U.S. Navy Casualties in the Gulf
Should the U.S. become involved in the Israeli-Iran conflict militarily, says Clarke, it will be impossible to avoid American casualties.
"The Iranians have hundreds if not thousands of small boats, armed small boats, commando small boats, that will operate in the Gulf," said Clarke. "They can get in, they can swarm a U.S. destroyer. The Iranians now also have cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles."
Clarke said there is a potential for the U.S. to sustain significant damage to a few ships and lose some sailors, just as it did during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s. Two U.S. ships were hit during that conflict, with a loss of nearly 40 American lives.
The U.S. Enters the War
According to Clarke, Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.
If Israel bombs Iran, Clarke says the cascade of events will lead to attacks on Israeli cities. "Advisors to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak are saying that if Israel bombed Iran, the retaliation on Israel would be tolerable," said Clarke. "But if Hezbollah in Lebanon launched thousands of extended range, improved accuracy rockets on Israel, hundreds of Israelis would die. In such a small country, that would be devastating."
The casualties, in turn, would bring the inevitable call to Washington for help.
"You will very quickly see a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to the President," said Clarke, "and he will say to him, 'Only the United States, Mr. President, can find and destroy these mobile missile launchers. Only you can save the lives of Israelis who are dying as I speak in our cities."
Clarke said that message would probably spur any U.S. president into action -- but especially one who is up for reelection within months. "It's likely to get a yes answer from the president," predicts Clarke, "and bring the U.S. into the war."