Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran's Nuclear Development Facilities

During the last several months, the Burke Chair has carried out a detailed examination of Iran’s programs involving missile and weapons of mass destruction. The key drafts involved are available here.

A final comprehensive report will be published this summer as CSIS book by the Praeger Press.

Abdullah Toucan, a senior Associate of the Burke Chair, has prepared an additional report which provides an independent assessment of Israel’s options for striking at Iran’s facilities, based in part on prior work on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This report provides a detailed analysis of Israeli capabilities, possible flight paths, sorties requirements, battle damage capabilities relative to target hardening, and the other details of possible Israeli strikes.

It is entitled “Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Development Facilities

The analysis examines the problems that Israel might encounter in penetrating the air defenses of given states in the region and the comparative air defense coverage of key states along possible flight paths. Detailed maps and charts analyze the coverage of given systems, sortie options, and the other military details that shape possible Israeli and Iranian options.

Finally the analysis provides a comparative analysis of Israel’s possible nuclear weapons holdings relative to Iran’s capabilities to produce nuclear weapons, and of possible missile as well as air attacks.

The key conclusions of the analysis are:

•   A military strike by Israel against Iranian Nuclear Facilities is possible and the optimum route would be along the Syrian-Turkish border then over a small portion of Iraq then into Iran, and back the same route. However, the number of aircraft required, refueling along the way and getting to the targets without being detected or intercepted would be complex and high risk and would lack any assurances that the overall mission will have a high success rate.

•    With regard to the Arab States, most probably they will not condone any attack on Iran under the pretext that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel and a security threat to the whole region, whilst Israel has some 200 to 300 nuclear  weapons, and the delivery means using the Jericho missiles, in addition to Israel still occupying the West Bank and  the Syrian Golan Heights.

•    The more there is an Israeli threat to the survival of the regime in Iran, the more Iran will be determined to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran would withdraw from the NPT based on the argument that it needs to acquire nuclear weapons to protect its sovereignty and any further aggression by Israel and the U.S.

•    A strike by Israel on Iran will give rise to regional instability and conflict as well as terrorism.

•    Iran should be engaged directly by the U.S. with an agenda open to all areas of military and non-military issues that both are in agreement or disagreement. Any realistic resolution to the Iranian nuclear program will require an approach that encompasses Military, Economic, Political interests and differences of the U.S vs Iran.

•    The U.S. will have to try to make Comprehensive Verification of Iran’s Nuclear Development Program one of the priorities in any diplomatic dialogue, while trying at the same time to persuade Iran to stop its enrichment program. However, in this area the U.S. will have to walk and negotiate along a very fine line between Israel’s WMD and Ballistic Missile capabilities and the Iranian Nuclear development program. The U.S. must recognize that both are very closely inter-related and are fueling each other. So the U.S. should be prepared to address both issues simultaneously while trying not to be perceived as though it has double standards when it comes to Israel.


Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy

Abdullah Toukan