Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The Enormous Risks and Uncertain Benefits of an Israeli Strike Against Iran's Nuclear Facilities

| Apr. 18, 2024

Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel on April 13 has significantly escalated the tensions between the countries. For the first time, a declared and extensive Iranian military operation was carried out on Israeli territory. Now, the decision on how to respond rests with Israel. A direct war between the two countries now no longer seems unlikely.

Israel now realizes that it underestimated the consequences of its attack on an Iranian facility in Damascus that killed several senior members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier this month. However, the exceptionally large scope of Iran's response and the direct impact on Israeli soil is viewed in Israel as a disproportionate action that significantly escalates the conflict.

Despite the interception of most of the weapons launched by Iran and the lack of significant damage on Israeli territory, the outcome of the Iranian attack could have been vastly different due to the uncertainties of combat. Consequently, in Israel, there is a strong focus on Iran's intentions and Tehran's willingness to risk a direct confrontation.

Since Israel does not want to depend solely on defense and aims to prevent the normalization of attacks on its territory, it appears resolute to respond, reinforce its deterrence, and inflict a significant cost that will make Iran's decision-makers think twice before attacking similarly again.

While some in Israel advocate for a robust immediate response to project power and display independence despite international pressures, others prefer a more cautious and measured reaction to limit the risk of escalating into a major regional war....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Zoran, Assaf.“The Enormous Risks and Uncertain Benefits of an Israeli Strike Against Iran's Nuclear Facilities.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 18, 2024.