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by Moshe Sharon


An Israeli attack on Iran seems inevitable. If it succeeds, it will return to Israel its deterrent power and send a clear message to the saber-rattling jihadists that they were too early in beginning the countdown for the disappearance of the Jewish state.

If it fails, or fails to achieve the majority of its objectives, it could amount to an act of national suicide. Fanatical Muslims on every side will be encouraged by the failure and outcome of an Iranian retaliation which would cause heavy damage to the whole center of our country.

Iran would unquestionably be joined by its proxies on our borders, Hizbullah and Syria on the north and Hamas on the south, the PLO jihad brigades under various names, and the Arabs of Israel. The latter have already shown their ability to block major traffic arteries and demonstrated that their loyalties rest with their Arab brethren, not with the Jewish state.

The repeated declarations of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the aim of Iran is to wipe Israel off the world map should not be taken as the empty, fiery words of a fanatical Muslim dictator, but as a plan of action. True, Iran does not need a pretext, but an Israeli attack on any nuclear installation in Iran, or just an invasion of Iranian air space could be used as an excellent reason for mounting an all-out missile attack.

The damage to Iran would be serious, but not devastating. Iran has a very high tolerance level. It proved it in the early 1980s during the war against Iraq, when Teheran and other places came under destructive attacks by Frog and Scud missiles and the Iranian army suffered heavy losses on the battlefield.

Iran can live with one Israeli air raid or two; not with a nuclear attack. As it seems now, Israel does not have the military facilities to deal with the distances involved and with other technical obstacles to carry out a successful attack on Iran. A combined Israeli and American effort, however, could cause irreparable damage to the Iranian nuclear program.

A non-nuclear Israeli attack on Iran would be a "surgical" operation. But an Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas attack would be indiscriminate and aimed at the major urban centers, causing tremendous harm.

IRAN HAS the motivation to destroy Israel, and if it is allowed to gain nuclear weapons it will not need an excuse to do so. That motivation is a double one: messianic Shi'ite and expansionist-imperial.

Since the late ninth century, the Shi'ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi'ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.

Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi.

Shi'ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shi'ite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity.

However both Shi'ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about "the coming of the hour" and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one.

Both Shi'ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad: The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: "Muslim! Servant of Allah! Here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!"

Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.

Shi'ism regards the Jews as an embodiment of filth and the contaminating source of ritual impurity — which adds another religious justification to the Muslims to rid themselves of the Jews and their state. Iran threatens that it has the ability to do so with its ballistic missiles and the readily available services of local proxies who would love to join the general effort to kill the Jews.

THE OTHER side of Iran's motivation to destroy Israel is the imperial one.

Iran has the same virus inherent in every totalitarian power — to gain imperial dominion. Totalitarian Iran wants to recreate its empire east of the Mediterranean. The leaders of modern Iran, long before the present Islamic regime, toyed with the idea of reviving the empire of Cyrus and Darius.

The present Islamic regime has the same aspirations. Nuclear power is necessary to achieve this desire. As fantastic as it sounds, the destruction of the State of Israel seems necessary for the expansion to the east Mediterranean (which might include the elimination of a few Sunni entities such as Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states).

LET US try a scenario in which Israel carries out a successful attack, with or without active American help, on a few key Iranian reactors. Such an operation would not completely destroy Iran's nuclear capability, but it would badly wound its national and Islamic pride.

The Iranian people, including the opposition would, at least in the initial stage, rally around the ruling mullahs. The price of oil would soar, Israel would be blamed for the destruction of the West's economy, and Europe might go so far as to impose sanctions on Israel, with or without a UN decision.

Moreover, being an easy target, Israel would have to brace for the inevitable Iranian retaliation. Iran would attack with the Shihab 3 ballistic missiles that carry a warhead of up to one ton and have an accuracy of 50 meters-100m. Israel has an answer to a limited number of these missiles, of which Iran has probably a few hundred. It has no answer to all the missiles that would be launched against it from three fronts.

Theoretically, Iran can deliver 1,000-1,500 tons of the most modern explosives within a few days. The long-range missiles that have been supplied to Hizbullah via Damascus, and the arsenal that has been massed by Hamas in Gaza, which includes missiles that can reach Beersheba, must also be taken into consideration.

There is no question that these two organizations will move into action together with Iran, and it is not impossible that Hizbullah would attempt the invasion of Israel proper to gain a local victory by occupying a border village, killing inhabitants and kidnapping a few over to Lebanon.

This gruesome situation can happen any time, and not necessarily as a result of an Israeli attack on Iran. Such an attack, however, would surely bring it about.

ARE THESE facts not known to the Israeli intelligence agencies? They are, but so were Hitler's intentions known to the British and the French before World War II, and they were known to the Russians before Operation Barbarosa. None of them did anything to stop the German dictator before it was too late.

At the end of the war, Europe was freed. The Germans were defeated and none of the countries of Europe was obliterated from the map. In the case of Israel, there is no recovery from a one-time devastation.

There is no second chance.


This is a sampling of comments to the articles, excluding obvious fakes, pshishers, and those ready to submit to defeat.

123. Imagine ... ... that Iran mixes some of the enriched uran and other radioacitve material it already posseses into the explosives used as warheads in rockets based in Iran and in many of those given to Hizbullah. Hizbullah could easily start attacks against northern Israel up to Haifa that could contaminate large areas and killhundreds if not thousands of Israelis. Dirty bombs can be built in a matter of hours by Iran and may be sent in a matter of days over to Southern Lebanon, e.g. with a diplomatic courier, getting aroung all the UN and Lebanese controls. It's late, maybe too late? miroso — EU (07/22/2008 20:15)

120. #101 — why don't you confront the Islamic Fundalmentals who kill for their Jihad? Confront the jihads who declared a holy war against the free world. I have yet to hear a muslim condem the attacks against the world trade center, 3,000 civilians lost their lives in one day, in one hour. no, you would rather confront the author of an article that points out the danger to the free world. Confront Iran who wants this Jihad! Have Muslims so lost their ability to think for themselves? Think for yourselves! BH — United States of America (07/21/2008 17:30)

119. Idiots Most of you responders are fairly smart idiots. Why? Because you refuse to except the premise that most of the people in this world do not give a damn about Jews and blame them and the State of Israel for most of their woes. So, decieving ourselves into thinking that by being responsible citizens of the world, we will be loved and accepted by all, we are at this very minute allowing the Nazi-like regiem in Tehran to negotiate all the time they need to develope the ultimate Jew killing weapon. Bullets, gas, ovens, Hitler needed years to do what Iran or their proxies will do in minutes. Chef — USA (07/21/2008 05:55)

117. Meaner Than The Mean Israel must take the stance of being " Meaner than the Mean for the Good" In a nut shell what ever Israel must due to protect the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Israel should let the world know that if Iran does not accept the will of the security council. Then Israel can and will choose the time place, and method to defend herself. If Iran comes with their fists, we come with a knife. If they come with a gun we come with cannon. If they come with a cannon they meet Sampson, Israel where is my King are you there?! It's Go time! NEVER AGAIN! Brad — USA (07/21/2008 00:39)

114. Israel could do it with arab help or a secret deal with the US Israel can do it with backing from theGulf arabs who dont want Iran getting nukes anymore than Israel does. Either an Israel, arab coalition which would be first choice or Israel using arab territory to launch strikes. Operating out of Israel itself there is very little that can be done alone as this this isnt Iraq 1981. The other possibility is a secret deal with the US whereby Israel provokes Iran Into attacking Israel allowing the US to come to help their ally. The British & French did a deal with Israel in Suez to provoke Egypt into war then they came in as peace keepers. Zionist forever — (07/20/2008 19:07)

111. Hezbollah blackmail I hope the writer of this article can see that Hezbollah and other anti-Israel forces are tools of Iran used to blackmail Israel into doing nothing while Iran succeeds in its plans of obtaining a weapon, which once launched, will destroy not only Israeli lives, but will devastate the Israeli economy and nation as a whole Israel would never be the same. Is this not similar to the tactics Hitler used to render the Jewish population helpless while he loaded them onto trains and trucks and exterminated them at will? Israel must defend itself before the first blow is struck against its soil. Marvin Cox — USA (07/19/2008 17:06)

105. Moshe is right..... We need a two punch to take out the Iranian threat, One an EMP attack to disable their communications and two a tactical nuclear attack to destroy their nuclear ambitions forever. As a bonus this will restore Israel's respect and deterence for generations to come. Mike — USA (07/19/2008 04:45)

99. Good article ... Unfortunately this article I believe is very accurate and the assesment of Ahmadinjad. He is driven by his religious idealology, and for him that is all the reason he needs to strike at Israel and the United States, this is something too many people on this planet fail to understand. When you look at the big picture in this region, Israel only has about 1/500th of the land, when compared to the Arabs. You would think it was the other way aroud. Also let us not forget, Ahmadinejad feels this is duty in life and purpose to wipe out our countries, we all needto wake up ... NOW! J Johnstone — USA (07/18/2008 22:51)

97. Article: We only get one strike The classical FIRE (everything) ON WARNING. But you have no other choice now, do you? James A F Compton — USA (07/18/2008 22:26)

88. SURELY, surely, the US, the British, the French and the rest, know full well that they must assist in this undertaking if they are to prevent the mess that will surely come to them all if they don't. This is not just an 'Israeli problem only'! They need to get their heads out of the sand and step up to the plate! And any of the Arab states who have and gumshin at all should do the same. People of the free world must come together on this! berid — (07/18/2008 10:21)

75. To — Almost, but not quite right Unfortunately, Iran like has enough material to at least build a "dirt bomb," if not a nuclear weapon. Also, they are certianly preparing a multi-front attack. Either one of their choosing (illegal, but ignored — just like what happened in the Lebanon war of 06. No one can claim the Israel started that war. And, yet no one did anything to stop Hizballah.) or one that will be justified by some external threat. So events are coming that will once again place Israel in a situation similar to 67. john — (07/18/2008 04:37)

59. Great article. That is why Israel must use a tactical nuclear weapon on Iran. help me to understand. The world knows Iran will nuke Israel with total disregard for human life. Yet, Israel has to think about a targeted mission of life and death to avoid the general population. If England or the US fought a war of survival like this, we would all be speaking German or be lampshades. The only way for the West to regain normallacy in the world, we must cut off the head of the viper. The world will be a better place without Iran. We all know it. BradL — USA (07/17/2008 21:03)

55. Israel does have an answer to an all-out missile attack It can prevail in an all-out war, whether conventional or otherwise. It's enemies — most importantly Syria — know that, which makes such a contingency less likely. Even if Iran is only wounded, the decimation of its proxies would strengthen Israel. I think that the professor is too pessimistic. Nobody has more experience in dealing with dire choices than the Jews. Israel only had one strike in the beginning, when she was incomparably weaker, and look at her now. Not The Other Herb — USA (07/17/2008 20:24)

38. Think outside the box. Militarily speaking, the best thing Israel could do is preemptively destroy Syria's military and allow the Sunnis to take over. This would effectively isolate Hizbullah, and Lebanon would become an independent nation again. Of course this will not happen because Israel does not have a military government. However, in the not unlikely event of another confrontation with Hizbullah, Syria's Assad should not get off with another warning. Tex — USA (07/17/2008 18:01)

23. Reading this article was like hearing myself think. This is exactly how I see our current situation. The question is how ruthless we are willing to be to survive. Personally, I have no limits. Whatever it takes, that's the course of action to take. Only our survival is a consideration. Better to be alive & condemned than dead & mourned. We don't need more crocodile tears for dead Jews. Let someone else mourn their dead, not us. Terry — Israel (07/17/2008 15:44)

18. YOUR RIGHT TO EXIST Israel must attack with both conventional and nuclear weapons.She must use her small tactical nukes to take out the mullahs nuclear research facilities at the same time she must use her air power to destroy Irans offensive missiles.Israel must not wait for approval from the BUSH adminstration it will never come.If you are waiting for approval from the major western powers,It will never come.The west is now in It's Nevelle CHAMBERLIN mode which is appeasement. If you think the world has changed for the better since WW2 then i can sell you some land in a Florida swamp.Hurry if you chose life. Jeff C — USA (07/17/2008 15:08)

13. Islamic studies can teach us how to establish deterrence. I see you are in Islamic studies. Had my own experience with Arab culture. Had a company in a north african country. Good first year followed by big bonuses to already well paid staff. They stopped putting in an effort. So I fired one executive in front of the others, I chose at random, and had him immediately escorted from the building by security. Explained to the others that I was not satisfied and would be hiring their replacements. Business improved fast. Hit one "arab" state (Iran), very very hard, and the other will think twice. It's a Shoa issue, ours. Make it expensive to kill us. Jon — (07/17/2008 13:52)

17. THIS IS AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE BECAUSE OF TWO POINTS: One: it takes into serious consideration the irrational messianic (or mahdianic) part of the Iranian official policy, which Westerners mostly do not understand and many do not believe it exists Two: it does not contain utopian arguments by which reality is blurred and reader confused, which call for some kind of peaceful settlement by further appeasing the enemy. Boris Havel — CROATIA (07/17/2008 14:58)

7. Not just the nukes: hit oil facilities too Yes, oil prices will spike temporarily. But the lifeline to the Mullahs will be cut. It will take years to recover and then the international controls will have some clout. Israel will indeed be clobbered by 300 missiles or whatever it is they have in their arsenal, plus the pinpricks from Hizbollah. What of it. What needs to be done, needs to be done. Mushma Oule — Israel (07/17/2008 12:17)

5. To succeed or to fail Your article at several points "pussy foots" around the non-nuclear/nuclear issue, saying the the former is very risky (of failure) and the second: well you say nothing ! One presumes that Nantaz and other buried centers are not immune to nuclear bunker busters, and 1m accuracy (probably enough for 100Killotons) is probably attainable with a cruise missile. So why the intellectual poverty of one sided speculation. Either write sincerely about theses issues, or not at all (which may be a better policy). Jon — (07/17/2008 11:05)

4. A comment to Prof. Sharon What turned me off in the article was that you talk about Israel not having a 2nd chance plus deadly retaliation by Iran, etc., then you bring up the price of oil and EU boycott of Israel. If these are a concern, then the Iranian threat is not so serious. If it's serious, destroy the threat by all means at its disposal now. All means. If it is not, then relax. Professor, your brilliant "Bazaar negotiations" piece of a few years ago is not going to work here. There are no negotiators. Damn the price of oil and Europe. The former will go back down if Israel is eventually destroyed. Boris — Canada (07/17/2008 07:40)

3. What is the point of this article ? I don;t understand the point of this article. Why does Israel get one chance? Israel can launch missiles at Iran's installations for as long as necessary. If israel fight with full force they can eliminate Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Martin Leaf — (07/17/2008 06:50)

1. THEN ISRAEL SHOULD PREEMPTIVELY STRIKE HIZBULLAH, HAMAS AS WELL AS IRAN The thing NOT to do is what Israel has becoem good at doing: NOTHING. Or perhaps Iran has empty fields to bomb?? abe — usa (07/17/2008 01:00)


Moshe Sharon is professor emeritus of Islamic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This article appeared July 16, 2008 in the Jerusalem Post JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


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