Nuking the Mullahs

Nuking the Mullahs

Posted By Philip Giraldi On April 7, 2010

Back in August 2005, I broke the story that Dick Cheney and the Pentagon were working on a contingency plan to use tactical nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.  The nukes would be used because they were the only effective way to destroy the hardened sites, many of which are located deep underground.  I also reported that the contingency plan would kick in if there were another major terrorist attack against the United States, whether or not Iran was actually involved.  It would use the terrorist action as a justification for taking preemptive action and employing nukes would serve as a warning to Iran that any retaliation would result in possible additional nuclear strikes.  If implemented, it would have constituted the first use of nuclear weapons since the end of the Second World War.

It would be convenient to assume that the Dick Cheney school of international relations no longer exists.  In truth, the summer of 2005 seems almost like ancient history, part and parcel of a very different world, where Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Rumsfeld were still running amok scarcely reined in by the more moderate but equally ghastly Condi Rice.  Iraq was just starting to implode and Afghanistan was on a back burner but the hubris that drove the Bush Administration to look for enemies to destroy seems dated at the present due to economic and political deterioration in the United States.  Even many of those who saw America as the essential nation five years ago now recognize decline when they see it and are arguing for retrenchment.

But some things don’t change and the theory that just a few really big bombs can change the Middle East for the better has again surfaced.  Two weeks ago the non-partisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued a study suggesting that low yield tactical nuclear weapons are just the ticket for destroying Iran’s nuclear plants.  The report states that “some believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels.”  “Options in Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program” was written by Abdullah Toukan and Anthony Cordesman, both highly respected analysts and commentators.  The authors and CSIS do not exactly endorse the use of nuclear weapons and they note that there would be major political consequences, but they accept that there is a high likelihood that Israel is planning an attack of some kind and also observe that Tel Aviv’s only other options would not be very effective.  Israel has no heavy bombers and only a limited supply of bunker buster bombs.  F-16 fighter bombers launched from Israel would have little time on target and only limited conventional payloads that could not do much damage to the dispersed and deeply dug-in Iranian facilities.  Iranian air defenses, which have been enhanced over the past few years, might also prove to be a formidable obstacle.  At best, the Israelis would only be able to delay an Iranian nuclear program for six months to a year and the attack itself would guarantee Tehran’s commitment to develop its own nuclear deterrent as quickly as possible.

An Israeli nuclear strike could, on the other hand, be launched using ballistic missiles that Tel Aviv already has or from cruise missiles on submarines, which are also already in the country’s arsenal, meaning that Israeli warplanes would not have to cross hostile territory and face antiaircraft fire.  The targeting would also be more accurate using missiles that could be carefully aimed rather than unstable and possibly under attack aircraft and the results, compared to a conventional attack, would be devastating.

Two issues likely will determine whether Israel will use nuclear weapons against Iran.  The first relates to the ultimate objective of the Israeli attack.  An attack with conventional weapons will hardly cripple the presumed Iranian nuclear program and would be designed rather to send a message and to bring the United States into the conflict to finish the job.  But if the Israelis were to make the judgment that the United States will somehow refuse to cooperate or be drawn in, they might just be tempted to use the tactical nuclear weapons reported to be in their arsenal to destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

The second issue is Israeli isolation and irrationality, something that is harder to assess but which is becoming more evident.  Israel continues to be protected by the United States in the UN through its veto power and also in other international fora, but there should be no doubt that President Obama has a visceral dislike for Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and everything he represents.  And the feeling is mutual, but given the vulnerability of Israel if the US were to withdraw its support, the actions of Netanyahu to goad and defy Obama have to be seen as those of a man whose ability to behave rationally might well be questioned.

The truth is that Israel is fast becoming a pariah nation, like South Africa before the final collapse of apartheid, because no one any longer accepts the legitimacy of the its settlement growth and occupation policies.  Like South Africa, the Israeli response to criticism has been to become more reactionary and inward looking, constructing a police state internally and waging unending war against its neighbors to maintain cohesion against foreign enemies.  The program to divest from Israel is gathering steam both in Europe and the US and even traditional allies of Tel Aviv like Britain have begun to react to Israeli rogue behavior.  The recent expulsion of Israel’s Mossad chief from London over the issue of copying fifteen British passports for use in assassination operations was significant.  Visitors to Israel have now been warned that surrendering passports at immigration could lead to their being cloned to support illegal activities, a warning that is literally without precedent.  Several European countries that claim universal jurisdiction in war crime cases, including Spain, appear to be prepared to arrest traveling Israeli officials for civilian deaths in Gaza.

Israel demonstrated both its increasing isolation and its irrational side in response to the British expulsion of its intelligence chief.  Two Israeli parliamentarians compared the British to dogs, one adding that the “British may be dogs, but they are not loyal to us, but rather to an anti-Semitic system.”  What system he had in mind was not exactly clear and it is also interesting to note that an Israeli legislator would expect loyalty from the British government.  There was some speculation in the media that at least some of the anger might be directed against British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish and has family in Israel.  Miliband has generally been regarded as a good friend of Israel, having blocked legal moves to arrest visiting Israeli politicians and generals as war criminals, but even he had to take steps when the integrity of British passports was being undermined.

To be sure, there is a certain danger in isolating the Israelis too much as it could easily feed the always present Masada complex that might influence a dangerously unstable government to take action that might include exploiting its nuclear arsenal in search of Armageddon.  And make no mistake that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are not to be trusted by anyone.  Netanyahu’s deceptions and evasions were too much even for markedly pro-Israeli US President Bill Clinton, who became angry with him after being repeatedly lectured on policy, asking whether Netanyahu thought that he represented the superpower.  King Hussein of Jordan similarly finally gave up on achieving anything with a stonewalling and lying Netanyahu in the 1990s. The fact is, Bibi Netanyahu has never been interested in peace and his policies of creeping annexation of the West Bank and ethnic cleansing are instead designed to create a unitary Israeli state without Palestinians.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is even worse than Netanyahu and is a symbol of the kleptocratic impulses that characterize the extreme right in Israel.  He is a racist who has openly advocated executing Arab members of the Knesset and drowning Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea.  At one time he called for bombing the Aswan dam to punish Egypt for supporting the Palestinians and he was behind a bill in the Knesset that would have required all Israeli citizens of Arab descent to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state or face expulsion.  That he is the Foreign Minister of a country that pretends to have western-style democratic political values is itself telling.

It all adds up to a toxic brew.  If the US refuses to cooperate in bombing Iran conventionally, Israel might well accept the view that the Iranian nuclear program can only be destroyed by using other nuclear weapons.  Tel Aviv, controlling its own nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver the bombs on target, would be able to stage such an attack unilaterally.  An increasingly isolated Israel headed by reactionary and irrational politicians who are influenced by their own sense of racial superiority just might decide that the gamble is worth it.  It would be a very bad decision for Israel, Iran, and for the United States.

Read more by Philip Giraldi
•Honest in the Worst Way – March 31st, 2010
•The Crisis That Wasn’t – March 24th, 2010
•Some Rogue Regimes Are Less Rogue Than Others – March 17th, 2010
•The Rogue Nation – March 10th, 2010
•Many Voices Calling for War with Iran – March 3rd, 2010


U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat

61 Responses to “Nuking the Mullahs”

  • Patriot says:


    Todd responded to below:

    George Friedman, the guy who runs STRATFOR, spoke on BookTV this weekend.

    I set my VCR for a different speech but as they sometimes do, those good folks at COMCAST shoved my program aside and ran this establishment creep, so I was stuck with that. Towards the end of the video– Please do, visit this video

    and listen to the summarization at the last 10 minutes or so. He says, the US has no choice but to bomb Iran because Israel is insane and they’re going to do it. Friedman talks like this is just a fact of life we are supposed to believe.


  • Jeanne says:

    Does the drum beat for war with Iran by Israel, the Jewish Lobby in the US and the neocons ring a bell? Of yes, it was the same “bunch” who lobbied frantically for an invasion of Iraq — and we all know how well that went.

  • Patriot says:

    Exactly Jeanne… Did you see the following?:

    General James Jones at Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which is an AIPAC spin-off think tank of course!)

    General James Jones on Middle East Policy – C-SPAN Video Library

  • Patriot says:

    U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat

    WASHINGTON, Apr 23, 2010 (IPS) – The Barack Obama administration’s declaration in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran represents a new element in a strategy of persuading Tehran that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is a serious possibility if Iran does not bow to the demand that it cease uranium enrichment.

    Although administration officials have carefully refrained from drawing any direct connection between the new nuclear option and the Israeli threat, the NPR broadens the range of contingencies in which nuclear weapons might play a role so as to include an Iranian military response to an Israeli attack.

    A war involving Iran that begins with an Israeli attack is the only plausible scenario that would fit the category of contingencies in the document. ….

    A Timetable for War (with Iran):

    Israel Weighs Merits of Solo Attack on Iran | Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention

    Truth distorting Zionist historian pushing propaganda to get US into yet another war for Israel in the Middle East

    Why Israel may have to attack Iran
    – Other Views –

    Why Iran won’t attack Israel:

    Israel – Eternal War Monger

    Disgraceful Iran policy

    US, Arab states maintain shameful ambiguous position on Iran strike,7340,L-3745029,00.html

    Netanyahu says no to settlement halt

  • Patriot says:

    Clegg! by Justin Raimondo —

  • Patriot says:

    House Overwhelmingly Votes to Advance Iran Sanctions (for AIPAC on behalf of Israel)

    Congressman Ron Paul: Sanctions on Iran is an Act of War

  • Jeanne says:

    Gen. Jones, Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus all know that our troubles with the Muslim world are mainly due to Israel. US taxpayers have sent Israel billions of dollars without which they could not occupy and settle the West Bank — stealing Palestinian land and water and imprisoning them in the biggest outdoor prison in the world. Not only are Muslims enraged, but many non Muslims around the world are angry. Israel has lost the world — only the US remains because of the Israel Lobby. And the price each and every American pays is this “war” with the Muslim world which is what Israel wants. Israel wants the US to fight their “forever” war with the Muslim world so that they can steal every last inch of Palestinian land and water and, finally,expel Palestinans to Jordon.

  • Patriot says:

    U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat

    Gareth Porter*

    WASHINGTON, Apr 23 (IPS) – The Barack Obama administration’s declaration in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran represents a new element in a strategy of persuading Tehran that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is a serious possibility if Iran does not bow to the demand that it cease uranium enrichment.

    Although administration officials have carefully refrained from drawing any direct connection between the new nuclear option and the Israeli threat, the NPR broadens the range of contingencies in which nuclear weapons might play a role so as to include an Iranian military response to an Israeli attack.

    A war involving Iran that begins with an Israeli attack is the only plausible scenario that would fit the category of contingencies in the document.

    The NPR describes the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in those contingencies as a “deterrent”. A strategy of exploiting the Israeli threat to attack Iran would seek to deter an Iranian response to such an attack and thus make it more plausible.

    The new nuclear option on Iran has emerged after a series of public statements over the past year by senior officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden, suggesting the administration would tolerate an Israeli option.

    Both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations had said the United States “reserves the right” to respond with nuclear weapons to the use of chemical and biological weapons in an attack on U.S. forces or its “friends” or “allies”.

    A contingency plan called CONPLAN 8022-02, adopted in November 2003, aimed at destroying an adversary’s nuclear weapons or nuclear facilities, included the option of using earth-penetrating nuclear weapons to destroy deeply buried facilities.

    But the new NPR refers to “a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack against the U.S. or its allies or partners”.

    That language appears to suggest that the nuclear option would deter an Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel or U.S. military targets in the region in the event of an Israeli air attack on Iran.

    Both Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates made statements implicitly linking the new nuclear declaration to the broader problem of trying to force Iran to bow international demands on the nuclear issue.

    Interviewed by CBS News Apr. 1, Obama was asked what made him think sanctions would work this time. After referring to Iran’s isolation, which he said would eventually “have an effect on their economy”, Obama made an obvious allusion to military options. “Now, you know, I have said before that we don’t take any options off the table,” said Obama, “and we’re gonna continue to ratchet up the pressure and examine how they respond.”

    In the past, references to options being on or off the table had been used to refer to the option of a conventional U.S. air attack. In this case, however, Obama was clearly referring to the announcement of the nuclear option in the NPR that he knew was coming on Apr. 6 as a way to “ratchet up the pressure” on Iran.

    Asked in an interview with the New York Times Apr. 5 whether he believed Israel would decide to attack Iran if it “stays on the current course”, Obama refused to “speculate on Israeli decision-making”.

    But he said,”[W]e want to send a very strong message both through sanctions, through the articulation of the Nuclear Posture Review, through the nuclear summit that I’m going to be hosting, and through the NPT review conference that’s going to be coming up, that the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behaviour.”

    Gates was even more pointed in highlighting what he called the “message for Iran” in his Apr. 6 news briefing on the NPR, saying that “all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you”.

    It was not the intention of the original drafters of the NPR within the State Department to issue a new threat to Iran, according to a source who was briefed on the NPR earlier this month. But the official involved in the drafting acknowledged that Gates and Obama had seized on the language to suggest that the United States now had a stronger hand in dealing with Iran, according to the source.

    The White House Coordinator for WMD, Counter Terrorism and Arms Control is Gary Samore, who had had publicly discussed the need to exploit Iranian fear of an Israeli attack to gain diplomatic leverage over Tehran before joining the Obama administration.

    At a forum at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute in September 2008, Samore had said that the next administration would not want to “act in a way that precludes” an Israeli attack on Iran, “because we’re using the threat as a political instrument”.

    Samore was asked during the question and answer session after a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington Wednesday whether he expected Iran to believe that the United States would use nuclear weapons against Iran if it retaliated with conventional weapons against an Israeli attack on Iran. Samore ignored the question in answering.

    As part of an apparent effort to make Iran uncertain about an Israeli attack, a series of public statements by U.S. senior officials over the past year have suggested that the would do nothing to prevent such an Israeli attack. However, the Obama administration has conveyed to the Israeli government privately that it strongly opposes any Israeli attack on Iran, according to reports in the Israeli press.

    A former senior U.S. intelligence officer on Iran believes the nuclear option is likely to cause Iran to go farther in the direction of nuclear weapons rather than to give in. In an e-mail to IPS, Paul Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, said Iranian officials probably see the new nuclear option as “another manifestation of U.S. hostility toward Iran”.

    The perception of a U.S. threat to Iran “provides one of the principal incentives for Iranians to develop their own nuclear weapons”, said Pillar.

    Pillar said Iranians “may also see the doctrine as providing cover for an Israeli strike by serving as a deterrent against Iranian retaliation for such a strike”.

    Other political-military analysts cast doubt on the credibility of the announced nuclear option against Iran.

    Morton Halperin, who was director of Policy Planning in the State Department in the Clinton administration, told IPS, “I don’t think it’s credible at all. I don’t think the administration thinks it’s credible. But I think as a political matter, to have taken it off the table would have been politically untenable.”

    Jim Walsh of the MIT Security Studies Programme, who has had many contacts with Iranian leaders and national security officials in recent years, told IPS the United States “is not going to use nuclear weapons against Iran” and that it is “foolish” to suggest that “all options are on the table”.

    *Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.


  • Patriot says:

    A Timetable for War (for war with Iran):

Leave a Reply