The Guardian & BBC Channel 4 – 2013-03-04 22:15:45
What Would Happen if Israel Bombed Iran’s Nuclear Plants?
LONDON (November 4, 2012) — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is moaning that missile strikes haven’t hit Israel hard enough. The Americans say they support Israel’s military attack on Iran the previous day, but won’t actively engage in this war. And the Israelis are counting their country’s civilian deaths and wondering if they should launch a second strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, to “finish the job”.
This is all part of a war simulation game staged by an Israeli thinktank last month, to which a British film crew were given sole access. The result is a game-time enactment of what would happen if Israel does attack Iran.
For some time, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been escalating talk of a military strike, to prevent Iran from building its first nuclear weapon. The prospect of war, and recent disaster drills to prepare for it, have terrified his own people, and the rest of the world. Israeli military and intelligence chiefs say a strike is a bad idea, while the Obama administration has told Israel to back off and wait for sanctions to work.
If Israel hit Iran’s nuclear facilities, would Hezbollah, Iran’s allies in Lebanon, join in to retaliate? Would America step in to help its best friend in the Middle East? This filmed simulation shows a group of Israeli ex-spooks, former politicians and military officials split into teams to role-play the consequences.
I have not seen the full film, but was in the cutting room for a couple of days helping with translation and the scenes I saw were compelling. Team Israel, taking stock of Iranian missile attacks on civilian targets, makes the operational assumption that the situation won’t spiral totally out of control.
Is that a reasonable prediction, or totally delusional? The documentary has an interview with an Iranian former nuclear negotiator and foreign policy adviser, who returns the simulated salvo by saying that Israel has grossly underestimated Iran’s capacity for retaliation.
Iran, he says, would assume American complicity in any Israeli attack and take aim at US targets in the Middle East. When the US staged their own simulation of this same situation, in March, it predicted that an Israeli strike would lead to a wider regional war.
Now, the UK is thinking about putting warplanes in the Persian Gulf as tensions rise. And American military commanders have warned Israel that an attack on Iran could stunt US action, by cutting off key logistics support from Gulf countries that host US bases.
Watching scenes from Nuclear War Games, the bit that struck me most was a clip in which the Israeli role-players, having achieved their attack goals, are talking about a UN resolution — wondering if they should launch a final strike before ceasefire, and whether the US can be persuaded to make the resolution state “regret” rather than “condemnation” over Israel’s actions. Listening in, you can’t help feeling that this conversation has played out before — in real wars; in real life.
Dispatches: Nuclear War Games is on Channel 4 on Monday 5 November at 8pm
Nuclear War Games
BBC Channel 4
(October 31, 2012) — What will happen if Israel attacks Iran? This question has been on the lips of government officials across the Western and Arab worlds for almost 10 years.
If Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear facilities many fear that a regional war could erupt, dragging the US – and possibly Britain — into the mix. A strike on Iran might be many people’s nightmare, but it is one the Israelis won’t stop talking about.
Dispatches decided to go into the Israeli mind. We went to the country’s elite Institute of Security Studies in Tel Aviv to watch a war game that played out an Israeli attack on Iran and its likely outcomes.
Over the course of two days, Israeli diplomats, former government ministers and spies split off into teams playing all the relevant parties — Israel, Iran, the United States, the EU, the UN, and several Arab countries as well as Russia.
The war game started on a Sunday afternoon — just after midnight on 9 November in game time — with the news that three waves of Israeli planes had attacked nuclear sites across Iran. From that moment on it was all go.
The ‘Iranians’ almost immediately retaliated: launching missiles at Tel Aviv and other Israeli towns, killing around 75 and injuring hundreds more. As tensions escalated all sides got involved. The ‘Iranians’ tried to get their proxies, Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and Palestinian group Hamas to fire missiles at Israel, with limited success.
Both, it appeared, were keen to avoid antagonising ‘Israel’. ‘Iran’s’ attempts —as the victim of an attack — to have sanctions on its oil exports lifted also came to nothing.
Meanwhile, the ‘Israelis’ continued to enjoy the full support of the ‘USA’, which, though eager to avoid an escalation of hostilities, and unhappy at ‘Israel’s’ ‘premature’ strike against ‘Iran’, nonetheless supported its traditional ally.
Washington ensured that condemnation of ‘Israel’ in the UN Security Council was limited and even remained calm when ‘Israel’ undertook a further round of strikes against ‘Iran s’ nuclear facilities.
And that seemed to sum up the game: ‘Israel’ doing pretty much what it wanted — with little or no consequences. By the end of the proceedings, the picture of almost total ‘Israeli’ victory was clear: ‘Iranian’ retaliation had been limited; ‘Iran s’ attempts to get others to enter the conflict on its behalf had largely failed, as had its attempts to get ‘Egypt’ to cancel its peace accord with ‘Israel’.
‘Tehran’ failed to have the sanctions on it removed and also failed to have sanctions passed on ‘Israel’ in the Security Council. A strike against ‘Iran’, it seemed, could be an almost unqualified success.
But a game is not real life — and many did not share the war gamers’ views. Hossein Mousavian used to be a leading member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. He found the results of the war game unrealistic to say the least.
Iran would respond to any Israeli attack with everything it has, he said. And it would keep fighting. It had fought alone against Iraq for eights years during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. Iran, he argued, could handle Israel without difficulty.
Either way, the war game said more about the Israeli mindset than any arguments for or against a military strike on Iran. In its short history Israel has fought several major wars and been involved in almost continuous conflict. Everyone in Israel is either in the army, has been in the army or is waiting to go into the army.
Dispatches wanted to examine what it is like to live in a society almost constantly at war and travelled with Tamara, a mother whose only son, Danel, is in a combat unit in the Israeli army, as she made her way to visit her son on base. On the way she outlined the fear of parents everywhere in Israel who have to bring their children up as potential soldiers.
The war of words between Israel and Iran is hotting up. Is Iran a genuine threat to Israel, or is it a symptom of a greater, more perpetual fear of annihilation that lies at the heart of Israeli society?
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.