Israeli alternatives in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat
The Vienna deal has been signed and likely will soon be ratified, which raises the question: Will any government intervene militarily to stop the nearly inevitable Iranian nuclear buildup?
Obviously it will not be the American or Russian governments or any of the other four signatories. Practically speaking, the question comes down to Israel, where a consensus holds that the Vienna deal makes an Israeli attack more likely. But no one outside the Israeli security apparatus, including myself, knows its intentions. That ignorance leaves me free to speculate as follows.
Three scenarios of attack seem possible:
Airplanes. Airplanes crossed international boundaries and dropped bombs in the 1981 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear installation and in the 2007 attack on a Syrian one, making this the default assumption for Iran. Studies show this to be difficult but attainable.
Special ops. These are already underway: computer virus attacks on Iranian systems unconnected to the Internet that should be immune, assassinations of top-ranking Iranian nuclear scientists, and explosions at nuclear installations.
Israel will likely intervene in some capacity to stop the Iranian nuclear buildup.
Presumably, Israelis had a hand in at least some of these attacks and, presumably, they could increase their size and scope, possibly disrupting the entire nuclear program. Unlike the dispatch of planes across several countries, special operations have the advantage of reaching places like Fordow, far from Israel, and of leaving little or no signature.
Nuclear weapons. This doomsday weapon, which tends to be little discussed, would probably be launched from submarines. It hugely raises the stakes and so would only be resorted to, in the spirit of "Never Again," if the Israelis were desperate.
Of these alternatives, I predict the Netanyahu government will most likely opt for the second, which is also the most challenging to pull off (especially now that the great powers promised to help the Iranians protect their nuclear infrastructure). Were this unsuccessful, it will turn to planes, with nuclear weapons as a last resort.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.