Sunday, February 12, 2012

Israel Defense: War Might Erupt Before October

by Amir Rapaport

Hat Tip to imra for this post

All the anonymous statements coming from Israeli and US “senior officials” regarding the question of whether or not Israel will attack Iran (against the US’s advice) should be treated with a measure of suspicion.

It is likely that there is a significant amount of psychological warfare involved in these reports. The goal is clear enough: to increase pressure on Iran, which already exists as a result of more economic sanctions, mysterious explosions, and the assassinations of senior nuclear scientists.

The “senior official” understandings likely emerged from two starting points, which are seemingly contradictory. The first is that Israel cannot commit to the US in any way, especially that the US be notified more than several hours in advance of an air strike. The second is that there is truth to the words recently spoken by US President Barack Obama, claiming that the defense relationship between Israel and the US has never been closer. The issue of the Iranian nuclear program is one of the most central issues discussed in the joint strategic dialogue between Jerusalem and Washington, a dialogue that is the most closely coordinated one ever.

The discussions over this issue began back in the early 1990s, and are now expressed in ongoing intelligence updates regarding the various aspects of the Iranian nuclear program. These updates are conducted by senior officials in the branches of the Israeli defense establishment – the Directorate of Military Intelligence and the Mossad, and the Joint Political-Military Group (JPMG). This group, which gathers once every quarter, is comprised of diplomats, military and intelligence personnel, and persons who deal with foreign policy. Essentially, it is a think-tank that handles the various aspects of the Iranian project, with the goal of deepening the level of intelligence cooperation in order to determine a basis for joint policy.

Above all else, the discussions concerning the Iranian issue are being carried out continuously in the political stratum. The bottom line is apparent: even if Israel does not commit to announcing an attack in advance, it won’t act as if the US isn’t in the neighborhood (who is increasing their presence in the Persian Gulf region).

By the way, the huge exercise that was planned for this spring, with the participation of US and Israeli forces, was meant to be another expression of the close cooperation between the countries. The exercise was delayed due to a desire to slightly ease the tension against Iran. It is now planned for October. However, it’s not unreasonable to consider that a war might erupt before then.

Eyes to the north

While global attention is focused on the issue of whether or not Israel will attack Iran, the IDF’s eyes are also observing the north – and are closely monitoring the bloodbath in Syria.

Gantz’s words from a few weeks ago, that the IDF is preparing to receive Alawite (the minority in Syria, among which is President Bashar Assad) refugees, reflects one of several possible scenarios. The questions remains, what will happen the day the Assad regime collapses?

A much more worrisome possibility is that the collapse of the Syrian regime will be accompanied by missile fire at Israel, in the sense of “I’m going down and taking you with me.” Another possibility, equally grave, is the transfer of large amounts of qualitative weapons from the Syrian army warehouses to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Syria were to transfer very advanced antiaircraft systems to Lebanon, it’s quite possible that Israel would choose to operate in the form of a preemptive strike in this scenario as well – before the S125 systems would enter operational use.

Replacements during a sensitive period

Given the tension surrounding Iran and the north, this is not an ideal time to replace prominent IDF positions, as is expected to take place soon in the defense establishment. (The next IAF commander, Major General Amir Eshel, is expected to enter office in April.)

Another problematic element is the fact that the military secretaries of both the prime minister and the minister of defense are expected to be new (both are highly sensitive positions, and their entry is always accompanied by a measure of dissonance – there is no position in the IDF that prepares senior officers on how to conduct themselves in the tumultuous junction between the political and military sectors).

Brigadier General Itzik Turgeman, the new military secretary to the minister of defense, already took office and is now learning how to handle his position. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will need to select a new military secretary soon, as the current one, Major General Yochanan Locker, announced he would conclude his position and retire should he not be nominated the next Air Force Commander - which, as is known, he wasn't.

Incidentally, the new Depth Command is increasing its activity in light of the preparations for a possible war on all fronts. The person responsible for the command, Major General Shai Avital, who returned from retirement, has already assembled a working team. Soon, they are expected to receive a surprising reinforcement: Brigadier General (Res.) Gal Hirsch, one of the more prominent figures from the Second Lebanon War.

Hirsch served as the commander of the Galilee Formation (the 91st Division) that was responsible for the Lebanese border. Hirsch became one of the symbols of the war due to his criticism, while on the other hand, the former Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, said (rightfully) that he was wronged. Hirsch, who was not among the bad commanders of the war (rather the opposite), resigned from the IDF after the war, and made money as a senior partner at the Israeli company Defensive Shield. The position which is currently intended for him may return him to the top military echelon, for the first time since the war.

Amir Rapaport


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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