Daddy Zionist, tell me about the day we fought Tehran

What fun-loving Israelis do on the weekend, imagine war scenarios with a nuclear-armed Iran:

A nuclear-armed Iran would blunt Israel’s military autonomy, a wargame involving former Israeli generals and diplomats has concluded, though some players predicted Tehran would also exercise restraint.

Sunday’s event at a campus north of Tel Aviv followed other high-profile Iran simulations in Israel and the United States in recent months. But it broke new ground by assuming the existence of what both countries have pledged to prevent: an Iranian bomb.

“Iranian deterrence proved dizzyingly effective,” Eitan Ben-Eliahu, a retired air force commander who played the Israeli defense minister, said in his summary of the 20-team meeting at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Lauder School of Government.

Though the wargame saw Iran declaring itself a nuclear power in 2011, the ensuing confrontations were by proxy, in Lebanon.

In one, emboldened Hezbollah guerrillas fired missiles at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. That was followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence findings that Iran had slipped radioactive materials to its Lebanese cohort, to assemble a crude device.

Neither move drew Israeli attacks, though Ben-Eliahu said his delegation had received discreet encouragement from Arab rivals of Iran to “go all the way” in retaliating.

Instead, Israel conferred with the United States, which publicly supported its ally’s “right to self-defense” and mobilized military reinforcements for the region while quietly insisting the Israelis stand down to give crisis talks a chance.

“As far as the United States was concerned, Israel was trigger-happy. It sought to use the Hezbollah (missile) attack as justification for what the United States was told would be an all-out war,” said Dan Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who flew in to play President Barack Obama at the IDC.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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