December 20, 2008

Israel vs. Iran cage match

The possibility of Iran provoking an American military response to an attack on Israel has changed. But that doesn't mean that Israel won't act pre-emptively in their own defence. They are not a passive participant in the event of an Iranian military threat. Is it possible that a pre-emptive strike by Israel on Iran's nuclear facilities could occur, and without US approval? Yes absolutely, but is it likely? That question is a still little murkier.

Firstly, it's almost impossible for Israel to attack without US knowledge beforehand. But does that mean US approval is required? Not necessarily. If Israel feels truly threatened, then it might act of it's own accord, with the hope that the US might be forced to back it, after the fact.

There is a viable threat to Israel being posed by Iran. How imminent, how menacing is not clear to us. When I say us, I'm excluding the intelligence community and Iran itself. However, we can assume that where there's rhetoric, there's fire. The question then is what is likely to happen. I would expect Israel to perform an air strike on the facilities in question. Where things escalate from there is something worth thinking about.

Were hostilities to break out, here are some raw numbers.


Active duty army personnel: 345,000, 1,613 tanks.
Naval ships: 2 destroyers, 3 frigates, 2 corvettes, 13 fast attack craft.
Air Force: fighters 115, fighter/bombers 144.


Active duty army personnel: 141,000, 11 armored divisions, 33 armored brigades 10 mechanical infantry brigades.
Naval ships: 3 submarines, 4 corvettes, 20 fast attack craft.
Air Force: 555 combat aircraft (90 probably stored) and 60 armed helicopters

It would seem that Israel could hold it's own, assuming a broader regional conflict does not erupt. Were that to be the case, the US would be hard pressed not intervene on Israel's behalf. European reaction would be either muted, or even slightly hostile to Israel, but likely an effective position of non-involvement. In any case, Israel is set up well for a quick war, but if it drags out, Iran has the sheer numbers to win via attrition. When you look beyond active duty troops, Iran has a lot more reserves and a lot more military service age population.

Hopefully it doesn't come to a shooting war, but if it does, it has to be won quickly or else the U.S. will be drawn into it.

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