Why is this information being passed on to journalists? Is it just part of a giant propaganda campaign to get the Iranians to take the threat of attack seriously (and thus give up the nuclear program without a fight), or is this telling the world that Israeli will, in fact, be attacking Iran this year?
Panetta’s reported view has been echoed in recent interviews by NBC News with current and former U.S. and Israeli officials who have access to their countries’ intelligence. Those officials, all of whom spoke to NBC News on background, estimated the odds of an Israeli attack on Iran as better than 50-50....
Officials agree the chances for an Israeli attack on Iran are at least 50-50, maybe higher. More than one former official has suggested the possibility is as high as 70 percent, but events can move that higher or lower. One said he is “worried sick” about it....
Many of those interviewed claim Israel would launch a multi-pronged attack, using its fighter bombers as well as its Jericho missile force.
Israel has both medium and intermediate range Jerichos. The medium-range Jericho I would not have the range to reach many Iranian targets but the intermediate-range Jericho II’s, capable of hitting targets 1,500 miles away, would have no problem. The Jerichos would be equipped with high explosives, not nuclear warheads. Asked if the Jericho would have the accuracy and the explosive power to take out a hardened bunker of the sort believed to be protecting Iran’s most-sensitive underground nuclear facilities, one official replied, “You would be surprised at their accuracy” and that the high explosives involved is a special mix of chemical explosives that could conceivably penetrate the Iranian fortifications.
Missile attacks would be coordinated with fighter-bomber attacks (presumably the Israelis’ extended-range F-15I Strike Eaglet) as well as drone strikes. The fighter bombers would use what one official described as “high-low, low-high” flight paths -- high first to increase fuel efficiency, then low for most of the trip to evade radar, then climbing high again as the weapons are released in what is known as a “flip toss” on the target. The Israelis would be prepared to lose aircraft if necessary, the officials said.
The Israelis are not planning to use submarine-launched cruise missile force -- “not enough of them,” one official said of the subs. (The Israelis have long had nuclear tipped sub-launched cruise missiles as part of their deterrent force.)....
As the New York Times reported Friday, the Israeli military intelligence assessment is that Iran’s military response to such an attack would be muted, in part because of its limited capability and in part because of it understands a massive attack would be met with massive response. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, noting that Iran has had years to plan out their response. The biggest fear is that Iran would unleash Hezbollah, which has between 42,000 and 48,000 missiles and rockets in southern Lebanon aimed at Israel. Even before any attack, officials in both Thailand and Azerbaijan say they have recently thwarted Hezbollah plots against Israeli facilities.
Israel understands that Hezbollah may respond on behalf of Iran following an attack and is prepared to go after Hezbollah “and not stop at the Litani River (the northern limit of most previous Israeli attacks) this time nor limit its force to a brigade or two” as one U.S. official put it. Another added that Israeli officials understand that “Israeli blood, Jewish blood will certainly be spilled” in attacks around the world in the event of an attack. And the response might not be immediate. One official noted that the Saudi Hezbollah attacks on Khobar Towers in 1996 took place months after the U.S. passed tighter sanctions against Iran.
Note: Yediot Aharonoth also has an article based upon the NBC article - Officials discuss Israel-Iran showdown.