Ten roads to Israel-Iran war
An Israeli F-15 fighter jet.
February 17th, 2012
09:14 AM ET

Ten roads to Israel-Iran war

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

Either Israel and the United States are engaged in a brilliant psychological operations campaign against Iran or the two long-time allies really are talking past each other on the subject of Tehran’s reach for a nuclear bomb. Either way, all this Bibi Netanyahu said, Leon Panetta said chatter is producing some truly jangled nerves over in Iran on the subject of Israel’s allegedly imminent attack on that country’s nuclear program facilities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps publicly implying that his nation can’t wait on Iranian events for as long as the Obama administration – with its looming embargo of Iranian oil sales to the West – would like. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta keeps tripping over his own tongue, saying one day that America is doing its best to keep Israel’s attack jets grounded and the next offhandedly remarking to reporters that Tel Aviv is inevitably going to pull that trigger sometime this spring.

Again, as psyop campaigns go, this is brilliant, because it not only keeps the Iranians nervous and guessing, it forces them out into the diplomatic open with all manner of implausible counter-threats that reveal their increasing desperation.

Stipulating all this brinkmanship - coordinated or not - this week’s Wikistrat crowd-sourced analysis exercise involves imagining the range of possible pathways to an Israel-Iran war.  We don’t offer odds here. We just try to cover a wide array of possible vectors toward the trigger-pulling point.

1) Duh!  Haven’t you noticed that Israel and Iran are already conducting a covert war of cyberattacks, assassinations, etc.?

Fair enough.  Israel attacked Iran with the Stuxnet computer virus months ago, and has targeted Iranian scientists since.  Now, we’ve got Iran pulling its usual tactic of hitting Israeli diplomats (or their loved ones) in softer target zones (Georgia, India, Thailand).  So why not just admit that the war has begun? All it takes is one side or the other escalating to missile or air strikes.

Remember when the Israeli assassination squad got caught on camera in Dubai a while back? Just plug that one in, along with a show trial of the “Jewish criminals” in Tehran, and we’re good to go.  Same would hold for the right attempt on a senior Israeli leader inside Israel.  Moreover, as Israel steps up its cyber campaign, eventually we could see some real-world damage unfolding, forcing Tehran’s hand (or vice versa).

In such a tit-for-tat dynamic, with both sides ratcheting up the threats seemingly every week, leaders are - either inadvertently or purposefully - tying their hands for when the undeniable “disaster” arises and when the fear of “losing face” becomes the ultimate triggering dynamic in a region where keeping face is near everything.

2) Contentious parliamentary election in Iran + peaking of regime infighting = senior defector with “smoking gun” evidence of weaponization

Iran’s parliamentary elections are just days away, so simply imagine the same level of electoral fraud as the 2009 presidential election, cue up the street protests to be violently crushed, and then let the factional infighting begin inside the increasingly beleaguered Iranian regime.  Between the looming embargo and ally Bashar al-Assad’s coming fall in Syria, Tehran is feeling alone these days. Another round of the Green Movement could easily trigger some house-cleaning purges within the government, as true believers weed out the wavering souls.

At that point, all we need to start a war is the right disgruntled (and/or virtuous) official to smuggle out, Wikileaks-style, some bulletproof evidence that Tehran is much closer to weaponizing its nuclear capacity than previously estimated. That alone might be enough for Israeli hawks to act.

A variant on this scenario is that Iran actually engineers a fake whistle-blower to fool the West into thinking it’s already got a nuclear deterrent in hand - however crude. Don’t think Iran would try something that risky? Just remember how well Saddam Hussein spoofed the U.S. intelligence community regarding his own Weapons of Mass Destruction capacity in the run-up to the U.S. invasion in 2003.

3) The path to war runs through Lebanon

Iran, sensing that its Syrian supply line to Hezbollah could disappear at any moment, decides to pre-emptively activate its co-religious Shiite militia in an attack on Israel’s northern border towns.  With upwards of 200,000 Iranian missiles already in hand, Hezbollah could put on quite a show, triggering a massive retaliation campaign from Israel designed to temporarily reduce the militia’s firepower capacity.

With guns already blazing and Israelis already dying, Netanyahu could decide he’s already facing the Iranian counterattack scenario, so why not pursue the air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities at the same time?

4) The path to war runs through the Sinai

This would involve the same basic decision dynamic on Israel’s part: If we’re going to suffer the anticipated blowback from attacking Iran anyway, then we might as well get our attack on its nuclear program in as well.

Here, the fear is of a “second front” (or third, if we’re counting Hezbollah in the north) on Israel’s east, when Egypt’s ascendant Muslim Brotherhood decides to placate popular anti-Israeli fervor there by publicly disavowing the Camp David accords and moving toward a remilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula, raising the specter of a super-empowered Hamas in the Gaza Strip wreaking havoc from the rear during any fight with Iran. All Israel needs to act are enough signs of that scenario unfolding and the 1967 War instinct kicks in - as in, in the face of a ganging-up scenario, it’s better to land the first blows.

5) The “road to Damascus” scenario, take one

Turkey and Iran are locked into an increasingly open rivalry throughout the region over who will win the leadership role thanks to the unfolding Arab Spring. Frankly, Turkey’s on a roll, as it’s eating Iran’s lunch across North Africa and now threatens to add a post-al-Assad Syria to its pool of Islamist protégés.

The scenario here involves al-Assad falling so fast that Iran panics over Turkey’s expanding sphere of influence and ruptures its ties with Ankara.  Sensing a golden opportunity of divided ranks and diverted attentions, Israel strikes Iran.

6) The “road to Damascus” scenario, take two

Syria dissolves into such a cauldron of civil war that Turkey, Israel and Iran all end up fighting each other there via proxies.  As the spillover threatens Israel more directly through a shared - and contested border - Tel Aviv decides it might as well take care of business directly with Iran.

7) The road to war runs through Bahrain 

Iran, desperate to divert attention elsewhere, does its best to re-ignite a Shiite rebellion inside Bahrain, forcing the Saudis to send troops yet again and shifting the international community’s attention back to the evil of Sunni autocracy there.  The Saudis then may green light Israel’s long-standing offer to attack Iran through Saudi airspace.

8) Iran actually goes through with its Strait of Hormuz threat

The Iranian navy starts laying mines under the cover of night, forcing a countering U.S. Navy de-mining operation. With tension ratcheted, Iranian fast boats start harassing U.S. ships in a scene right out of the legendary Operation Millennium Challenge war game conducted by the Defense Department in 2002 – and made so famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book, Blink.  Fast-forward through a series of bad choices on both sides and we’ve got a shooting war that Israel joins.

9) The always anticipated - but rarely delivered - “October surprise”!

Israel simply plans its attack for the eve of the U.S. presidential election, knowing President Barack Obama’s hands will be tied. The Pentagon’s many China hawks, eager to test out their new high-tech AirSea Battle Concept, readily accept the challenge, sensing a golden opportunity to signal strategic intent - and capabilities - to Beijing.

10) Israel takes the high (altitude) road and “nukes” Iran first 

No, we’re not talking actual strikes with nuclear bombs.  Instead, in a bold step, Israel’s triggers a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) by detonating a nuclear device over Iran. Whatever facilities in Iran come under its line-of-sight radiation blast suffer a permanent shorting-out electrical effect.  While the impact on Iran’s underground nuclear facilities wouldn’t be decisive, Tehran’s ability to control its own population would be temporarily devastated, possibly opening the door for internal rebellion.

But more to the point, Israel’s attack would be a declaration of its nuclear status, replete with the ability to deliver those weapons along strategic lines (see Israel’s recent testing of its Jericho III ballistic missiles).  This would be Netanyahu’s decision to reveal to the world the true extent of Israel’s significant nuclear arsenal.

That’s Wikistrat's “wisdom of the crowd” for this week.

Now tell us which path you find most plausible, or what other scenarios you can envision in the comments section below. And be sure to check out more at Wikistrat.com, a cutting-edge global consultancy.

Topics: Iran • Israel • Military

soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. syria and iran are the evil and hizboallah are the arms

    we must stop this evil before it is too late, remember HITLER......
    those shiia thugs have no value for life...they are killers with stupid thyology of islam the shiia are cult and
    they breed evil, now they are killing there own people in syria UN MUST ACT, THEY ACTED ON LIBYA IN NO TIME AND THEY DID IT IN IRAQ , WHILE IN LIBYA AND IRAQ IT WAS ONLY FEW HUNDEREDS WERE KILLED NOW WE HAVE MORE THAN 12,000 CEVILIANS KILLED AND MURDERED BY BASHAR AL KALB IN SYRIA BY IRAN MONEY AND RUSSIAN ARMS, we must sanction russia and get red of all the embassies and cut any deals with them.
    arm the resistant to fight russians on there land,and fight iran and syrians thugs we must not stand silenet when we see evil at action.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
  2. nori al maleki of iraq helping syrian killers

    يا أبناء شعبنا الصابر
    يا أبناء امتنا العربية
    منذ أن أُبتُلي العراق بالاحتلال الأميركي الصهيوني الفارسي البغيض نفذ المحتلون وحلفائهم الأشرار وعملائهم الأخساء سلسلة من عمليات الإبادة للشعب العراقي كانت حصيلتها اكثر من مليون ونصف المليون شهيد عراقي ، فضلاً عن ملايين الجرحى والمعوقين وخمسة ملايين مهجر ، ناهيكم عن عمليات التجويع والإفقار والحرمان من الخدمات بل وتدمير العراق أرضاً وشعباً وحضارةً واقتصاداً ، حيث شُلت الصناعة والزراعة وأستحوذ السراق من العملاء على التجارة والخدمات ووظفوها في خدمة مصالحهم الخاصة .

    وبسبب ذلك كله والانهيار الأمني المريع فقد تتالت التفجيرات الإجرامية وغطًت أيام الأسبوع كله ، والتي سميت كلها بالأيام الداميات والتي تكررت فيها التفجيرات الدامية وآخرها وليس أخيرها تفجيرات يوم الخميس الثالث والعشرين من شباط الجاري والتي راح ضحيتها المئات من الشهداء والجرحى في بغداد وصلاح الدين وبابل ونينوى وديالى وكركوك وبقية محافظات العراق .

    وكانت وما زالت وستبقى التفجيرات الإجرامية المتتابعة في العراق لطخة عار صارخة في جبين حكومة المالكي العميلة التي استمرأت عمليات ذبح الشعب العراقي بهذه التفجيرات الإجرامية والاغتيال بالكواتم وحملات الاعتقالات الغاشمة الواسعة النطاق المصحوبة بالقمع والتعذيب الوحشي ، والتي شملت الآلاف من المناضلين البعثيين وضباط وطياري وضباط صف الجيش العراقي الباسل وأبناء شعبنا الأبي في الشهور الأربعة الماضية والمضافة الى مئات الآلاف من المعتقلين على امتداد سنوات الاحتلال البغيض .

    يا أبناء شعبنا المكافح
    لقد حاول العميل المالكي وبطانته الشريرة استثمار ظروف هزيمة المحتلين الاميركان بفعل الضربات القاصمة والعمليات الجبارة لمجاهدي البعث والمقاومة بالإفصاح عن عمالته المباشرة لإيران الصفوية التي سلمها المحتلون الاميركان خسئوا العراق ، فراح هذا العميل الصغير المالكي يُصَعد من عملياته القمعية ونهب جلاوزته لثروات وأموال الشعب العراقي وتجنيد ( الميليشيات الإرهابية المرتبطة به مباشرة ) لتكريس سلطته القمعية الديكتاتورية في محاولة بائسة لتجاوز هزيمة العملية السياسية المخابراتية بهزيمة صناعها المحتلين الاميركان عبر تصعيد عمليات التصفية والاحتراب بين أطراف هذه العملية ، والتي بلغت ذروتها عبر فبركة الجرائم وتحميل هذه الأطراف مسؤوليتها والإمعان في شل أجهزة الدولة التي دمرها المحتلون وتعطيل حركة الحياة في ميادينها الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والسياسية والثقافية كلها .

    وقيادة قطر العراق لحزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي إذ تستنكر ممارسات حكومة المالكي العميلة المدانة كلها فأنها تستنكر بشدة التفجيرات الإجرامية المتواصلة ، وتحمل هذه الحكومة العميلة المسؤولية الكاملة عنها بوضعها تحت قصاص الشعب العادل الذي لن يصبر طويلاً على جرائم المالكي وزمرته العميلة ، وسيواصل نضاله وثورته العارمة وحتى التقويض الكامل للعملية السياسية المخابراتية التي راح أطرافها يتلهون بمناوراتهم الخائبة دائرين ظهورهم لأبناء شعبنا الأبي الذي يرسفون في معاناتهم القاسية عبر اللعب على النغمات النشاز من قبيل السعي المحموم لعقد ما لم يتفقون على تسميته من قبيل ( المؤتمر ) أو ( الملتقى ) أو ( الاجتماع ) ، فالجميع يعتقدون واهمين أنهم يكسبون الوقت على حساب معاناة أبناء شعبنا الصابر الذي لم ولن يَبُت على ضيم وإنما يُواصل جهاده الملحمي وحتى الإسقاط النهائي للعملية السياسية المخابراتية وإقامة حكم الشعب التعددي الديمقراطي الشعبي المستقل والعادل ويمضي قُدماً على طريق النهوض والتقدم الحضاري والإنساني الشامل .

    وإن غداً لناظره قريب .

    February 24, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • J.J.W. van Waning

      Translation in English please?

      February 26, 2012 at 8:44 am | Reply
      • Silvana

        This recent oreblpm really got set off with what happened in Tunisia, but there were some oreblpms in Morocco before that as well. I suspect that it is going to get worse and worse, spreading throughout the entire Arab world. The oreblpm is bigger yet though. I believe that the seeds of war are being scattered all around the world and are going to begin to ignite all around. Israel however, is the center of everything really when it comes to Biblical end-time theology. Don't let it get to you when people don't want to hear what you have to say. This is very common, especially here in America. I've run into that for years. In my case, that is one of the things that God has had me keep warning people about. The thing that is more important yet is the fact that God is calling His people run to Him today. He will take care of His own, but way too many don't even think they need anything from God. It's sad. But Claudia, remember that God doesn't expect you to turn a person's thinking process. He just expects us to be faithful in spreading the message that God gives us to share. It's not popular though, that's for sure.Many more posts coming. I have a couple or three crucial ones in the next few days, maybe one tomorrow if I can get it done. I'm not sure. It takes quite a lot of research with some subjects. Thanks for reading, and commenting!

        March 12, 2012 at 5:18 am |
    • melvinslizard

      How did you get your keyboard to write in cursive? Wow, I am finally impressed with something Islamic. Kudos and a bacon sandwich to you and yours!

      February 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Reply
    • rlowens1

      Wall of gibberish completely effective. Totally impenetrable.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • ryox82

      Here is a bing translation for everyone.

      Hey people Saber
      Oh sons of our Arabic
      Since that plagued Iraq occupation the Persian American-Zionist occupiers and their allies implemented odious villains and their alakhsaa series of genocide of the Iraqi people were picking up more than a million and a half million Iraqi martyr, as well as millions of the wounded and war-disabled and five million displaced persons, not to mention starvation impoverishment and deprivation operations of services but also the destruction of Iraq's territory and people and civilization and economical, so crippled industry and agriculture attracted thieving Government clients on trade and services, and they recruited her to serve their own interests.

      Because of all this horrendous security breakdown has continued criminal bombings and covered all days of the week, all days are called the bleeding and bloody bombings that contained restatements and the latest is its last explosions Thursday 23rd of this February, which killed hundreds of martyrs and wounded in Baghdad and Salah al-Din, Diyala and Babil, Ninawa and Kirkuk and the rest of the governorates of Iraq.

      And they still remain in Iraq bombings successive criminal stain blatant affront to the Maliki government clients that have become comfortably numb slaughtering the Iraqi people by these criminal explosions and assassinations and arrests balkwatm brute large-scale campaigns accompanied by brutal repression and torture, which included thousands of Baathists and officers and fighters pilots and commissioned officers of the valiant Iraqi army and our people proud in the past four months and added to the hundreds of thousands of detainees over the years of occupation.

      Hey people struggling
      I've tried the Maliki and his evil client investment conditions the Americans defeat the occupiers by deadly strikes and mighty operations of Mujahideen resistance and Baath disclose direct employment for Iran alsavoih khsaewa by the Americans, Iraq occupiers Farrah this client applet Maliki climbs from repressive operations and the looting of the wealth and money glaosth for the Iraqi people and recruitment (associated terrorist militias directly) to devote his repressive dictatorship in miserable attempt to overcome the defeat of political intelligence operation to defeat the Americans through the escalation of its creators occupiers liquidations and the fighting between the parties to this process, which Culminating over hyped crimes and download these parties responsibility and better shell State organs which had been destroyed by invaders and disable the movement of life in the spheres of economic, social, political and cultural.

      And Qatar-led Iraq's Baath Arab Socialist Party censuring condemned Maliki government practices are they client strongly condemns the criminal bombings continued, these puppet government fully accountable to put them under the just people chastisement will be patient with long Maliki crimes, and his clique will continue their client and their revolution surges and even undermined the political process fully involving intelligence, they delight in their gruelling frustrated people turning their backs that were being kept in their suffering ALABI harsh across playing ringtone such anomaly of a frantic search Unless they agree to rename as (the Conference) or (Forum) or (the meeting), all believe they earn an illusion over time our people are suffering not saber and will not decide on his crusade continues over but epic even the final projection of the political process and the establishment of the rule of intelligence people independent popular democratic pluralist and equitable and proceed on the path of advancement and progress of civilization and comprehensive humanitarian.

      But tomorrow its Director soon.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  3. almahdi is lusefer

    iran must be attacked, iran is not a muslim country, all the muslims 1 billion are sunni and the shiia are only 150 milions iran 65 millions are not all muslims , they have 10 million sunni and 5 million kurds, and 3 million christeans and jews etc...iran is evil and we dont consider them muslims. teh shiia cult is a devil worship called almahdi he the son of lusefer the devil

    February 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Reply
    • ryox82

      So....because there are less Shia, they are evil? Is that how it works?

      March 5, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  4. J.J.W. van Waning

    And when may we receive the 'Wikistrat crowd-sourced analysis exercise' providing the range of possible pathways to an Israel-Iran peace, please – in the name of Yahweh, God, Allah and/or all sensible people on this world?

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/19/zakaria-israel-dont-strike-iran/

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/24/zakaria-could-middle-east-tensions-boil-over-2/

    February 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • J.J.W. van Waning

      While Wikistrat is, hopefully, searching for possible pathways to an Israel/American-Iran peace, here are some suggestions by other analysts.

      (1) "How to Engage Iran – What Went Wrong Last Time — And How to Fix It"

      By Hossein Mousavian in Foreign Affairs, February 9, 2012

      http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137095/hossein-mousavian/how-to-engage-iran?page=show

      (2) 'America, Israel, Iran: mediation vs war'
      By Paul Rogers in openDemocracy, on 16 February 2012

      http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-mediation-vs-war

      (3) 'In Heavy Waters: Iran’s Nuclear Program, the Risk of War and Lessons from Turkey'

      International Crisis Group – Middle East and Europe Report N°11623, 23 Feb 2012

      http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-iran-gulf/iran/116-in-heavy-waters-irans-nuclear-program-the-risk-of-war-and-lessons-from-turkey.aspx

      Commented on by Jim Lobe in 'Despite War Drums, Experts Insist Iran Nuclear Deal Possible' on IPS, 23 February 2012

      http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=4094

      February 26, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
  5. Col. J.Bronson

    I can tell you ALL that the time is very very close that Iran will fall.And fall hard!!! This is from a very reliable source.VERY SOON!!!!

    February 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • rlowens1

      Yeah, we all know that the US is a warmongering country that now has to start wars in order to justify having the biggest military on the planet by a factor of ten.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
  6. weedman

    This is inevitable. It's been almost 70 years since the last big war. Stockpiles need to get used and replenished. So does our population. Couple hundred million snake charmers and about as many jews and jesus followers, chopped up in the meat grinder that will be WWIII. The West will dominate, no country in the world can hang with the US, not after 10 years and two wars churned out more battle hardened veterans than WWII. China will just wait until it's over, so it can take out the US after it's been softened up a bit. They like doin it like that.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • melvinslizard

      Ugh, I think you're probably right! Guess I'll head over to WalMart and stock up on ammo and water, just in case.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  7. Col.J. Bronson

    WEEDMAN......you must be smoking a lot of POT...but you are Bang on!!! I have been through many Wars from Nam till now and nothing ...NOTHING will be like the beating that Iran will receive VERY SHORTLY.The stage is set to GO right now as I am writing.A few buttons pushed and a few sorties and BINGO!!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA

    February 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Reply
  8. sams

    Hi,

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    February 29, 2012 at 2:21 am | Reply
  9. deezznutsinyomouth

    all of you are retards stand up look with your eyes its a media war thats it all of you are helping it weather your veiw is for or agenst take of the horse blindders america!!!!!!!!! RON PAUL REVELUTION!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  10. deezznutsinyomouth

    YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT IS REALY CAUSEING ALL THIS DO YOUR RESEARCH ON "HAARP" ITS REAL AND IN AFFECT. THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ALL THIS LOOK UP " HAARP"

    March 1, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  11. rlowens1

    "Just remember how well Saddam Hussein spoofed the U.S. intelligence community regarding his own Weapons of Mass Destruction capacity in the run-up to the U.S. invasion in 2003."

    This was a lie straight from the Bush administration, and we all know it. Where were you when this was happening? Iraq had nothing to do with those rumors of weapons of mass destruction. Those were lies from an administration hell bent and determined to start a war with Iraq – and, they did, didnt they?

    March 4, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
  12. peacebeonearth

    this article was drafted by oil producing countries-backed writer to push world oil prices sky-high.

    March 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  13. ALI

    You all sitting in a comfortable house behind your fancy computers....talking big war with IRAN!!!!! war....war...war.. care more about dogs & cats than human lives!! Israel is not in a good situation in that region. US is losing grounds to China & Russia!! World is changing my friends. You like war? Join the Army. Show how much you care. Talk is cheap!!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Reply
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    April 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Reply
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    Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was a entertainment account it. Glance complicated to more brought agreeable from you! By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

    June 12, 2012 at 5:09 am | Reply
  17. simon

    soon Jehovah's Kingdom will destroy all the governments on earth as it says in the Bible at Daniel 2:44. Then there will be true peace and security. We need to be supportors of The Kingdom in order to be survivors of the coming destruction.

    July 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
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