Senator Cotton: Minimal fallout possible for Israel from Iran strike
Senator Tom Cotton, author of the letter to Iran signed by 47 GOP senators warning that any nuclear deal could be negated by the next president, told the Atlantic that fallout for Israel from a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities could be limited.
Discussing the potential for Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel as a response to a US strike against Iran, Cotton told Goldberg: "I've consulted with various senior members of the Israeli government over the years, and they're aware of the possibility that Iran might use Hezbollah, in particular, to retaliate in an asymmetric way for any military strikes, either American or Israeli, and the assessment I've heard from them is that while that is a risk, it is a risk they can manage."
Cotton added that the risk to Israel is not what it once was. "This is different from what you might have seen nine years ago during the Hezbollah war in 2006, or even five years ago, when the talk of an Israeli strike was at its peak, in large part because of Iron Dome, and also because of the strain that sanctions have put on Iran—its ability to fund these kinds of operations and continue to replenish Hezbollah and their weapon stocks."
Cotton said that Obama himself had said over the weekend that Iran could not challenge the US militarily, quoting the US president's assertion that while the US spends $600 billion a year on its military, Tehran spends $30 billion a year. "Not only do we have the ability to substantially degrade their nuclear facilities, but we have the capability, along with our Gulf allies, who have increased their military spending by over 50 percent, to largely protect them from any kind of retaliatory air or naval strikes."
The Republican senator said that the framework reached between world powers and Iran earlier this month does not represent any real agreement between the two sides. "There's a long list of concessions that Iran's leaders continue to dispute they actually made."
Cotton, who also said nuclear war is "likely" if Iran gets the bomb, may be a touch optimistic in his assessment of Iran's ability to escalate the conflict if Israel is to strike. It's true that four years of civil war in Syria has degraded Hezb'allah's militia. Some of their best units have been decimated in the conflict.
But the terrorists also possess 40,000 rockets. And while many of them are small "Grad" rockets that are woefully inaccurate and don't carry much of a punch, they also have about 500 modern missiles that could devastate any Israeli city. Analysts have known for years that the way to defeat an anti-missile system is to overwhelm it with targets. The Israeli air force is very good at taking out rocket and missile sites – but only after the missiles have been fired. That means that Hezb'allah's advanced rockets, along with Iran's long-range missiles, if used in a coordinated attack, could pose a significant threat to urban areas in Israel.
If Israel – or the U.S. under another president – were to attack Iran, the blowback for Israel would almost certainly be devastating. Iran would be seen as weak if they didn't respond with everything they had, which means a lot of dead Israeli civilians and the possibility that the conflict could widen.