Israeli Attack on Iran? Dire Consequences for India

The ter­ror strike on an Israeli diplo­mat brought the Iran-Israel shad­ow war to the streets of Del­hi. Any cri­sis in the Per­sian Gulf would dra­mat­i­cal­ly esca­late the price of oil and there­by seri­ous­ly impact on the Indi­an and glob­al econ­o­my. The price of oil could eas­i­ly cross US$ 200 per bar­rel and more. Over 68 per cent of India’s oil sup­plies and 100 per cent of its gas are cur­rent­ly sourced from the Gulf region. The US and Europe are now putting in place eco­nom­ic sanc­tions to tar­get Iran’s oil exports. Iran in turn has threat­ened to block the Straits of Hor­muz in retal­i­a­tion. Any Iran­ian attempts to close the Gulf of Hor­muz could seri­ous­ly impact the Chi­nese, Indi­an, Japan­ese and South Kore­an economies. Such an eco­nom­ic cri­sis would be push­ing the enve­lope too far and there is now a need for a frank dia­logue between us and our strate­gic part­ners. This arti­cle analy­ses the like­ly shape and con­tours of an Israeli mil­i­tary strike on Iran and its huge con­se­quences. A clear and present dan­ger is loom­ing and there is a dire need to antic­i­pate events and defuse the cri­sis before it over­takes us.

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There is a loom­ing cri­sis gath­er­ing over the Per­sian Gulf. Israel is get­ting restive over the Iran­ian quest for a nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ty and is seem­ing­ly prepar­ing for a mil­i­tary strike to knock out the Iran­ian nuclear facil­i­ties. This shad­ow war between Iran and Israel reached New Del­hi with the ter­ror attack on the Israeli diplo­mat with­in earshot of the Prime Min­is­ters res­i­dence at 7 Race Course Road. Far more crit­i­cal than this ter­ror esca­la­tion how­ev­er, is the prospect of a con­ven­tion­al con­flict between Iran and Israel and the dis­as­trous impact it could have on our ener­gy secu­ri­ty. With the recent­ly con­clud­ed war in Iraq and the still ongo­ing engage­ment in Afghanistan, the US has appar­ent­ly lit­tle appetite for anoth­er war in the Per­sian Gulf so soon — espe­cial­ly one that could spin out of con­trol. In 2007-08 the US had made naval show of force deploy­ments in the Per­sian Gulf to coerce Iran into call­ing off its nuclear pro­gramme. US air strikes then would cer­tain­ly have put back the Iran­ian nuclear pro­gramme by a few years.

How­ev­er, the fear of Iran­ian retal­i­a­tion, pri­mar­i­ly through means of asym­met­ric war­fare options and its capa­bil­i­ty to tar­get ship­ping / oil lanes in the Gulf, threat­ened to entrain an esca­la­tor where the endgame would have become high­ly risky. It could have derailed the glob­al econ­o­my and gen­er­at­ed a world­wide reces­sion with the price of oil soar­ing beyond the US$ 200 a bar­rel mark. So Amer­i­ca had clear­ly backed off then.

The US intel­li­gence esti­mates stat­ed there­after that Iran had halt­ed its dri­ve for nuclear weapon­i­sa­tion. The world had heaved a sigh of relief and there was a vis­i­ble deesca­la­tion in the stri­dent rhetoric for then. There are how­ev­er some indi­ca­tions of a change in the sce­nario once again. When the mil­i­tary option was tak­en off the table in 2007, the Israeli intel­li­gence was giv­en a free hand and vir­tu­al­ly unlim­it­ed funds to tar­get the Iran­ian nuclear pro­gramme and sci­en­tists. Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad was giv­en a three years exten­sion to hit the Iran­ian pro­gramme. So far five very senior Iran­ian nuclear sci­en­tists have been assas­si­nat­ed along­with the head of the Iran­ian mis­sile pro­gramme. The Stuxnet virus was used to infect the Iran­ian Ura­ni­um enrich­ment facil­i­ty and seri­ous acts of sab­o­tage hit the Iran­ian mis­sile pro­duc­tion pro­gramme. Mean­while in Sepem­ber 2007 itself the Israeli Air Force had struck the Syr­i­an nuclear facil­i­ty at Al Kabir and destroyed it suc­cess­ful­ly.

When the mil­i­tary option was tak­en off the table in 2007, the Israeli intel­li­gence was giv­en a free hand and vir­tu­al­ly unlim­it­ed funds to tar­get the Iran­ian nuclear pro­gramme and sci­en­tists. So far six very senior Iran­ian nuclear sci­en­tists have been assas­si­nat­ed. The Stuxnet virus was used to infect the Iran­ian Ura­ni­um enrich­ment facil­i­ty and seri­ous acts of sab­o­tage hit the Iran­ian mis­sile pro­duc­tion pro­gramme

Israeli rehearsals

In June 2008 Israel had car­ried out a major mil­i­tary exer­cise, which appeared to be a full dress rehearsal for a poten­tial bomb­ing attack on Iran’s nuclear facil­i­ties. US offi­cials then said that the Israeli exer­cise appeared to be an effort to devel­op the country’s long range strike poten­tial and demon­strate the seri­ous­ness with which it views Iran’s nuclear pro­gramme. Was it anoth­er coer­cive exer­cise to deter Iran or a full fledged rehearsal for an impend­ing Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facil­i­ties?

Media reports spec­u­lat­ed that over a 100 Israeli F-15 and F-16 air­craft had tak­en part in these manoeu­vres over the East­ern Mediter­ranean over Greece and Crete. The exer­cise also includ­ed Israeli heli­copters that could be used to res­cue downed pilots. The heli­copters and refu­elling tankers flew over 900 miles – the approx­i­mate dis­tance between Israel and nuclear tar­get sets in Iran.

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India

Defence and Security Alert (DSA