Iran and Israel
- Israel and Iran have interacted since Israel’s birth in 1948. Although ideology has played a role, their respective regional strategic interests have largely shaped their relationship.
- Relations between the two countries were relatively close until the 1979 revolution. Arms transfers from Israel to Iran continued for a short time, but there have been no publicly acknowledged deals since 1982.
- The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon mobilized the Shiites. Iranian troops deployed in Lebanon and sired Hezbollah to fight Israel. Through a proxy, Iran now faces Israel across a common border.
- Iran also armed and funded Islamic Jihad, which carried out terrorist attacks within Israel in the 1990s and from Gaza since the 1980s.
- Iran’s controversial nuclear program has raised the stakes for both sides in their regional rivalry. Some Israelis believe that their security justifies military action to ensure Iran does not acquire a bomb.
- Creating a powerful military to deter Soviet aggression
- Exerting Iran’s influence in the Persian Gulf, where Tehran was to occupy islands—claimed by the UAE—astride large oil deposits
- And advancing the goals of his White Revolution.
- Reduced its diplomatic isolation
- Aligned it with the United States
- Strengthened Iraq’s main adversary
- Facilitated the rescue of Iraqi Jews
- Ensured the security of Iran’s large Jewish population
- And yielded a cash bonanza.
- The effectiveness of sanctions and covert operations to hobble Iranian efforts
- A consensus that diplomatic efforts have been conclusively and irrecoverably exhausted
- Confidence that a strike would set back Iran’s program by three to five years
- Assessment of the effect of a strike on U.S.-Israel relations
- Availability of an uncontested flight path to the target
- The quality of targeting data.
- In the heyday of Israel-Iran relations during the 1970s, Israel sold Iran about $500 million per year in weapons and planned to launch a $1 billion joint program to develop a surface-to-surface missile.
- After the revolution, between 1980 and 1983, Israeli sales totaled an additional $500 million, including TOW anti-tank missiles, spare parts for armor and aircraft and large amounts of ammunition.
- Hezbollah has approximately 45,000 rockets and anti-ship cruise missiles for use against Israel.
- Iran provides significant financial aid to Hezbollah for military and non-military purposes. Estimates range from $25 million to more than $100 million per year. In 2010, the Pentagon speculated that Iran provided as much as $200 million annually to Hezbollah.
- Israel is thought to have 200 nuclear warheads and an accurate Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile capability in the Jericho 2.
- If Israel were to attack Iran, it could deploy over 100 long-range fighters and ground attack aircraft as well as the necessary refueling, reconnaissance, and combat search and rescue assets. Israel also has large stocks of JDAMS, the precision-guided bomb that was developed by the United States to attack the kind of facilities that Israel would target.
- Iran has 45 SA-2 and 10 SA-5 high altitude surface–to-air missiles it could use to defend against an Israeli attack. Simulations suggest that these would be insufficient to foil an Israeli attack.
- Iran and Israel will remain at odds for the foreseeable future, assuming that the current regime remains in power. As long as Iranian rhetoric stresses the disappearance of Israel while the regime pursues a nuclear capability, Israel will seek ways to reduce the implied threat to its existence or, less dramatically, its viability.
- Israel is capable of launching an attack against Iran’s nuclear related infrastructure, but could not sustain an offensive or have high confidence in a successful outcome.
- In the past, Israel acted when its leaders believed they were isolated and the country’s back was against the wall. Although these fears are again in the air, they have not yet gained sufficient traction to impel action. Concerted international pressure on Iran would probably stave off such concerns.
- Lebanon is a flashpoint for Israeli-Iranian conflict. A confrontation between Hezbollah and Israeli forces could escalate. As of September 2010, the parties seemed well aware of the danger and were careful to avoid provocative actions—or reactions.
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“The Iran Primer” brings together 50 top experts—Western and Iranian—in comprehensive but concise overviews of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program. Each link connects to a complete chapter on one of 62 subjects in 10 categories. Printable PDF attachments also are at the bottom. Timely analysis is added weekly. The book also chronicles U.S.-Iran relations under six U.S. presidents. It probes five policy options. And it offers timelines, bios of top leaders, and data on nuclear sites and specific sanctions resolutions. And it provides context and analysis for what lies ahead. Click here to order the book.