A Credible Military Threat to Iran

(Daily Beast) Eli Lake - As Iran methodically built its nuclear program, Israel has been assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran's defenses in the case of a pre-emptive aerial strike. A U.S. intelligence assessment this summer concluded that any Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would likely include electronic warfare against Iran's electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers. Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance cellphone signal that commands a cell network to "sleep," effectively stopping transmissions. In a 2007 attack on a Syrian nuclear site, Israeli planes "spoofed" the country's air-defense radars, at first making it appear that no jets were in the sky and then in an instant making the radar believe the sky was filled with hundreds of planes. Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran's big-city electric grids, which are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack, officials say. The likely delivery method for the electronic elements of this attack would be an unmanned aerial vehicle. A senior Israeli official said this month that one important objective of Israel's political strategy on Iran was to persuade Iranian decision-makers that a military strike against their nuclear infrastructure was a very real possibility. "The only known way to stop a nuclear program is to have smashing sanctions with a credible military threat. Libya is the best example of this," this official said. If past practice is any guide, the Israelis would not likely strike at the same moment that their officials are discussing the prospect in the press. In other words, if Israel is openly discussing a military strike, it is unlikely to be imminent. But if Israel goes radio silent - like it did when it attacked a nuclear site in Iraq in 1981 - that may be an early warning sign that a strike is nearing. In 2007, the Israelis presented what they considered to be rock-solid evidence that Syria was building a covert nuclear facility at al-Kibar. They asked President Bush to bomb the facility, according to the new memoir from Condoleezza Rice. "The president decided against a strike and suggested a diplomatic course to the Israeli prime minister," she wrote. "Ehud Olmert thanked us for our input but rejected our advice, and the Israelis then expertly did the job themselves." One American close to the current prime minister said, "When Netanyahu came into office, the understanding was they will not make the same mistake that Olmert made and ask for something the president might say no to. Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission."

2011-11-18 00:00:00

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