A quarter of the population don’t have access to bomb shelters, an estimated 100,000 rockets and missiles are pointing towards Israel, it’s missile defense shield is incomplete and yet, during a war anticipated to last three weeks during which thousands of missiles would be launched towards Israel, less than 300 Israelis would get killed. That’s the worst-case scenario, Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet has been told.
Gareth Porter reports that one of Israel’s leading experts on Iranian missiles and the head of its missile defence programme for nearly a decade, says Iranian missiles are capable of doing significant damage to Israeli targets.
Uzi Rubin, who was in charge of Israel’s missile defence from 1991 to 1999 and presided over the development of the Arrow anti- missile system, has a much more sombre view of Iran’s capabilities.
The “bad news” for Israel, Rubin told IPS in an interview, is that the primary factor affecting Iran’s capability to retaliate is the rapidly declining cost of increased precision in ballistic missiles. Within a very short time, Iran has already improved the accuracy of its missiles from a few kilometres from the target to just a few metres, according to Rubin.
That improvement would give Iran the ability to hit key Israeli economic infrastructure and administrative targets, he said. “I’m asking my military friends how they feel about waging war without electricity,” said Rubin.
The consequences of Iranian missile strikes on administrative targets could be even more serious, Rubin believes. “If the civilian government collapses,” he said, “the military will find it difficult to wage a war.”
Rubin is even worried that, if the accuracy of Iranian missiles improves further, which he believes is “bound to happen”, Iran will be able to carry out pinpoint attacks on Israel’s air bases, which are concentrated in just a few places.
Some Israeli analysts have suggested that Israel could hit Iranian missiles in a preemptive strike, but Rubin said Israel can no longer count on being able to hit Iranian missiles before they are launched.
Iran’s longer-range missiles have always been displayed on mobile transporter erector launchers (TELs), as Rubin pointed out in an article in Arms Control Today earlier this year. “The message was clear,” Rubin wrote. “Iran’s missile force is fully mobile, hence, not pre-emptable.”
Rubin, who has argued for more resources to be devoted to the Arrow anti-missile system, acknowledged that it can only limit the number of missiles that get through. In an e-mail to IPS, he cited the Arrow system’s record of more than 80 percent success in various tests over the years, but also noted that such a record “does not assure an identical success rate in real combat”.
Meanwhile, last month the New York Times reported that the Pentagon estimates that several hundred Americans could be killed in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran.
A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.
The officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for American military action — and they emphasized that the exercise’s results were not the only possible outcome of a real-world conflict.
But the game has raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said. In the debate among policy makers over the consequences of any Israeli attack, that reaction may give stronger voice to those in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community who have warned that a strike could prove perilous for the United States.
The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.
The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.