It is 2027. Iran has one of the world’s largest theater missile and drone forces and supplies its proxies with substantial numbers of these missiles and drones. The main beneficiary of Iran’s missile-drone largesse is Hezbollah, which throughout most of 2027 uses these strike systems in a cat-and-mouse war of pinpricks firing from Syria, occasionally against northern Israeli positions. Iran, meanwhile, has not given up developing a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran, in 2025 formally declared its intent to withdraw from the NPT. It nearly exhausted the 90-day deadline for formal withdrawal, as North Korea did in 1993. That clock is still paused, but with only 24 hours more required for Iran to be legally free of the NPT restrictions.
In mid-2027, Israeli intelligence receives human intelligence (HUMINT) that Iran is increasing activity at a number of suspected Iranian nuclear weapons design-fabrication sites. Israel then receives high-confidence HUMINT and signals intelligence (SIGNET) that the Iranians are about to join complete nuclear warheads with missile delivery systems at several ultra-high-performance concrete hardened, buried locations. Israeli intelligence knows where some of these sites are but lacks high confidence that they have located all of them. The most likely sites are all underground: the Parchin military complex 20 miles from Tehran (population 8.5 million), the Fordow Fuel Enrichment plant 25 miles away from Qom (population 1.2 million), and the Natanz Enrichment Complex about 60 miles from Isfahan (population 2 million).
Israel’s prime minister decides this is casus belli. There’s a problem, however. Israeli intelligence determines that the only non-nuclear weapon option that might penetrate the hardened weapons assembly sites is a hypersonic strike weapon that only the U.S. possesses. Israel has asked Washington to transfer these weapons for the last two years. The U.S. President, who has repeatedly pledged never to let Iran get nuclear weapons but does not want Israel to start a war, previously refused these requests. Israel’s prime minister speaks directly with the president of the United States. The Israeli prime minister asks that America join Israel in launching a coordinated airstrike. He makes this plea noting Israel’s lack of adequate penetrating munitions. The U.S. president asks for and receives a full Israeli intelligence brief. He decides not to do a joint strike, but agrees to give Israel the latest U.S. hypersonic conventional munitions. These munitions are flown into Germany and delivered to Israel on non-U.S. cargo planes.
On July 30, 2027, Israel, without explicit American permission, launches a preventive conventional missile strike using nearly all of the hypersonic weapons it received against the Iranian nuclear weapons integration facilities that it knows of. Word quickly leaks of the attack and that Israel conducted it against “suspect” nuclear weapons integration facilities. Iran releases photos of its damaged “peaceful research” sites, decries the attack, and calls for “retribution” against Israel.
A day later, on July 31st, Hezbollah launches missiles that saturate and suppress Israeli missile defenses. Hamas and the Houthi rebels (who have acquired missiles capable of reaching Israel) take advantage of Hezbollah’s saturation of Israeli missile defenses to launch rockets from Gaza and Yemen against Israeli military bases, civilian infrastructure, and population centers. These attacks cause serious additional damage and numerous casualties – at least as many deaths as the 2023 Hamas attacks from Gaza. With the Israeli defenses degraded, Iran launches an unprecedented missile strike of its own against nuclear-associated targets, including Israel’s reactor at Dimona (which, given its size, fails to release any significant radioactivity beyond the local area), several nuclear-associated air and missile bases (including Sdot Micha airbase), and Israel’s bases for its Dolphin nuclear missile-armed submarines. Iran also attacks the Ministry of Defense headquarters in central Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv strike kills and injures a large number of civilians. Iran simultaneously declares its formal request to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), claiming the Israeli strike jeopardizes its “supreme interests.” This gives 24 hours before Iran is no longer bound by the treaty. Meanwhile, Israeli HUMINT reports that Israel has yet to fully destroy its target set: While Israeli strikes crippled above-ground targets, even the hypersonic strikes failed to penetrate the highest-risk underground facilities at Parchin, Fordow, and Natanz, all of which remain operational.
Israeli leadership is shocked by the combination of the massive damage to Israel and the ongoing nuclear threat and decides that this is the existential moment that demands a nuclear response. The Israeli prime minister declares these attacks are putting the state’s existence at risk, having killed more than 4,500 innocent Israeli citizens, which is more than three times the number killed in the 2023 Hamas attacks from Gaza. Israel is also shocked by Iran’s unprecedented willingness to directly attack Israel and the survival of its nuclear facilities. The Israeli prime minister speaks with the American president again, explains that the Israeli attack using U.S. hypersonic missiles failed to eliminate the target set, and asks that the United States join Israel in attacking Iran without nuclear weapons. The American president demurs, offering additional American “assistance” but making it clear that Israeli military strikes against Iran must end now lest they lead to a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel. The Israeli prime minister explains that if that is the case, Israel will have to take whatever action it deems necessary.
On August 3rd the Israeli prime minister calls for the views of the foreign and defense ministers as well as the head of the Mossad. He tasks them to determine how and where a nuclear weapon(s) be used and of what yield(s). Target ideas include but are not limited to: a demonstration EMP shot over Syria and/or Iran, targeting Iran’s energy infrastructure, destruction of nuclear integration locations as best is known, or other targets including civilian and infrastructure targets. Yield options include 1.5 kt, 15 kt, or 50 kt.