Israel and Iran continue their war of words. Pundits are trying to predict when and if the missiles will start flying. I wonder how much money can be made by investors who correctly guess the timing of a first strike. I assume the first signs of war-sized violence will send Israeli stocks down and perhaps defense stocks in the United States up.

And this made me wonder how hard it must be for Israel to keep the timing of a first strike secret. There must be some small but definite difference between being generally ready to attack and actually making the decision. I'm guessing some types of military contracts with civilian companies get activated just ahead of an attack. Maybe the military suddenly purchases more of some sorts of supplies that can't be easily stored. Or maybe the families of top Israeli officials cut short their travel and vacation plans. It seems to me that it would be impossible to hide the timing of a first attack from all insiders who might use the knowledge to profit.

A few days ago I noticed a 5% drop in an Israeli ETF that I invested in. A quick check of the news didn't turn up any stories beyond the usual drumbeats for war that have been ongoing for months. Is a sudden 5% drop a sign that insiders know what's coming?

Then I asked myself if Israel is clever enough do some head fakes (phony leaks) ahead of the real attacks just to see how Iranian defenses respond. It seems like a good way to make the Iranian leadership imagine more vividly how they will feel when the real thing happens. Maybe that's a good negotiating tactic. And maybe it helps make the real attack more of a surprise.

Israel is in an oddly impossible position. They say they can't tolerate an Iranian nation that talks openly of Israel's annihilation while it's working toward the capability of building nukes. But an Israeli military attack would guarantee that the Iranians become more dangerous now and later. Israel loses no matter what.

If your only two options (attack or don't attack) are both losing propositions, what do you do? My guess is that a third option will emerge that would have been unthinkable under conditions less dire. Maybe the third option will involve a bold peace initiative the likes of which no one would have seen coming. Maybe the third option is a decapitation strike against the Iranian regime instead of an attack on nukes. Or maybe Israel will dig up the top layer of the Holy Lands, put it on barge-islands, build settlements on top of it, and float away. (It only sounds ridiculous until you compare it to the alternative of presumed nuclear annihilation.)

I put the question to you: Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear sites?
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+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 16, 2012
If I were Iran I'd try to smuggle in a north korean nuke as soon as possible and explode it at my nuke testing site.

Big news: "Iran has nukes!"

After that I'd have all the time in the world for developing a native capability.
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 16, 2012
Yes, it will.
And it will survive this because, even if the US doesn't support or condone the attack, it will protect Israel from the iranian response.

As for the timing stuff, hiding timing information is part&parcel of any military campaign. No holidays will be cut short before the first shot because there'll be enough relevant people back home to start the action.

Remembering my east german army days, the requirement was that 50% of the people are in the barracks all the time. So, in theory, Mr. Honnecker could have pushed the button on christmas eve and half the army would have responded within 20min. On the other hand, the NVA being in the state it was, there would have been a big blinking indicator: Lots of repairs to the aging and often unusable equipment in the months before. But somehow I doubt that the israeli army suffers from such problems.

Maybe one indicator would be serving kids of israeli top-politicians being sent on vacation? You know, parents are parents after all...
Aug 16, 2012
Yes, Israel will start a war soon after the US Presidential Election. And, since they'll want to attack under cover of the New Moon, the most likely date will be November 13. Initially, the stock market will not sell off hard, but within a few weeks, the stock market will crash, bounce, and then crash again. By the end of July 2013, the market will be retesting the March 2009 lows.
Aug 16, 2012
Can somebody please tell what is at the root of the Iran-Israel conflict. They do not even share a common border. I can understand Israel being wary of a nuclear muslim nation but what exactly does Iran have against Israel.

That said, if you have to attack a country that is trying to go nuclear, you have to do it before it acquires nuclear capability. That's a no-brainer. We have had many instances in past world history where a peace-loving vacillating leadership has led to greater and prolonged bloodshed rather than decisive action taken at the right time.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 16, 2012
The factions in the Middle East will never stop fighting until one of them exterminates the rest.

I urge the US to grant Israelis blanket permission to move here. If I were one of them I'd do it. Think about it: nearly all their population is in two, not very large metro areas. Two nukes will (probably someday) take them out in 30 seconds. Even if they retaliate successfully, they won't have won anything.

Fortunately, the US has enough oil that "we no longer care about anything that happens in the Middle East" is a perfectly acceptable foreign policy. We just have to overcome the EPA's ongoing misguided efforts to prevent us from producing our own oil.

As for the question we started with: If Israel doesn't attack first, they're dead. They know it. They'll attack. I would too, if emigrating isn't an option.
Aug 16, 2012
One of the things I remember about survivors of the Holocaust (which Ahmadinejad denies, of course) is the man who was asked what he had learned from the experience. He replied words to the effect that, "When someone tells you they want to kill you, you should assume that they mean it."

The regime in Iran has been open about their desires, along with the Islamic extremist world, to destroy Israel. The problem the Israeli government faces is whether or not to take them at their word.

The problem Israel faces is similar to the problem that, say, Germany would face, if all their neighbors openly said that they wanted to wipe them off the face of the Earth. Do you just hope that they're being rhetorical, and that they don't really mean it? Or do you err on the side of continuing existence, and believe that they do?

The Israelis have never attempted genocide against the Arab world. However, since 1948, that's just what the Arab world has presented to the Israelis. So, place yourself, regardless of your political position, in the position of the leader of Israel. You know that a couple of well-placed nukes would destroy your country. Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem - both gone, and bingo-jango, there goes Israel.

So what do you do? Do you let a violently unstable regime who has publicly said they want to start Armageddon in order to return the twelfth Imam, starting with nuking Israel, continue to develop their nuclear capability? Or do you decide to press forward with a surgical strike, taking out their nuclear capability while trying to minimize civilian casualties?

I'll bet you know what I would do. What about you? If you had the responsibility to defend your country, regardless of your political position, what would YOU do???

If a country says it's going to destroy Israel, and is actively working to develop the capability to do just that, then you have no fallback position if Israel takes you seriously. Retaliatory strikes after the destruction of Israel's big cities do little good, once 70% of your citizenry and 90% of your infrastructure has been destroyed.

So, sure. Israel will attack Iran's nuclear capability, just as they did with Iraq. And a lot of the more moderate Arab states will secretly breathe a sigh of relief - because they know that megalomaniac dictators don't look at the destruction of Israel as an end - they look at it as a stepping stone for invading and controlling the rest of the oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

This is not an option. This is survival for Israel. They, and I, would choose survival rather than extinction every time.
Aug 15, 2012
The Church of Political Correctness is more powerful than Israel. They won't be able to do anything. Ten or twenty years down the line, when Iran has a thermonuclear weapon, Israel is going to be destroyed. Any Israelis expecting to live past that point had better emigrate as soon as they can.

The only hope for Israel is if the Arab world has its Enlightenment. (And that doesn't mean the Arab Spring, which has been won by the Muslim Brotherhood -- of which Hamas is an offshoot .) I'm not going to hold my breath.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
I think they won't perform a military attack. Iran is no real threat yet, their military is far too weak, so there is no need at this time. Israel will ofcourse try to prevent Iran from becoming stronger in other ways. They have already done it, together with the US:


and they will continue.
Aug 15, 2012
Yes they will attack.
But maybe not so direct as you (or anyone) is expecting.

I think a direct bombing attack on the uranium enrichment facility or the suspected bomb-building locations is unlikely. These are hardened targets, and the locations are not 100% certain.

More likely would be attacks on the source of the uranium fuel (maybe covert ops in other countries) before the uranium can be delivered. Maybe more cyber-attacks. Very likely attacks (or abductions) of key Iranian scientists.

The third option could be (as you suggest) a surprising diplomatic approach: Iran simply shuts down it's weapons research (without admitting it was doing any) and Israel gives up some territory. Maybe the Palestinians get a state (without Israel having to recognize it, or accept right-of-return). Nobody is happy, so everyone wins.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012

Iran has severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel, and its government does not recognize Israel as a country and refers to its government as the "Zionist regime." The land is referred to by Iran as "Occupied territories." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned the existence of the Holocaust, took part in a protest called "World Without Zionism" and has derided Israel on numerous occasions. He has urged regional powers to cut ties with Israel and halt oil sales. The Iranian presidential website stated that "the Zionist Regime of Israel faces a deadend and will under God's grace be wiped off the map," and "the Zionist Regime that is a usurper and illegitimate regime and a cancerous tumor should be wiped off the map." Another way to translate this is, "this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."

for more on the official policy of Iran, see:

Israel currently has the capability to knock any missile out of the sky that can be thrown at them, same with high performance fighters. They have an impressive ground force, with well trained and highly motivated troops manning top of the line tanks, artillery, and other mechanized infantry machinery. The Israeli air force has some of the best pilots in the world. So, given that, you can understand the reluctance on the part of the Iranians to attempt a strike. And the Iranians desire to keep anything they are doing secret, to prevent a repeat of the 1981 surgical strikes known as either Operation Opera or Operation Babylon.

If the Israeli government decides that the best way to ensure the safety of their people is to wipe out the heads of the Iranian government, then I would avoid Tehran and the parliament building in particular. And I wouldn't want to be near Ali Khamenei either.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
I put the question to you: Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear sites?

No. Not directly.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
Scott invests in "an Israeli ETF" then goes on to describe how "Israel loses no matter what".

Is this another example of "don't take investing advice from cartoonists", or does Scott have some brilliant strategy in play?
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
For the longest time I've wished we'd just use our foreign aid budget to Israel to buy a sizeable chunk of private property here in the US and just give it to them. I know this is impractical, likely impossible, and doesn't solve any of the actual issues. Still, I think Americans would be better neighbors to Israel than Iranians.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
They attacked the Iraqi nuclear sites in 1981, so I can't see why they would let this one pass. Of course, they'll make it different this time. And I don't remember the Iraqi attacks being that negative. The people who carried that out were seen as heroes.
Aug 15, 2012
The eft drop could have been because of the recent problems with egypt.

When will an attack happen? I dunno. If romney gets elected, they might not because they might presume Romeny would be more protective of isreal than the US pres named hussein... who bowed to the saudi king, and then took a back seat to lybia, syria, and seems to be for the anti-isreal muslim brotherhood rulers in egypt. An obama reelction might speed things up...
Aug 15, 2012
America never met a war it didn't like. As long as Americans stay willfully ignorant about the real histories of both sides, and allow the 100% pro-Israel, 100% anti-Iran cheerleading to continue, yes, I believe that Israel will strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. If you think the current wars in the Middle East were unnecessary and catastrophic...just wait.
Aug 15, 2012
Iran never said he wanted to destroy Israel. That's a serious, dangerous, lie that continues to propagate. The proper translation was that, like the Soviet Union, he wanted the current Israeli govt to be wiped from the pages of history. Obviously, with so many Palestinians, and the obvious retaliation from a country that has hundreds of nukes (Israel) and its allies (USA), Iran would never try anything. I'm afraid it's the big lie technique yet again. First they said Iraq had WMD... and then when invaded they never used them, and now it's apparent that was a lie from the beginning. Israel has from most estimates the 2nd or 3rd largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and won't allow UN weapons inspections. They are the major threat, not Iran.

“Our armed forces are not the thirteenth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third…We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…We have the capability to take the world down with us, and I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”
—Martin Van Creveld, professor of military history at Israel’s Hebrew University
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
Yes! No! Maybe. Oh man, I don't know, I hope not.
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