SHEPARD SMITH: Well a hundred fighter jets, a team of rescue helicopters and to paraphrase one Pentagon official, a message that Israel wanted Iran and the rest of the world to hear loud and clear. It's our top story. Sources in the Israeli military confirming a massive military exercise last month, while Israel is not saying its mission was a dry run for an attack on Iran, one detail seems especially telling. An Israeli pilot says he was part of the drill, flying about 900 miles west from Tel Aviv across the Mediterranean Sea, and that is roughly the same distance from Tel Aviv to a uranium enrichment plant in Iran. The Natanz enrichment plant. Israel says Iran is trying to use that facility to build nuclear weapons. Steve Emerson's here now, Middle East and counterterrorism expert, good to see you. So is this a dry run in earnest or this an effort, a show of military force and capability to try to intimidate or pressure Iran.
STEVE EMERSON: I think it's both. And there's a third factor also. It's to let the world know and especially the United States that if the West doesn't act, the Israelis will act, so maybe it's a combination of all three.
SMITH: Yeah, the Israelis took out Iraq's nuclear facility twenty some odd years ago. Take a look at the map right here because the Iranians may have learned from that experience and have reportedly hidden a lot of their nuclear facilities in various locations that are secret and underground. Do we have the map? Put it up. There it is. Alright, let's assume the U.S. or the Israelis for that matter engage in a tactical air strike. Would we hit all of them?
EMERSON: There's no way that they could hit all of them. They don't have the strength, the strategic strength, the capability to do that, but they can hit maybe five percent of the targets. If you take out five percent of their capability of their enrichment you can retard their development of a nuclear facility or production by about ten or fifteen years. After all, what they're doing is buying time.
SMITH: Iran has reportedly reinforced the two main sites, Esfahan and Natanz. And I read somewhere I can't remember where that in order to take those out you would have to use near nuclear penetration bombs. What do you think?
EMERSON: Well, it's possible. Especially if they get SS-20 missiles to protect them. They'll definitely need bunker-buster bombs. The question is, "Will they need tactical nukes in order to penetrate them?" And I think that they are willing to use them in order to break up the Natanz facility.
SMITH: Alright, the direct route to Iran from Israel would be over Iraq, we control the airspace. What are the global consequences of that, do we get permission, do we need permission?
EMERSON: The question is "Will the Israelis request permission?", and if they request permission that means they're tipping their hand. This means that they could be subject to political pressure. So, I don't know if the Israelis would request permission, they might just take the route unilaterally.
SMITH: And we would do what?
EMERSON: Well, we wouldn't do anything. I think that the U.S. and the West would like to see the Israelis do this, even though they say they don't.
SMITH: Are you sure we wouldn't do anything?
EMERSON: Well, there might be some political penalties subjected to Israel or some moratorium. After the 1981 Osirak reactor there was a moratorium on military sales to Israel.
SMITH: We wouldn't do something behind the scenes?
EMERSON: Behind the scenes in what way?
SMITH: Pressure them not to do it, or would we turn a blind eye and say "You shouldn't do that, wink, wink."
EMERSON: Well, that, I think, is the more likely scenario. Look, it's possible that if the Israelis are asked for air space, the U.S. really could pressure them and then the Israelis are in a bind, do they disobey the U.S. or not?
SMITH: Question, containment and deterrence, it worked with the Soviets. It would not work with the Iranians if they had nuclear capability?
EMERSON: Unfortunately, the Iranians have a martyrdom complex and they're willing do die. They've already said they're willing to kill one million Israelis even if they suffer a retaliatory strike of five million Iranians.
SMITH: Ahmedinijad yearns for Armageddon.
EMERSON: The destruction of Israel is one of his strategic goals.
SMITH: Steve Emerson, frightening scenario, thanks very much.