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Iran-Israel Locked In Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) Deterrence Status – OpEd


Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the potential annihilation of both the attacker and the defender, thus becoming a war that has no victor but only reciprocal destruction is increasingly becoming relevant to the Iran/Israel regional confrontation.

MAD is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment, and implicit menace and threat of using massive weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use by said-enemy of the same weapons against oneself. The strategy is a form of the famed mathematician, John Forbes Nash (“A beautiful Mind”) game theory equilibrium in which neither side, once armed, has any rational incentive either to initiate a conflict or to disarm. The Mad Doctrine assumes that each side has enough weaponry and military tenacity among its forces to destroy the other side. That being the case, if either side is attacked for any reason by the other, the country attacked would retaliate without with equal or greater force.

Some Pentagon analysts with much experience with MAD as part of U.S. and USSR strategic doctrine during the cold war believe that curtailing Israel aggression and even preventing nuclear war in the Middle East could best be prevented if neither Iran nor Israel could expect to survive a full-scale exchange as a functioning state. Although the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction continues to apply and increasingly between Israel and Iran.

In recent months “the imminent threat” of Iran has become shriller from the US-Israel and its “international community” allies. The people of the world on the other hand are increasingly viewing Iran’s strong military position rather differently. This is true not only among Middle Eastern countries but also among the 120 member nonaligned countries that support Iran’s right to enrich uranium. An opinion survey conducted by is also reporting this week that a record high 75% of the American public favors an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and a majority does not view Iran as a threat.

As pointed out recently by Professor Noam Chomsky, Europeans regard Israel, not Iran as the greatest threat to world peace and are worried about the dangers it poses in the Middle East. The survey concludes that while Iran is disliked by some Arab regimes but seen as a threat only by a very small minority. Israel and the U.S. are regarded as the pre-eminent threat. A majority think that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 percent held this opinion, according to Brookings Institution/Zogby International polls. Moreover, China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course. Their populations tend to favor a strong Iran as deterrence to Israel’s history of aggression.

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a military threat.

In numerous presentation to Congress by U.S. military and intelligence its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy with potential benefits for peace in the region.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.

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One pillar of the current mutual deterrence status between the growing Resistance Alliances confronting Israel is the prevailing weapons ambiguity of Hezbollah. During Israel’s 5th war against Lebanon in July 2006, the National Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah is widely known, for a variety of reasons including suggestions from allies, including Iran, to have held back on using its most devastating weapon (s). This is unlikely to the case in the next war.

Syria also did not contribute to its allies her most powerful weapons in 2006 and it remains unclear which of its current weapon systems would be available to its allies to be used against Israel given the current uncertainty in Syria.

According to Israeli officials, hundreds of Hezbollah fighters have been receiving training in the use of advanced anti-aircraft weapons in Syria and Iran in recent months; in a development the Israeli military says absolutely jeopardizes its aerial supremacy. Russia also sent Syria other modern antiaircraft missiles last year, including about 40 SA-17 Grizzly missiles and two medium-range SA-17 Buk systems, according to SIPRI.

In addition, Israel believes Russia has recently delivered upgraded versions of the MiG-29 combat aircraft to Syria and has upgraded hundreds of T-72 tanks every year since 2007, fitting them with far more modern weapons and that National Lebanese Resistance fighters led by Hezbollah have been training on these weapons.

Tactical ambiguity about Resistance weapons and exactly which weapons of mass destruction may have been placed along Israel’s borders and aimed at key military centers has led to more frequent Israeli movements along the northern border of occupied Palestine with Lebanon and on the Golan heights. Rumors range from nuclear weapons to “dirty bombs.” What exactly is the truth adds credence to the growing deterrence status between Iran and Israel.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts was expressed recently by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who testified in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.

Description: Ahmad VahidiLast month, Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi invoked Iran’s deterrence doctrine in warning Israel against mounting such an attack on Iran: “Any act by the Zionist regime against Iran will bring about its destruction.”

Speaking at a ceremony honoring past Hezbollah commanders, Vahidi said that “Israel is weaker than it has ever been and its army is tired and humiliated… This is why it is trying to solve its problems by talking about taking action against Iran. But these are ridiculous statements. Iran’s warriors are ready and willing to retaliated and destroy Israel and we have the capacity to do so,” he declared.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence staff are said to take the current growing MAD status between Iran and Israel as seriously as it was taken during the cold war period. If both parties continue taking it seriously a major war in the Middle East might be avoided.

Meanwhile, the 16 agency US intelligence community continues perhaps its most pressing assigned task and that is of developing the capacity for the U.S. to block Israel’s triggering a nuclear weapon.

Franklin Lamb

Franklin Lamb, a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee at the US Congress and Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics. Following three summers at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Lamb was a visiting fellow at the Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Center where he specialized in Chinese Law. He was the first westerner allowed by the government of China to visit the notorious “Ward Street” Prison in Shanghai. Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and works with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon and the Sabra-Shatila Foundation. His new book, The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon, is due out shortly.

5 thoughts on “Iran-Israel Locked In Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) Deterrence Status – OpEd

  • April 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    It just changes the rules, it is Iran that has surrounded Israel not the other way around. So how a nuclear Iran will contain Israeli aggression is beyond me. It just brings the Temple into consideration on all military operations. If a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead is fired from the Iranian province of Lebanon regardless of missile defense, the Temple has to be used on Iran and all its provinces. Do you wait for it to hit to see if it is nuclear, what if missile defense fails. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it is a duck. You understand.

    If Israel unleashes the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strike capabilities and with much increased missile defense there is a 90% chance they will survive and defeat Iran in a nuclear confrontation.

    MAD is misleading the goal is to hit your enemies capabilities with nuclear weapons. That is why there is 2nd and 3rd strikes capabilities, no one cares about the sheep and mushrooms, go and hide under your desks.

    That is what you plan.

  • April 3, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    What I am saying it not about civilians or population centers. At some stage in a nuclear confrontation when you are down to the last strike capability and can’t win, waste the civilians. But it is the military targets that are important, if the sheep and mushrooms get in the way they are collateral damage.

    People got through the cold war, well that was not so bad MAD is great. Numerous time nuclear war almost broke out, hence the red phone. It could be things like Cuba, war games that are taken as a potential first strike, crazy generals.

    The other side is getting ahead in capabilities. Crazy General: “Mr President we must attack the enemy now or we will be defeated”. So not to lose the cold war, start a hot war, we can win the hot war, if we wait we will lose the cold war.

    So plan to win. You know were the Ayatollah can stick his red phone.

    About 75% percent chance of nuclear war in a cold war under MAD, depending on your capability that is your percent of winning.

    Cuba was not in relation to civilians it was in relation to military targets. The US felt its strike capabilities were compromised. Crazy General: “Mr President we have to go to war before those missile become operational”.

    Whatever I am easy, easy come, easy go, it pays to be. Where do you think I learned it.

  • April 4, 2012 at 12:33 am

    There a numerous ways to increase the percentage in your favor, the early bird gets the worm. Now there will be around 1000 nuclear missiles in Iran, in silos and mobile launchers.

    When it happens it will happen quickly as they have rebuilt the IRBM and modified nose cones. And are stockpiling the enriched Uranium to 20%.

    Nevertheless (the early bird) some of these movements can be seen some are not seen, increase in the Dolphin fleet, Stealth fighters to be used as a strategic nuclear bombers like the F-111. Increased production of Jericho missiles, modernizing warheads and the Jericho. On the flip side the Arrow, Palestinian human shields, dispersing the settlements among the Palestinian population. Cyberwarfare, we are nice guys, Stuxnet could have blown up Bushehr, Iran is ambitious so they will build nuclear submarines in the future. So the lesson is how to infiltrate the enemy systems leave the program hidden undetectable and then use an activation code to activate the program, blowing up warheads, shutting down cooling systems on reactors. Turn their nuclear missiles against them, turn their reactors into Chernobyl and submarines into the Kursk, 2nd strike capability. They will have stealth bomber in the future since Barry gave them the stealth drone. So increase radar capabilities, air to air missiles to allow 4 gen to kill 5 gen stealth.

    It does not take 1000 nuclear warheads to destroy a 1000 nuclear warheads.

  • April 4, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Were do people think all the money has gone and the IDF are looking for more. Now I am sure Barry would have like to stop those developments, leaking won’t cut it. But as Livni is out on her ear, not going to happen.

  • April 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    It is purposeful neoCon and zionist misinformation to say that MAD is what creates deterrence.

    When in fact, It is Mutual Nuclear Deterrence MND that creates deterrence.

    MAD is the end game of nuclear war…… pure insanity

    MND does it’s thing before any war gets started….


    Deterrence: inaction caused by the perception of danger.

    MND makes BOTH VENUES unsafe for war.

    No Nation wants NUKES except to deter sociopathic belligerent governments from attacking.


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