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Could an Israeli air strike stop Iran's nuclear program?

Israel does have the capability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities,
but such an operation would be very complex and costly, politically.

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An Israeli F-16 takes off from Ramon Air Base in southern Israel. A strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be more complex than attacks Israel has launched against Iraq and Syria.

Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters

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Could Israel attack Iran?

The short answer is yes, but it's unlikely that Israel could destroy all of Iran's nuclear sites, and it would run the risk of leaving behind an angrier and even more committed enemy.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Tehran's declaration in late September of a second, previously undisclosed, uranium enrichment facility has heightened Western suspicions that it seeks weapons as well – and may have additional secret facilities. The US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany met on Oct. 1 with Iran in Geneva for nuclear talks but reached no concrete results, though all parties agreed to meet again before the end of October.

Israel has in recent months repeatedly warned against indefinite talks, declaring Iran's nuclear ambitions to be the most urgent threat to the region. Though the effectiveness and wisdom of an Israeli strike are matters for debate, Israel has made clear it's a serious option.

When Dan Halutz, the former head of Israel's air force, was asked a few years ago to what lengths Israel would be willing to go to stop Iran's nuclear program, he famously said: "2,000 kilometers" – roughly the distance between Israel and Iran's main nuclear sites.

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