While lingering doubts may remain as to the United States’ will to launch a military operation in the event Iran dashes for nuclear weapons, most don’t question Israel’s willingness to respond with the IDF to a perceived nuclear threat. After all, the Jewish state has done it twice before: Iraq in 1981, Syria in 2007.
Recent tapes leaked to the Israeli press recorded former Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak discussing Israeli plans to launch attacks against Iranian targets three times, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Each time, the plans were ultimately shut down, whether through disagreements in the Cabinet or scheduling conflicts with the U.S.
Now that the nuclear deal with Iran appears to have anticlimactically jumped the congressional hurdle that clears the way for its implementation, lawmakers and policy analysts alike are looking at the day after. Not surprisingly, many are calling for legislation committed to boosting Israel’s security and, perhaps, arming the Jewish state to carry out air strikes against complicated Iranian targets on its own.
Former ambassador Dennis Ross and Director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Makovsky, called for legislation providing Israel with Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs, the world’s most powerful non-nuclear weapon which Israel could use to attack Iran’s underground Fordow facility, and the bombers necessary for their delivery.
They argued that providing Israel with the bomb would allow the U.S. to launch strikes on its own, together with the Israelis or even just in support of the Israelis. Additionally, if doubts persist that the U.S. isn’t serious about the military option — Iranian officials have ridiculed the U.S. over its military threats — they may be muted by the potential for unilateral Israeli air strikes with such powerful weapons.
House Representatives Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) came together from both sides of the Iran debate to signal their desire to share MOPs with Israel as well, calling for “robust missile defense and continued collaboration on all options for defending our critical ally, including the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.”
They echoed President Obama’s call for sealing a 10-year memorandum of understanding on Foreign Military Financing and increased cooperation over measures to prevent arms smuggling from Iran to its proxy Hezbollah, both in intelligence and military action, as well as efforts to identify and destroy terror tunnels dug underneath Israel’s border.
And from the military, retired U.S. Air Force general and former NSA director Michael Hayden also called for arming Israel with MOPs, as part of a military rebalancing that must be done in light of the Iran deal and to help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge, which is official U.S. policy. He said the weapons would be necessary to attack Fordow, a heavily fortified nuclear facility he doubted was really necessary for a peaceful program.
Hayden also called for additional arms to the U.S.’s Arab allies, who have also been tapped recently by Russia for weapons acquisitions in light of growing concerns over the Iranian threat.