The Day After an Iranian Nuclear Strike

Stand for Israel  |  September 11, 2019

Iranians visit a weaponry and military equipment exhibition in the capital Tehran on Febraury 2, 2019, organised on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Isranian revolution. - Iran announced the succesful test of a new cruise missile with a range of over 1,350 kilometres on today, state TV reported. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

While Israel and the U.S. work to keep Iran from ever gaining nuclear capabilities, what would happen if it did? Writing at the Algemeiner, nuclear weapons expert and former chair of the IDF’s Nuclear Forum Dr. Ori Nissim Levy discusses preparations for the day that the Islamic Republic goes nuclear:

There is much discussion around the world about how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. But few if any international bodies deal with the question of how to prepare for the day Iran achieves such capabilities, if that day has not already arrived.

The geopolitical struggle in the Middle East between Iran (either directly or via proxy) and its regional rivals is a battle for supremacy, not a battle for destruction. The mullahs’ desire for a nuclear program does not revolve around the potential destruction of Israel, though one might reasonably conclude otherwise from their public statements. Their central object is, rather, to render the regime immune to external attack as it pursues its dogged quest for regional hegemony and spreads Tehran’s Islamist message across the world.

With that said, there is no question but that Israel must prepare itself for the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Israel has outstanding technological abilities, is an innovator in high-tech military and civilian industries, and has — through its long history of coping with military threat — excellent military capabilities and a fundamental understanding of security needs. Israel is thus able to be a world leader in nuclear defense preparedness…

First things first. A realistically sized nuclear bomb detonated in a central Israeli city would not be the end of the world, and would not lead to a post-apocalyptic future. Though it would be a painful blow and would likely cause tens of thousands of casualties, according to experts, it is possible that “only” 1,000 civilians would be killed. The parameters affecting the number of casualties would include whether the attack occurred during the day or night, the specific hour, whether it took place during a weekend, what the weather was like, and so on.

A calculation by Dr. Yehoshua Sokol, chairman of the Academic Forum for Nuclear Awareness (AFNA), argues that if 80 atom bombs (!) were to land in Israel, less than 10 percent of the population would be injured and “only” 300,000 people would die. The number of casualties would not increase in line with the number of bombs.

What this means is that a nuclear strike scenario is not an endgame military maneuver. Many of us think in terms of the dramatic pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after nuclear attack — images of charred lands going on for miles. These images do not apply to today’s cities. Japanese cities in 1945 were crowded urban landscapes consisting of one- or two-story wood and paper houses. Those structures were consumed by fire generated by the heat of the explosions. The vast majority of casualties resulted from the enormous fires that raged across the cities for days on end and from flying debris from the fragile wooden homes that maimed the unprotected.

Today’s cities are very different, particularly in Israel…

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