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Iran is weaker than we think Despite Obama's mistakes, Israel retains the upper hand

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walks past Iranian flags (Sobhan Farajvan/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walks past Iranian flags (Sobhan Farajvan/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)


April 23, 2024   5 mins

It is only now, almost 16 years since Obama first entered the White House with the private determination to end Iran’s “death to America” hostility at all costs, that his Iran policy has achieved the exact opposite of what he had wanted: direct warfare, with US fighters intercepting Iran’s bombardment drones. All along, it was a policy that had two different faces: one perfectly reasonable, and the other perfectly delusional.

The delusional part stemmed from the mistaken belief that the US could persuade the Tehran regime to abandon its “death to America” hostility. Perhaps because he relied on his law-school buddy Robert Malley (whose extreme hostility to Israel did not make him an Iran expert), Obama failed to see that, by the time he set out to win it over, the regime’s blend of oppression and institutional corruption had lost it the support of most Iranians. Unmoored from popular opinion, it had instead become entirely dependent on the professional extremists of the Revolutionary Guards, the much larger Basij militia, and the most politicised clerics.

This is why all attempts at mutual reconciliation under Obama were doomed to fail, in spite of two successive nuclear accords and the wholesale lifting of sanctions. Even if Iran’s leaders had wanted to reciprocate they could not abandon their performative hostility to the US, because Iranians at large are so hostile to the theocratic regime that many even tell pollsters that they have renounced Shi’a Islam altogether: visitors report empty mosques in all but the poorest neighbourhoods.

Partly because Obama compelled Biden to take on Malley as his own Iran coordinator (until he lost his security clearance), the Biden Administration moved very fast to repudiate Trump’s hostility to the Ayatollah’s regime, going overboard in its own attempt at reconciliation. One example is sufficient: the Houthi militia that is Iran’s proxy in Yemen, which the US Navy is now battling in the Red Sea, was unilaterally removed from the terrorist list in exchange for nothing at all, merely to signal to Tehran that the Obama courtship of the regime was being renewed after the Trump interval.

The reasonable, even wise, part of Obama’s policy was to disabuse Washington of the illusion that Iran could be knocked off the board as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been, with a quick march to Tehran by a couple of US divisions. Of course it is a much bigger country (almost four times as large, with twice the population), but the real difference lies in the fact that Iran’s statecraft is derived from the country’s pre-Islamic and imperial past, not from its extremist religion. Those principles are so deeply ingrained in the country’s political culture that even the ruling religious fanatics are high-functioning imperial operatives when it comes to diplomacy and war.

They know how to manipulate foreign perceptions of Iran to suit their aims; for example, they successfully simulated a very warm conviviality with the US negotiators they privately resented, while in confrontations they know how to go right to the edge, without falling into the abyss. Consider how Iran Air still operates out of London several times a week, despite the route being used by Tehran’s goons to fly in, attack dissidents, and return home with a quick taxi-ride to Heathrow. Knowing that the UK Foreign Office is desperate to keep its embassy and its diplomats in Tehran (to have something the US lacks), the regime perpetrates all manner of abuses secure in the knowledge there will be no retaliation.

Most significantly, Iran’s leaders were given the time and the oil revenues to recruit the Shi’a militias from Lebanon to Yemen now holding the Middle East to ransom. Ever since the fall of the Shah in 1979 — for which Khomeini successfully obtained support in the West by pretending that he was a persecuted humanist— Iran’s campaign to dominate the region has been vigorously pursued. To succeed, the regime had to somehow overcome the deepest schism in the Islamic world by persuading Sunni Arabs that the Sunni-Shia divide was less important than their collective hatred for the Jews, and that the ancestral hostility between Arabs and Persians was less important than their shared hostility to Israel. In the meantime, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards revealed true imperial skills in turning Arabic-speaking recruits in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen into obedient soldiers ready to fight for Iran’s aggrandisement — much as the British Army did in India with native troops. In fact, the power of the Revolutionary Guards within the regime steadily increased because of the military strength it generated with its abundant, cheap and, above all, expendable molokh khor “lizard-eater” Arab manpower (Ever since the huge losses of the Iraq war, Iran has been very casualty-sensitive).

But the Revolutionary Guards finally failed strategically because their Arab recruitment policy was so successful that it overshot the culminating point of success: seeing the historic Sunni capital of Damascus under Shia domination, and Baghdad the very seat of the Sunni Arab Caliphate ruled by Iran’s agents, Sunni Arab states from Morocco to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had repeatedly fought Israel from 1948, moved to abandon their hostility, openly or discreetly. And while the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7 gained no goodwill for Israel or the Jews, Israel’s overall response proved that it has the strength to resist Iran’s imperial ambitions. When an Israeli air strike decapitated the Revolutionary Guard expeditionary high command gathered in  Damascus on April 1, by killing its chief and his entire staff, not a word of criticism was heard in the Sunni Arab world.

Iran’s response was an all-out air offensive with hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and cruise missiles. But this very expensive attack failed most miserably, wounding just one Israeli, a seven-year-old Bedouin, and inflicting only trivial damage to the non-functional edge of a runway.

“Israel’s response proved that it has the strength to resist Iran’s imperial ambitions.”

Israel’s response was on the smallest possible scale but calculated to terrify the regime: an aircraft penetrated all the way to Isfahan, much further from Israel than Tehran, to drop a token UAV next to the Uranium Hexafluoride plant — the country’s major nuclear installation, most incautiously placed in the centre of the city whose population would suffer huge casualties from the highly corrosive poisonous gas if the plant were bombed.

With the exception of Algeria that is absorbed in its own traumas and Libya that has never recovered from its civil war, every Arab Sunni state in the Middle East welcomed the outcome of the aerial war — in which the Jordanian air force actually took part shooting down Iran’s drones — because all of them can and do coexist with Israel, while they abhor the threat of Shia and Persian domination.

As for Iran’s military chiefs, their standard of success is so low that, in the immediate aftermath of the failed aerial offensive, Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, declared that Iran “has achieved all of its goals”. He then unwisely added a vainglorious threat: “If the Zionist regime or its supporters demonstrate reckless behaviour, they will receive a decisive and much stronger response.” It was the sort of comment that gives effrontery a bad name. Iran’s strategists know perfectly well that if they ever come close to assembling a nuclear weapon, Israel will not hesitate to strike first with its manned and unmanned airpower. That too is a reason for the Sunni alliance, perhaps best symbolised by the uninterrupted flights of Air Dubai and Ittihad to Tel Aviv that persisted even as both US and European airlines repeatedly cancelled their own.

 


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

Agreed – but very few media organisations dare paint the true picture of Obama and Biden’s abject failure with their policies towards Iran and the consequent fact that they are largely responsible for where we find ourselves now.
US sanctions against Iran had been in place since the Carter presidency. It was the pain they were suffering from those sanctions that first brought Tehran to the negotiating table. But then Obama – presumably at the malign urging of Robert Malley – signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Iranians, a deal that defied all diplomatic logic, barely slowed their nuclear program and simply gave Tehran everything they could possibly want.
During Obama’s 2nd term, Israel had begun back-channel talks with several Sunni Gulf states – most notably the Saudis. Although the Obama administration were not involved, they must have been aware of the opportunities for peace that these potential alliances offered the region – and the world. The talks were based on their mutual fear and mistrust of a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. Obama could have fostered those relationships, but instead – inexplicably – turned towards Tehran.
Israeli and Saudi Arabian diplomats openly questioned whether Obama was simply naïve or if he was deliberately courting Iran as an ally. It is still unclear what Obama hoped this disastrous policy might achieve. Over that time, according to a former State Dept special advisor on Iran, Robert Malley and his team “purposefully funneled billions of dollars to (Iran) through lack of sanctions enforcement and provision of sanctions relief that has given them somewhere between $50 and $80 billion over the last two and a half years.”..adding .. “There is a straight line from Obama’s giveaway to Iran, to Biden’s enriching of Iran — to Iran’s war on Israel.”
So when Obama said the other day, “we all have blood on our hands”, if he was talking about his own (and Biden’s tribute-act) administration then he was absolutely right.
The JCPOA claimed that “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iranˈs nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Sounds great – were it not for the fact that, as most insiders have noted, the Iranians were acting in bad faith before the ink was dry.
Trump – alongside anyone acquainted with the JCPOA – knew it was a wholly worthless deal. He pulled it, re-introduced sanctions and killed Qasem Solemaini, the architect of Iran’s proxy-war strategy. Far from tipping the world into WWIII, as the liberal media squawked, his actions shut down Iran’s nuclear program and kept them quiet. Having defeated ISIS the temperature for hostilities in the region dropped lower than it had for decades.
Once Trump was out of the White House, Biden relaxed sanctions and re-introduced the JCPOA – without even trying to stiffen the terms of the deal.
Joe Biden, in all his supportive statements towards Israel in the aftermath of Oct 7th and his condemnation of Hamas, never once mentioned Iran. Why? Was it from a sense of guilt?
The charge sheet against Biden is pretty damning: If you wanted to be uncharitable, you could easily make the case that his administration had both armed and financed the terrorists that attacked Israel. Iran has received $39.5 billion since Biden took office – thanks to his relaxing of sanctions. That buys a whole lotta terror. Possibly the risk of losing such largesse is what kept Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies out of the war, until now.
Military analysts have suggested the M4 rifles Hamas terrorists were toting are from the $7billion cache of materiel left for the Taliban after the panicked withdrawal from Kabul. Another unintended but woefully predictable consequence of Biden’s foreign policy.
It seems clear the timing of the Oct 7 attack was to sabotage chances of Sunni states like Saudi Arabia normalising relations with Israel. Biden’s actions (and inactions) are undermining the best chances for Middle East peace we’d seen in a generation.
The sooner that dessicated old dotard is out of office the better.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

There was no Iran nuclear programme – see Gareth Porter’s ‘Manufactured Crisis’ or Netanyahu’s claims for many years that they are ‘just two years away’ or his 2018 use of forged documents. All the ‘insiders’ your talking about are propagandists.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I fear your confidence may be more than a wee bit misplaced.
Presumably you’re not so far gone as to imagine the UN is a pro-Israel stooge. They are famously anti-Israel, and even more anti-Netanyahu.
The UN’s Nuclear watchdog’s most recent report rather undermines your assertions.
Read this: gov2024-7.pdf (iranwatch.org)
Weapons inspectors’ most recent trip to Iran’s Fordow Nuclear facility – which nominally ceased making enriched uranium under the 2015 nuclear accord – was worrying, as they told the Washington post they, “witnessed frenzied activity, newly installed equipment, producing enriched uranium at ever-faster speeds, and an expansion underway that could soon double the plant’s output”.
They reported that Fordow was scaling up production of highly enriched uranium, just shy of weapons grade.
Low-enriched uranium (3 to 20%) is what is used in civilian nuclear power reactors. Fordow has ramped up production ofhighly enriched Uranium at 60%. Care to wonder why they’d go to the trouble if not for military use?
Iranian officials in charge of the Fordow plant, meanwhile, have spoken openly about achieving “deterrence,” which would surely suggest that even if Tehran has not yet manufactured weapons, they now have everything they’d need to build a bomb if they choose.
From the Washington Post’s interviews with IAEA officials and current and former U.S. and European intelligence and security officials — many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity — the view was one of “Iran advancing slowly but confidently, accumulating the means for a future weapon while making no overt move to build one.”
If religious zealots with access to nuclear capability doesn’t worry you then I can’t imagine what might.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

What is the position on the Pakistan, or ‘Sunni Bomb’ do you happen to know?

ed luttwak
ed luttwak
29 days ago

Pakistan has followed the Indian model based on the Israeli model whereby nuclear weapons are for strike-back deterrence only. All three pay the heavy costs of dealing with military threats without invoking their nuclear strength. Hence there is no “Sunni bomb” but only Pakistan’s ability to deter India, whose conventional strength already superior must grow to deal with China..

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Thanks Paddy. I should have been more clear – as I said, there was no nuclear programme – at least not whilst the JCPOA was active. Then Trump (not Obama or Biden who you criticise) binned that deal and guess what happened.

As for WaPo and their anonymous spokespersons – I’d give them the same credence as I would for any anonymous US sources (from Iraq, to Libya, to Syria, to Russiagate and Ukraine) – ie. very little.

Oh and we have religious zealots with access to nuclear weapons in the region already.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Wrong again.
There was a Nuclear program. Then they signed the JCPOA and the program went dark – we do not know if it was being carried on in secret, all we can say is that inspectors never had the access that the Iranians had agreed to.
Trump, in 2018, tore up the useless JCPOA and imposed sanctions that were severe enough that Iran no longer had the funds to maintain the program.
Biden got in and reinstated the JCPOA, as well as releasing $40 BILLION to Iran….. and to no one’s surprise, iran has not only restarted the program but ramped up enrichment to near weapons grade.
The washington Post are the most anti-Trump, pro-Biden, pro-Iran deal media organisation I could find to quote from – lest you think I’d simply cite Breitbart and have you rubbish the source.
Why do you imagine the Saudis and Emiratis have normalised relations with Israel – do you think their fears of Iran are also completely unfounded? Do you imagine the Saudis have fallen for fabricated stories as well?
At some point you might have to consider the possibility that the intelligence gathering capabilities of a dozen different nations’ security services might be greater than even the acclaimed left-winger Gareth Porter, a one-note anti-American journalist who defended the Viet Cong’s actions throughout the Vietnam war, argued that the Khmer Rouge weren’t really committing genocide and is a regular Al Jazeera contributor.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Right in one sense – Iran like its puppet masters Putin & Biden can build an approximation of a nuke BUT don’t have the tech to maintain or launch. One good thing about the Russian influx into UK after 1991 is the first hand info from the incomers: most had served in the USSR forces and knew that the nukes were 99% Potempkin standard. Launch would be way more dangerous to the operator than the target. In another sense wrong – O’Biden and his fellow travellers on the UK and German left would love to give the Iranis and Putins clowns the chance to nuke their mutual enemies – the US/UK/GDR public, yet they depend on us for votes, and therefore income and status. O’Biden in particular is very much like the Soviet puppets of old – a sorcerer’s apprentice let loose with a broom, but some 70 years after you’d expect him to finish his apprenticeship. Takes the term “libtard” to new levels – 80+ years old with the mind of a 14 year old!

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  mike otter

Back in the 90s, just as now, the Russians could have killed everyone on Earth without needing to go to the bother of launching those missiles – they could have just let them off in their silos. Right now though their missiles are more advanced than the West’s (see for example the UK’s last two Trident test firings). The Iranians are getting there too – probably with help from the Russians and the wild-card of the North Koreans too.

Luttwak’s assertions about damage are taken directly from the Israelis as if there wasn’t a few thousand years of examples of a side minimising their losses in a war or the more recent seven decades worth of the Israelis bullshitting everyone about everything to consider. Anyone who takes the claims of either side as gospel is a propagandist or an idiot. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of these Luttwak is.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Well the USA did use sanctions very successfully indeed to goad the Japanese into war, so perhaps they shall do so again?

Then off course there was the USS Maine but that was long ago now.

ed luttwak
ed luttwak
29 days ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Mr Taylor is well-informed. Malley’s views were shaped by his mother and father, both Stalinists in Jewish circles in New York and Egypt whose enemies on the Left were the Labor-Zionists. They moved to Paris to work for Algeria’s FLN which was striving hard to exceed all other Arabs in their hatred of Israel & the Jews. They received Arafat with enthusiasm on his first Paris visit. At one the father was expelled by the French Gov because his Jeune Afrique alignment became too extreme for the DST. Malley was in close contact with the handful of pro-regime Iranians in Washington. Too close, hence the revocation of his security clearance last year , 16 years too late. His Paris background was not even investigated so he ended up living in a very nice house in NW Washington having tapped into the International Crisis group gravy train–encountered that profoundly malevolent organization in Central Asia

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

The one aspect of the conflict that’s been an absolute “win” for Israel since 7 October has been the recent direct exchanges with Iran.

Israel has demonstrated its ability to strike deeply and effectively with a single salvo, whilst Iran’s failure to lay a glove with its “swarm” attack is deeply embarrassing rather than deeply penetrative. Its subsequent threat to escalate further, whilst no doubt possible, would bring the.kind of devastation upon itself that would likely be the end of the current regime.

No-one but the most rabid neocons might wish for such an escalation, but the mullahs in Tehran now know the limitations of their options. It might just be seen, in retrospect, as a turning point in the Middle East.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Would you not call the ratio of military personel killed at 10-1 (at the lower estimates) in the war with Hamas an absolute win? Nor the holding of Hezbollah at arms length while the Israelis degrade their capabilities – hard to get figures on casualties there but undeniably one-sided? There was a time before Iran attacked when the war seemed to be turning against Israel but now we have seen the hand of the Sunni Arab states (and Syria) it isn’t likely to bring Israel to abandon its aims. When the Houthis are your greatest military allies it is an ominous sign for the Anti-Zionist forces.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Oh come on, you know what i meant; not just a military win but one which doesn’t lose them anything in the propaganda stakes. I don’t agree with much of the pro-Palestinian fulminating, in case you wondered.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Not a criticism, I do know what you meant.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

True and even better the irani and their proxies – US and UK lefties, think their drone barrage was a great victory. Well grauniads – if that’s a victory i hate to think what a defeat looks like. Hopefully in the future we’ll get to see the graunists in the dock Nuremburg style, but if not i’d settle for a straight military victory like the USSR dealt the Germans. The temptation to let the Germans off proved too great for the Brits, Yanks and French – hopefully we’ll grow a bit more backbone this time.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

I found this article clear and informative…making sense of things that have been murky.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
1 month ago

Stop conflating Iran with the repulsive “Islamic Republican Guard Council” – they are NOT the same. What do you think the Iranian people have been protesting against, under severe threat, for the last couple of years?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

South Africa’s recent Gaza/Israel foolishness is referred to as South Africa/n. We all understand there are different parties and factions.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

You mean the protests that have gone largely ignored while we (the US) bend over backward to make nice with the IRGC? Look around; America is now filled with people openly siding with the Guard and with Hamas.

David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

Excellent analysis, as usual, from Prof. Luttwak.

But… how do we see the back of these berobed cutthroats? The only group with the power to topple the ayatollahs is the army. Unfortunately, the IRGC is powerful enough to stop the army doing just that.

The penalty of this form of coup-proofing, is that your armed forces end up being not very good at fighting wars. Normally, this would not be a problem, if you have the Sunni molokh khor to do your fighting for you. If an enemy decides to ignore the molokh khor and attack you directly, you’re in trouble.

So what happens when it becomes received wisdom that Iran can be attacked at will?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

Almost as important to understanding Middle Eastern regional politics as the Sunni-Shi’ite split is the Arab-Persian-Turk rivalry; for centuries the three ethnic groups have vied for regional hegemony and leadership of the Islamic world. A wise foreign policy would involve playing one group off the other two, but despite being given golden opportunities like those that have recently seen a rapprochement between Israel and the Sunni world, “wisdom” is a word rarely associated with American foreign policy in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

The ‘rapprochement’ of note in the ME in the last few years was not the pipe-dream of the Abraham Accords – it is the one brokered by China between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The one that saw the Syrians welcomed back into the Arab League (i.e. something tangible). The Gaza genocide has nailed this down.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

Oh come off it Right-winger. ‘Playing off’ one side against the other has been the West’s policy for the last 40 years. Fortunately for the actual residents and citizens of the Gulf that ploy has been rather scuppered by the real (as opposed to your pipe-dream) rapprochement in the area. That’s the China brokered one between the Saudis and the Iranians – that saw the tangible result of Syria being invited back into the Arab league.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 month ago

Turks – in NATO.
Arabs – in our pockets.
I’d say we (the West) are doing rather well. Let the Russians and Iranians have the bombed-out remnants of Syria.

D. Gooch
D. Gooch
1 month ago

I thought this a good article but I am not so sure on the assertion that “Iran’s strategists know perfectly well that if they ever come close to assembling a nuclear weapon, Israel will not hesitate to strike first with its manned and unmanned airpower.”
Is Israel really confident that it could completely destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. They would be pretty confident that any move to do so would risk an all-out war with Iran and its proxies and Hezbollah alone is several times better armed than Hamas was. That’s a lot of risk to take if you’re not sure you can even be successful in taking out their capabilities.
But that doesn’t mean Iran isn’t weak. I read recently somewhere that while the loyalty of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may be solid, the regime is concerned about the loyalty of the rest of its conscription-filled military it would have to deploy were an all-out war to occur.
Also hatred of Israelis has been core to the identity of the revolution but when the excuse arose for direct confrontation they backed down. It looks a bit like the proverbial dog who chases after the speeding car but doesn’t know what to do when he catches it.
“That too is a reason for the Sunni alliance, perhaps best symbolised by the uninterrupted flights of Air Dubai and Ittihad to Tel Aviv.”
I think you mean FlyDubai and Etihad. I hope better attention to detail was paid in the rest of the article.

ed luttwak
ed luttwak
29 days ago
Reply to  D. Gooch

Yes I should not have confused FlyDubai with non-existent Air Dubai given that I flew with them very recently

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago

‘Consider how Iran Air still operates out of London several times a week, despite the route being used by Tehran’s goons to fly in, attack dissidents, and return home with a quick taxi-ride to Heathrow.’

Phew. It’s a relief to know that Mossad wouldn’t get up to that sort of thing.

Amos Farrell
Amos Farrell
3 days ago

I have been reading some version of this article for 30 years.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
1 month ago

Don’t care. Israel’s problems are not our problems. Focus on helping Ukraine.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

Ukraine’s problems also aren’t our problems

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Take 10 upvotes sir.
“Charity begins at home” as we used to say.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

Here we go again with another brain-dump of garbage fromm Professor Luttwak at Unherd who tells us that Iran’s recent ‘all-out’ assault on Israel ‘failed most miserably’, an assertion, I’m assuming, that he makes solely on the basis of the Israeli & US spin.

There’s no reason to suspect that this attack was anywhere near ‘all-out’ for the Iranians – I’d like to see Luttwak’s evidence for this (but then I’d like to see his evidence for any of his assertions to be honest – he seldom provides any). The Iranians themselves have said that they did not use their most modern missiles – and why would they want to expose their various characteristics and radar profiles for such an attack. There are plenty of non-MSM figures who support this view – see the likes of Seymour Hersh, Scott Ritter, former UK Middle East diplomat Alastaire Crook and various US military figures like Colonels Doughlas MacGregor, Karen Kwaikowski, Larry Wilkerson and Matt Hohn – you really should try contacting some of them Unherd.

We too only have the israeli’s word for it that the damage was minimal – but there were at least half a dozen hits on some of the most heavily defended targets in the world – from an attack with as much as 72 hours warning, with defensive assets from Israel and at least four allies – one of which was the US. Perhaps Luttwak would like to tell us what happened to the Israeli intelligence site that was targeted in the Golan Heights?

The key question now for Israel (and the Professor) is what might happen if the Iranians targeted Israel’s own prominent nuclear site? What if they really went ‘all-out’ on the Dimona plant? The Iranians of course themselves know precisely how many missiles & drones they deployed and at what targets, they’ve seen how the Israeli air-defences ‘light-up’ and will have all sorts of data on accuracy and damage to analyse now. It would be the utmost idiocy to assume they were not up to this task Professor – but given that a few months back Luttwak were telling us how the Israeli super-dooper Trophy armour would allow their tanks to sweep across Gaza I fear he will be making just that assumption.

That Luttwak can achieve, and maintain, the status described in his Unherd bio whilst relentlessly purveying this guff is just one of the sorry reasons we’re in this mess in the first place.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

It would be interesting to know what part former RAF Troödos,* high atop Mt Olympus, played, and is still playing in the recent highjinks.

(* Now Troödos Station.)

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

I’d imagine it played it’s part along with all the other sites in the area. We must hope that the Israelis don’t decide to go all USS Liberty on it, but given how far our collective betters have climbed up Netanyahu’s Aris in recent years I don’t think they’d need to do that kind of goading anymore.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Perhaps we should ‘rue the day’ we ever gave Israel the wherewithal to build an Atomic Bomb?

Despite the blatant treachery of Michael Israel Michaels,*one might have thought that Macmillan and Wilson would have had more sense!

(*A senior British Civil servant.)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago

Aha, ‘Kosher Nostra’ alert!

ed luttwak
ed luttwak
29 days ago

the nuclear weapon was not given to, but given by

ed luttwak
ed luttwak
29 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Seymour Hersh, Scott Ritter , oh dear

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

his Iran policy has achieved the exact opposite of what he had wanted
Is the author sure about this or hoping to convince the rest of us? Because more than one person was crystal clear in saying that appeasement and treating the mullahs as no different than Qaddafi or the Saudis would end badly. Iran was the only country in the region that openly talked about the offensive use of nukes. It was and is the region’s primary sponsor of terrorism.
People love to overlook Obama’s unique background, telling himself that he shared the same American experience as every other president. He didn’t. Ironically, the only pro-US influence in his life was his Indonesian stepfather. The man never saw a room in which he did not believe himself to be the smartest occupant. That continues today as the current administration repeats the mistakes of its parent, namely lifting sanctions and unfreezing big piles of cash while getting nothing in return.