Q for Military Geeks and War Games Types: Could Israel take out Iraq?



How exactly could Israel fight Irak? (except by nuking it) How would they send troops there?

They have airbombed it in the past. So Israel certainly could gain air superiority. As far as sending troops, I’m not sure. They whooped Egypt,and occupied a good chunk of their land for awhile, with our planes of course, but it was just a hop over the border for them.

The best bet for Israel to beat Iraq would be to promise Hussein’s enemies within Iraq sufficient air cover and destruction for them to carry out their mission.

Iraq has a huge army, but Israel has a better trained and better equipped military. I would imagine their air force is also vastly superior.

And they have the advantage of being bankrolled by the US and other western democracies, which Iraq has pissed off.

Okay, thanks, RR and Friedo, that’s the kind of answers I was looking for. Better training, better equipment, bigger Air Force, more money, all adds up? Okay.

I respectfully disagree, unless by “take out” you will accept “nuke”. In that case, yes, certainly.

Otherwise, no. Look at a map. Israel would have to go through Jordan or Syria to get to Iraq. Forget Jordan, the US would cut off military aid to Israel if they attacted through Jordan. So through Syria, which came closest of all the Arab countries to defeating Israel in the '73 Yom Kippur War.

Though Syria itself is not really the obstacle, sheer distance is the problem. The Israelis cannot “take out” Iraq with just air power (the US couldn’t), and they don’t have the logistical “tail” to invade over land. Yes, they can send convoys of tanker trucks to fuel the tanks, but they cannot defend their flanks along that long a route. Their army would find itself tunning out of everything unlees it got massive support from the US. It is also too far away to keep anything more than a small fraction of the Israeli airforce over Iraq at any one time, because it doesn’t have sufficient airborne tankers.

It could well be another case where they win every battle, but lose the war.

I second yojimboguy. Well, everything except Syria being Israel’s most formidable opponent in 1973. Egypt performed much more imaginatively and effectively than Syria, relative to forces engaged.

If Israel bordered Iraq, that would thrash them up and down in every set-piece engagement. However, the IDF, relying as heavily as it does on conscripts, is at heart a defensive army and is not designed for a prolonged campaign over large distances and across broad deserts. Not that they couldn’t do it. It just wouldn’t be optimal. And that’s if they shared a border.

Assuming ( and I think we can ) that neither Jordan nor Syria would offer them safe passage, they would half to hack their way through one or the other ( or in some scenarios, both ) to even get to the point of crossing the broad expanse of open desert that lies between the Syrian/Jordanian border and any major Iraqi population center. It would be effectively a non-starter, even if they could do it ( no guarantees at all - the Arab armies have a much easier task if they are sitting on the defensive ), because they would have to committ the bulk of their forces to such an endeavor, leaving Israel very lightly defended in their wake.

Never happen.

Limited air campaign, yes.

  • Tamerlane

…“have to”…, not “half to”

  • Tamerlane

Israel could never conquer Iraq in any lasting manner; they simply don’t have the population to take and hold large swatches of territory far removed from their own borders, especially if they had to first clobber Jordan to do it.

But nuke every major city? Sure, with enough left over for Damascus, Riyahd, Tripoli and Cairo. That fact has effectively discouraged any major Arab invasions since 1973.

yojimboguy said ‘nuke’ first, so I’ll third that opinion after Tamerlane

That said, where does Israel have nukes? Missles in silos? Where are they targeted? Tactical? Two Kiloton blasts are really nifty when the ‘bomb’ inside is smaller than a soda can - yet the US dropped way larger 'conventional weapons" as ‘tactical’ stuff. I highly doubt Israel wins any overnight battles with nukes.

To amass enough firepower to overwhelm Iraq – or to even get there in the first place – Israel would be left relatively undefended against other attacks on home soil.

Israel now has air-launched, graound-based AND submarine-launched nukes. I can’t remember whether they have the H-bomb or not, but they certainly have enough nukes in size and scale to take out several of their neighbours at once, if need be, or to use them on a battlefield level in a ground war. Should they feel the need, they could remove Iraq’s cities from existence.

The biggest danger of any US attempt to remove Saddam Hussein is Saddam firing all his chemical weapons at Israel just as he is about to go under, and Israel nuking Iraq back. Millions dead in an hour.

Israel now has air-launched, graound-based AND submarine-launched nukes. I can’t remember whether they have the H-bomb or not, but they certainly have enough nukes in size and scale to take out several of their neighbours at once, if need be, or to use them on a battlefield level in a ground war. Should they feel the need, they could remove Iraq’s cities from existence.

The biggest danger of any US attempt to remove Saddam Hussein is Saddam firing all his chemical weapons at Israel just as he is about to go under, and Israel nuking Iraq back. Millions dead in an hour.

Heh? When did this happen?

I cannot see Israel launching a nuclear first strike. Even with all of the US support it has, the Arab world would never stand for a strategic attack against one of it’s own. Hell, even US opinion would be seriously shaken.

As Tamerlane said, the IDF is more of a defensive army, akin (but a hell of a lot more active) to our National Guard. That’s not to say Israel couldn’t do it. There have been instances where the Israeli Air Force has flown combat sorties over Iraq against power plants, successfully. I respectfully disagree with yojimboguy, simply because it’s been done. Yeah, Syria or Jordan would be pissed off, but they’d be a hell of a lot more effective in rallying the Arab world around the cause of destroying Israel: they’re politically dangerous.

But, freido is correct. Iraq had the 4th largest standing army in the world. However, given the nature of warfare and active militaries, a few select, surgical strikes would easily make life difficult for the Republican Guard. Oil refineries, electrical grids, certain communication hubs (including their “Pony Express” depots), C3I bunkers, you name it. We did it in 100 hours. I figure it would take the Israelis a week or two.

All in all, I really believe Israel would be able to destroy Iraq’s ability to fight. However, this doesn’t equate to winning the war. In order to win the war, you theoretically have to occupy the territory and exert political control over it which, geographically and militarily, Israel can’t do.

End result: stalemate.

Yep. Israel has the ability to destroy any country in the Middle East. Israel has the ability to repel any attempt of invasion by any country in the Middle East. But Israel is NOT capable of invading and conquering those countries. Its military isn’t designed for it.

To invade and hold a country like Iraq means being able to establish a supply line between home and its forward troops. Millions of gallons of gasoline and other supplies have to be continually trucked to the front lines. You’d need a huge army, which Israel doesn’t have, to be able to hold all the conquered territory and keep supply lines open.

But Israel could certainly nuke any of these countries into oblivion. The estimates I’ve seen for Israel’s nuke inventory is between 75 and 150 warheads. Each one of those represents a city effectively destroyed. Israel could wipe out every major city in the Arab world, along with Iran, in one attack.

If you ask me, Israel’s armed forces structure is one of the most moral around. It is totally designed for defense. It ensures the peace by being overwhelmingly more powerful than its enemies in defense, but has almost no ability to seriously invade and conquer its larger neighbors. That’s of course by design, since Israel has absolutely no desire to do so.

Certainly Israel could destroy any given target in Iraq with an airstrike. I was referring, however, to the impossibility of maintaining sufficient and continuous air cover to protect their own ground forces, assuming they got as far as Iraq.

I didn’t realize when I posted yesterday that my OP was missing. :mad: Dang. So here it is again. (this is why we Save our OPs in WordPad, children…)

Q for Military Geeks and War Games Types: Could Israel take out Iraq?

In a Letter to the Editor in the Chicago Tribune this week, somebody suggests (in a distinctly snarky fashion) that the best solution to the Iraq Problem is to “call in our markers” and instruct Israel to “take Iraq out”. (The author’s point is that Israel has received so much aid from the U.S. that they “owe” us, and so we ought to sic them on Iraq.)

Well, snarkiness aside, I immediately wondered whether Israel could in fact “take out” Iraq. In military terms, do they have the capability? If everybody else in the world were to sit on their hands and not interfere, could Israel do it? And if so, how would they go about it, in military terms?

Here are a bunch of maps, if that helps. How exactly would they get there? They would have to march straight through either Lebanon, Jordan, or Syria to get there, I guess. I’m assuming, as I said, for purposes of this discussion, that Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria would be looking the other way, humming a little tune with their hands in their pockets, while the Israeli invasion of Iraq was going on. I’m just talking about strictly military terms, army against army, mano a mano. Would it work? Would either side have to resort to tactical nukes to win, or would it be winnable, by one side or the other, with more conventional weapons?

Mods: I’m actually looking for more of a yes or no answer here, although I’m aware it may turn into a debate. Either way is fine. I know absolutely nothing about the military realities involved–I’m just curious.

Israel doesn’t need to actually hold any part of Iraq once they’ve won–the idea here is to decide whether they’re capable of winning, period.

So, is the consensus “yes, Israel would win”?

No, Israel would not win. Not without significant help from the United States or other countries.

Israel could defeat Saddam’s armies in a head-to-head conflict. I have no doubt about that. The fighting would be about as lopsided as it was in the Gulf war.

But the likely strategy of Saddam against Israel would be to force them into siege warfare. Saddam has stockpiled food in the cities, and has been building fortified emplacements, underground tunnels, tank traps, and other defenses inside the city. There are redundant power sources, redundant communications systems, etc. His strategy is clear: Pull his most trustworthy and skilled soldiers back into the city, and force the invaders to come in and engage in urban warfare to dig him out building by building, while the civilian casualties pile up.

Israel is already straining to support the mobilization it has needed to occupy the Palestinian territories. Remember, Israel’s regular army is actually quite small - it is heavily dependent on the large reserves from the civilian population. But removing large percentages of people from the productive economy is very expensive, so Israel can’t keep armies in the field for long periods of time.

So if Israel is straining to mobilize enough forces to control the West Bank, imagine the difficulty of stretching a supply line all the way to Baghdad, and once there engaging say, 100,000 troops in urban warfare.

In fact, I think this type of warfare is so difficult that it’s probably the main reason why U.S. Generals are having second thoughts about going into Iraq. It’s not a question of whether they CAN defeat Saddam - there is no question about that. It’s more a matter of whether they can take Saddam while maintaining the support of the world, and while keeping the civilian casualties to a minimum.

The same equation holds for Israel. If it wants to just destroy Iraq, it could do that. If Saddam pulls back into the cities, they could just bomb the crap out of them, even with just convential bombs, until Saddam’s soldiers crack or no longer exist. But trying to take Iraq in a way that is acceptable to the world is a whole 'nuther matter.

*Originally posted by Tripler *

Heh? When did this happen?
Israel has 3 Dolphin class coastal submarines each displacing about 1700 tons when submerged. There have been widespread reports saying that these submarines are capable of launching cruise missles armed with nuclear warheads. This makes a certain amount of sense as it would complete the IDF’s “Nuclear Triad” and make sure that the country could retaliate should another nation attack with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. With three submarines Israel could have one stationed in the Med, the other in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf leaving the third for rotation on standby.

Israel doesn’t have the logistical capabilities or manpower needed to effectively invade, subdue and occupy a nation as large and populated as Iraq. If you add in the political situation, you’d be unlikely to find Iraq fighting alone which would only compound the problem. The Israeli military is organized for defense and retaliation, not for projecting force abroad in any major way. Just my two cents.