determination of actual or prospective Iranian “madness”—a judgment that could either be correct or incorrect—a new nuclear adversary in the region will become a fait accompli. For Israel, this appearance would mandate a prudent plan to coexist or “live with” a nuclear Iran. Immediately, forging such an indispensable strategy of nuclear deterrence would call for reduced ambiguity about particular elements of its strategic forces; enhanced and partially disclosed nuclear targeting options; substantial and partially revealed programs for improved active defenses; certain recognizable steps to ensure the survivability of its nuclear retaliatory forces; further expansion of preparations for both cyber-defense and cyber-war; and, in order to bring all of these complex and intersecting enhancements together, in a coherent mission plan, a comprehensive strategic doctrine.”

“Additionally, because of the residual but still consequential prospect of Iranian irrationality (not madness), Israel’s military planners will have to identify reliably suitable ways of ensuring that even a nuclear “suicide state” could still be deterred. Such a uniquely perilous threat might actually be very small, but, considered together with Iran’s Shiite eschatology, it might not be negligible. Further, while the expected probability of having to face such an irrational enemy state could be very low, thedisutility, or expected harm of any single deterrence failure, could still be unacceptably high.”

“Israel is steadily strengthening its plans for ballistic missile defense, both on the Arrow system, and on Iron Dome, a lower-altitude interceptor designed to guard against shorter-range rocket attacks, especially from Lebanon and Gaza. These systems, including others which are still in the development phase, will inevitably have leakage. It follows that because system penetration by even a single enemy missile carrying a nuclear warhead could, by definition, be intolerable, their principal benefit would ultimately not lie in supplying any added physical protection for Israeli populations. Instead, this still-considerable benefit would have to lie elsewhere, in expected enhancements of Israeli deterrence.”

“Another computational strategic caveat unfolds. A newly-nuclear Iran, if still rational, would require incrementally increasing numbers of offensive missiles in order to achieve or maintain a sufficiently destructive first-strike capability against Israel. There could come a time, however, when Iran would be able to deploy more than a small number of nuclear-tipped missiles. Should that happen, all of Israel’s active defenses, already inadequate as ultimate guarantors of physical protection, could also cease functioning as critically supportive adjuncts of Israeli nuclear deterrence.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

“Preemption against Iran, even at very great cost and risk to Israel, could prove indispensable in the case of Iranian decisional “madness.” Yet, in itself, this destabilizing scenario is insufficiently plausible to warrant defensive first-strikes. Israel would be better served by a bifurcated or two-pronged plan for successful deterrence. Here, one “prong” would be designed for an expectedly rational Iranian adversary; the other, for a presumptively irrational one.”

“In broadest policy contours, we already know what Israel would need to do in order to maintain a stable deterrence posture vis-à-vis a newly-nuclear Iran. But what if the leaders of a newly-nuclear Iran did not meet the characteristic expectations of rational behavior in world politics? In short, what if this leadership, from the very start, or perhaps more slowly, over time, chose not to consistently value Iran’s national survival as a state more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences?”

“In such threatening circumstances, Israel’s leaders would need to look closely at two eccentric and more-or-less untried nuclear deterrence strategies, possibly in tandem with one another. First, these leaders would have to understand that even an irrational Iranian leadership could display distinct preferences, and associated hierarchies of preferences. Their task, then, would be to determine precisely what these particular preferences might be (most likely, they would have to do with certain presumed religious goals), and, also, how these preferences are apt to be “ranked” in Tehran.”

“Second, among other things, Israel’s leaders could have to determine the likely deterrence benefits of their own pretended irrationality. An irrational Iranian enemy, if it felt that Israel’s decision-makers were irrational themselves, could be determinedly less likely to strike first. Years ago, Gen. Moshe Dayan, then Israel’s Minister of Defense, urged: “Israel must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother.” With this prophetic warning, Dayan had revealed an intuitive awareness of the possible long-term benefits to Israel of feigned irrationality”.

“There is a pertinent prior point. Before Israel’s leaders could proceed gainfully with any plans for deterring an irrational nuclear adversary, especially Iran, they would first need to be convinced that this adversary was, in fact, genuinely irrational, and not merely pretending irrationality.”

[Check out our collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

“The importance of an early sequencing for this notably vital judgment cannot be overstated. Because all specific Israeli deterrence policies must be founded upon the presumed rationality or irrationality of prospective nuclear enemies, accurately determining precise enemy preferences and preference orderings will have to become the very first core phase of strategic planning in Tel-Aviv.”

“Finally, as a newly-nuclear Iran could sometime decide to share some of its fissile materials and technologies with assorted terrorist groups, Israel’s leaders will also have to deal with the prospect of irrational nuclear enemies at the sub-state level. This daunting prospect is more likely than that of irrationality at the national or state level. At the same time, at least in principle, the harms suffered from any such instances of nuclear terror would probably be less overwhelming.”

“Soon, if it has already decided against preemption, Israel will need to select appropriately refined and workable options for dealing with two separate but interpenetrating levels of danger. Should Iranian leaders be judged to meet the usual tests of rationality in world politics, Israel will then have to focus upon reducing its longstanding nuclear ambiguity, or, on taking its bomb out of the “basement.” It will also need to operationalize an adequate retaliatory force that is recognizably hardened, multiplied, and dispersed.”

“This second-strike nuclear force should be made visibly ready to inflict “assured destruction” against certain precisely-identifiable enemy cities. In military parlance, Israel will need to convince Iran that its strategic targeting doctrine is “countervalue,” not “counterforce.” It may also have to communicate to Iran certain partial and very general information about the sea-basing of selected Israeli second-strike forces.”

ALL due seriousness, as well as respect, must be paid to his trenchant analysis.

Louis, thanks for everything. You have been an invaluable guide.