A Joint Israeli-Arab Attack on Iran?

Israel and Arab states, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have several reasons why to stop Iran if the latter tries to produce a nuclear weapon. Ehud Eilam offers a vision for a future joint attack

Israel and Sunni-led Arab states are worried that Iran might produce nuclear weapon, i.e. "the Bomb". The Iran nuclear agreement of July 14, 2015, signed between the P5+1 and Iran about the latter’s nuclear program prevents Israel from attacking Iran. Yet if the latter ignores this accord, Israel might attack, while the Arab states might assist Israel in this matter.

Any Israeli strike in Iran, due to the distance from Israel to Iran, which is more than a thousand kilometers, would be based on the IAF (Israeli Air Force). The attacking force would rely on F-15I and F-16I, Israel’s best fighter-bombers, tanker aircraft for air refueling, command and control planes and unmanned air vehicles. Israeli Special Forces might participate as well, landing from the air to gather intelligence before and after the raid. Some Iranian nuclear sites are heavily fortified. Cracking them would require bunker buster bombs.

Iran might assimilate the S-300, a sophisticated antiaircraft missile. The IAF already has been exercising against this weapon system as it did in a training that took place in Greece in April 2015, where Israeli aircrews, flying F-16, had a chance to check and improve their tactics against the S-300.

Israel and the Arab states in the Gulf

Sunni-led Arab states in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman) are members of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). Those Arab states barely participated in the wars against Israel.

Instead, they helped Arab states and outfits against Israel, some more and some less. GCC Members are considered to be relatively moderate in regard to Israel, since they support the 2002 Arab peace initiative to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There is speculation of secret ties between Israel and GCC Members, mostly regarding Iran. GCC Members are concerned that Iran might produce the Bomb. Their concern stems not from fear that Iran might use a nuclear weapon, but from increased Iranian influence. Israel’s strong anti-Iran stand is shared by Arab states such as Saudi Arabia. Those common interests create a base for mutual cooperation against Iran.

Israel and Arab states like GCC Members don’t have to sign any agreement between them, let alone one which would be announced publically, about an alliance against Iran. This pact could be kept secret and be expressed in several ways, according to the circumstances, constraints and goals of each of the partners. First, there is the struggle to prevent Iran from having the nuclear bomb. Then there is the fight against Iran’s proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.     

Arabs and Israelis fought together in the past against Arabs such as in Lebanon in 1982 when Arab Christians joined Israel against the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) or in recent years in the West Bank where Palestinian security forces collaborate with their Israeli counterparts against the Hamas. If Arabs and Israelis could confront Arabs they could do the same against non-Arabs, i.e. Iranian Persians. In addition, Iran is Muslim, but under Shiite rule, while GCC Members and Israel are not.

Saudi Arabia has more than 250 advanced aircraft, many of them F-15, and its air crews gained combat experience in bombing targets in Iraq and Yemen in 2014-2015.  The UAE has about 140 F-16 and Mirage 2000 and it is considered to have the best military in the Gulf. However, a vast and open cooperation between those Arab militaries and Israel is very difficult to achieve due to military and mostly political reasons. At most, GCC Members could assist an Israeli raid in Iran by allowing Israeli planes to fly over their country and by providing intelligence about their Iranian neighbor.

Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. For Iraq obviously it was a major setback while other Arab states had a good reason to be pleased. They did not want to see Iraq becomes too powerful, by holding the Bomb, which could have jeopardized its Arab neighbors. Even though in the 1980s many Arab states helped Iraq to fight Iran, this was more because of their fear of Iran and not so much due to their support of Iraq and its ambitious dictator, Saddam Hussein.

In 1990, two years after the Iran–Iraq showdown ended, Iraq did not confront Israel but invaded and seized an Arab state, Kuwait. If Iraq had then the Bomb it would have been much more difficult and maybe impossible to kick Iraq out of Kuwait.

If Iran has the Bomb it might decide to ignore Israel, since the latter allegedly has nuclear weapons too, according to non-Israeli sources. Instead, Iran might go after those who don’t have a nuclear shield: Arabs, mostly those that are near Iran, i.e. Jordan and Arab Gulf States.

In the bottom line, Israel and Arab states have several reasons why to stop Iran if the latter tries to produce a nuclear weapon. 

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