IDF CONFRONTS “UNSTABLE AND EXPLOSIVE” SITUATIONS IN GAZA AND SYRIA

Israel Has Reached Decision Time on Gaza: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, Oct. 17, 2018 — Events in Gaza are moving quickly, and Israel has now reached a critical fork in the road with two main paths…

Putin May Not Want a Fight with Israel, But He May Get It: David J. Bercuson, National Post, Oct. 5, 2018— Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad can sleep a little better these days now that Russia has completed delivery of a new system of long-range S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

Russia and NATO Show War Games Aren’t Just Games: James Stavridis, Bloomberg, Sept. 6, 2018— Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad can sleep a little better these days now that Russia has completed delivery of a new system of long-range S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

Canada’s Fighter Jet Debacle: This is No Way to Run a Military: David Krayden, National Post, Oct. 3, 2018  — Last week the United States Marine Corps flew the F-35 joint strike fighter into combat for the first time.

On Topic Links

Israel’s All-Terrain EZRaiders Latest Law Enforcement Rage: David Israel, Jewish Press, Sept. 21, 2018

What Will the Next Israel-Hezbollah War Look Like?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Oct. 7, 2018

A Tale of A Lone Soldier: Ariel Rudolph, Jerusalem Online, Sept. 14, 2018

Two Junk Submarines, and Our Long Tradition of Terrible Military Procurements: Nima Karimi, National Post, Oct. 3, 2018

                            

ISRAEL HAS REACHED DECISION TIME ON GAZA                                                  

Yaakov Lappin

JNS, Oct. 17, 2018

Events in Gaza are moving quickly, and Israel has now reached a critical fork in the road with two main paths: a significant military escalation, which has the potential to gain momentum and turn into a broader armed conflict; or a long-term arrangement, designed to restore calm to the area.

Opinions in the security cabinet have been split on whether to give Egyptian mediation efforts more time to reach an arrangement with Hamas or whether to respond more forcefully to Hamas’s border attacks. Until the middle-of-the-night rocket attack that smashed a house in Beersheva into rubble, and which saw a second rocket head towards central Israel, it was easier for proponents of the mediation efforts to make their case.

The Israel Defense Forces had been able to largely contain the Hamas-organized border rioting, which included grenade and IED attacks, and Israeli cities were not under fire. The western Negev region, however, was under constant low-level Hamas attacks, including arson, incendiary balloons and border disturbances; life for local residents there has not been easy these past six months. Gaza’s civilians—trapped between endless feuding between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority—have seen their situation deteriorate considerably, and are on the verge of an economic and humanitarian crash.

Hamas thinks that by playing a game of dangerous brinkmanship and ramping up the pressure on Israel, Jerusalem will be more likely to enter into an arrangement that lifts security restrictions on Gaza. It is a gamble that could blow up in Hamas’s face. At 3:40 a.m. on Wednesday morning, sirens went off in Beersheva and changed the direction. The family inside the home narrowly averted a terrible fate, thanks to the alertness and quick thinking of a mother who rushed her family into a rocket-proof safe room. A major red line had been crossed, and an intelligence investigation had begun in Israel to figure out who crossed it.

Already, in the hours after the attack, the IDF indicated that it was linking Hamas, Gaza’s ruling regime, and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second-largest faction in Gaza, to the attack. Hamas and PIJ were quick to deny any link to the rockets, even going so far as to describe it as “irresponsible.” The IDF seemed unimpressed. A military spokesman noted that the attackers launched mid-range, locally produced rockets that “are in possession of only two organizations in Gaza: Hamas and PIJ, which very much narrows it down.”

The spokesman said the military was less concerned about which organization launched the projectiles, noting that Hamas “bears full responsibility.” The Israeli Air Force then struck 20 Hamas targets across Gaza, including an offensive terror tunnel that crossed into Israel, tunnel-digging sites in Gaza and a maritime tunnel shaft on the Gazan coastline, designed to let Hamas commando cells head out to sea without being noticed. Additional targets destroyed by Israel included rocket and weapons’ factories.

But that response still falls into the normal Israeli retaliation pattern and indicates that Jerusalem had not yet taken a decision on whether to take things further or not. Factors that sway that decision include the results of the IDF’s intelligence investigation, which should shed more light on exactly who fired the rockets, the result of the Egyptian mediation efforts and the status of other key fronts, particularly the highly explosive northern arena, where Israel is busy trying to keep Iran out of Syria. If Israel can avoid having to deal with multiple active arenas at the same time, it would prefer to do so. It is not so clear that this can, however, be avoided. The IDF has drawn up responses for a range of scenarios, and would be ready to strike Hamas and PIJ more severely if it receives a directive from the government to do so.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has taken the unusual step of publicly announcing his conclusion that the time for talk has passed, and that all of Israel’s efforts to de-escalate the situation—by injecting essential goods into Gaza, like fuel and electricity—have failed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, following a military evaluation meeting that he took part in, that Israel “would act with great force”—a possible signal that Israel was not prepared to absorb the rocket fire and go back to business as usual.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas views Gaza as a rebel Islamist province that should be brought to its knees for splitting away from Ramallah’s rule. He has played his own role in blocking chances for a truce arrangement. Abbas has placed heavy economic sanctions on Gaza and refuses to act as a channel for international investment in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure until Hamas surrenders to him.

The result is a highly unstable, explosive situation that is teetering on the brink of escalation. The coming hours should reveal in which direction Gaza and Israel will go. If the result is conflict, then it will be one that Hamas and its allies brought upon the heads of the Gazan people.

As IDF Southern Command chief, Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi said, “Hamas pretends to govern in Gaza, and tells the Gazan population that it seeks to improve their lives. However, in reality, Hamas specializes in riots at the border fence and in using explosive devices, incendiary and explosive balloons, and, as we saw last night, rockets. Hamas worsens the lives of ordinary Gazans.”

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          PUTIN MAY NOT WANT A FIGHT WITH ISRAEL, BUT HE MAY GET IT                                                 David J. Bercuson                                                                                                                                   National Post, Oct. 5, 2018

Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad can sleep a little better these days now that Russia has completed delivery of a new system of long-range S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. These missiles replace an obsolete system of S-200 missiles that Syria has operated for some time. The S-200s have proven useless in deterring or defeating Israeli air strikes aimed at Iranian military installations in Syria and at Syrian transfer of advanced weapons to its client, Hezbollah, based mainly in Lebanon. The sale — objected to by both Israel and the United States — came in the wake of the destruction of a Russian reconnaissance aircraft by Syria’s older anti-aircraft missiles, which were actually aimed at Israeli fighter-bombers raiding Syria but which brought down the Russian aircraft instead.

The sale of the S-300 missiles to Syria is an important step both in the deterioration of Russian-Israeli relations and in the slide to an even greater regional conflict, perhaps one as significant as the 1973 October War, during which Egypt (now at peace with Israel) and Syria attacked Israel and initiated an almost month-long conflict that almost drew in the Soviet Union and the United States. This sale, therefore, might prove to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most serious foreign policy mistake.

During the still-ongoing Syrian civil war, Iran backed the Syrian regime alongside Russia and Hezbollah. When Russia began to mount an intensive air campaign against the Syrian rebels, danger arose that clashes might occur between Russian and Israeli aircraft (this same danger existed between NATO aircraft bombing ISIL targets in Syria and Russian aircraft). In both cases protocols and secret communications networks were set up to allow NATO, Israel and Russia to avoid confrontations in the air. Why were the Israeli aircraft attacking targets in Syria? Not to intervene in the civil war, but to attack Iranian military installations that began to appear in Assad’s territory, and to continue to intervene in the transfer from the Syrian military to Hezbollah of sophisticated weapons systems.

The installation of the new Russian missiles sets up a variety of dangerous possibilities. If Russian missiles (presumably operated by Russian military personnel) begin to shoot at Israeli aircraft, the Israeli air force will undoubtedly attack the missile sites and possibly kill or injure members of the Russian military. The protocols that have allowed the two nations to operate in the same airspace will then break down, possibly triggering more clashes. No one can say whether the new Russian missiles are capable of bringing down the upgraded Israeli F-16 fighter bombers generally used by the IAF, or even the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters that Israel is known to be operating in the skies over Syria.

If so, the propaganda coup for Russia will be immense, as will its arms sales to nations that might find themselves on the wrong end of F-35 strikes. If not, the opposite effect will occur — the S-300 will be shown to be ineffective against either the very advanced Israeli F-16s or their F-35s. That would mean political embarrassment to Russia and, no doubt, make it harder for them to sell their new missiles. It is virtually certain that Israel will not stop its air attacks, no matter what.

The other outcome, even more disturbing, would be United States intervening on Israel’s behalf to help the Israelis cope with the S-300s or to protect the reputation of the F-35 fighter, which has now been ordered — and in some cases delivered — to at least nine NATO nations aside from the United States.

So what can account for Putin’s decision to deploy the missiles? Perhaps it is this: there has been so much Russian intervention to save Assad’s regime, that the Russian Federation is now drawn deeper into Syria than was even the case in the days of the old Soviet Union. Back then the U.S.S.R. was not only an ally and major military supplier to Syria, but it was also an implacable foe of Israel. In the early 1970s, Israeli and Soviet aircraft even clashed in the skies near the Suez Canal. In trying to balance a live-and-let-live arrangement with Israel against protecting his now vassal state of Syria, perhaps Putin has decided to let Israel go.

Now that Assad, full of “his” military victory over the rebels, has announced that his next goal is to wrest the Golan Heights back from Israel (which captured that area in 1967), the Russians are in danger of being dragged into a far more serious and much more dangerous situation than they have been in in Georgia or even in eastern Ukraine.                              Contents

   

RUSSIA AND NATO SHOW WAR GAMES AREN’T JUST GAMES                                                                   James Stavridis

                                                Bloomberg, Sept. 6, 2018

Over the coming weeks, both NATO and Russia will launch a series of super-high-end war games. These games are hardly for fun — rather, they are deadly serious practice sessions for hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of combat aircraft, and flotillas of combat ships. While no one will die (other than by accident, a not uncommon occurrence in such exercises), the messages going back and forth are crystal clear: We are prepared for war.

Russia’s exercise is called Vostok — which means “east” — and will be held principally east of the Ural Mountains. It is the largest military exercise by Russia since Soviet times (in 1981) and will deploy 300,000 troops and more than 1,000 military aircraft. Of note, China will participate with thousands of its troops operating alongside the Russians (there will also be a token contingent of troops from Mongolia, which has been a partner to both Russia and NATO at times).

The message to the West is obvious: Russia and China might work together militarily against NATO in the East or the U.S. and its allies in the Pacific. The futuristic novel “Ghost Fleet” by Peter Singer and August Cole gives an excellent description of a high-tech war that begins unexpectedly in the Pacific with Russia and China allied against the U.S. These war games provide a preview of that sort of military activity could look like — and it should be very worrisome to U.S. planners.

NATO will conduct its own huge military exercise, named Trident Juncture 2018. It will take place on the northern borders of the alliance and will involve 40,000 troops from all 29 nations, a couple of hundred aircraft and dozens of warships. While not as spectacularly large as Russia’s Vostok, it will serve as a “graduation exercise” for NATO’s new Spearhead Force, a serious, highly mobile capability that can put NATO combat troops into the Baltic states to repulse a Russian invasion within a matter of days.

Led by a highly motivated Italian unit that could be fully ready to fight in 48 hours, the spearhead force also includes Dutch and Norwegian forces. Advance word says the exercise will include a mock invasion of Norway by U.S. Marines. This robust event is part of a vast improvement over the anemic states of readiness in NATO just a decade ago.

Of note, two high-capability militaries that are not NATO members, but are close coalition partners — Sweden and Finland — will participate. When I was supreme allied commander of NATO a few years ago, I deeply admired the professionalism and military excellence of both nations, which participated with NATO in many global operations. The Russians are deeply concerned about the possibility of Sweden and Finland considering NATO membership, and their involvement in Trident Juncture will stoke those fears in Moscow. All of this means tension and the possibility of miscalculation. We should pay particular attention to four key elements of these very serious games.

First, we need to recognize that there are internal messages working here on both sides. In the Russian case (and especially from the perspective of President Vladimir Putin), the games signal the high capability and professionalism of the nation’s troops. This builds on the patriotic pride that was created by the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, and is a signal to the general population that their military is more than capable of holding on to those gains. As for NATO, the message is similar, and directed toward the front-line states that border Russia — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway — and NATO partners Finland and Sweden. In the West, the message is one of capability and credibility — a willingness to fight if necessary.

Second, the role of China is nuanced. The Russian games were originally conceived as a deterrent not to NATO, but to China. Let’s face it: China, with its vastly larger population and need for economic growth, looks at the vast, natural-resource-rich tracts of Siberia the way a dog looks at a rib-eye steak. Yet a growing nationalism on the part of President Xi Jinping and unease over the Donald Trump administration’s hawkish policies on trade has China looking to develop a stronger relationship with Moscow. And Russia, frustrated with the antipathy of the U.S. (driven these days not by the White House but by Congress) is willing to draw nearer to China. While the longer-term relationship is fraught, it is a partnership (and a war game) of convenience at the moment.

Third, there is real military improvement that stems from such exercises. Pushing the European allies and Canada to deploy troops allows an increase in military interoperability on many fronts: technical synchronization of radio communications; alignment of targeting from different nations’ aircraft (a significant challenge in the NATO Libyan operation, for example); highly complex anti-submarine warfare operations; and multi-unit infantry and armor maneuver. All of these are challenging, and practice will make both sides much closer to perfect…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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CANADA’S FIGHTER JET DEBACLE: THIS IS NO WAY TO RUN A MILITARY

David Krayden

National Post, Oct. 3, 2018

Last week the United States Marine Corps flew the F-35 joint strike fighter into combat for the first time. That same day, one of the fighters also set a first: crashing in South Carolina — fortunately without the loss of life. As military aviators would remark, crap happens (or words to that effect). The state-of-the-art fighter jet first flew as a prototype in 2006 and has been flying with the United States Air Force since 2011. The Royal Air Force in the U.K. also uses the F-35. And just this year, in a moment of sheer historical irony, the Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of its first F-35s.

Why irony? Because just as Australia was welcoming its new jets to its defence inventory, Canada was at the doorstep begging for Australia’s used F-18s. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had come calling because politics had again intervened in Canada’s storied but sorry defence procurement planning. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, not knowing what to do with the obsolescent CF-18s — ordered by his father in the late 1970s for a 1982 delivery — had been musing about buying some Super Hornets from Boeing but had decided not to in a peevish fit of trade retaliation.

Of course the Super Hornets were only a “stop-gap” measure anyway, as both Trudeau and Sajjan emphasized. The contract to replace the entire fleet of aging CF-18s would be delayed again because Trudeau did not want to buy the previous Conservative government’s fighter replacement choice: the F-35. But there’s an additional irony here. The F-35 was not just the choice of the Harper government. It was initially selected by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. The primary reason: interoperability with our primary allies. The U.S., U.K. and Australia would all be buying the F-35 so it just made sense.

I was working at the House of Commons at the time for the Official Opposition defence critic, who thought the decision to participate in the development, and eventually, the procurement of the F-35, was a refreshing but rare moment of common-sense, non-political defence planning on the part of the government.

It seemed the Liberals really didn’t want a repeat of the fiasco that surrounded the EH-101 helicopter, the maritime patrol and search and rescue helicopter that the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney had selected after an assiduous military assessment. The chopper was dubbed a “Cadillac” by Chrétien in 1993 and quickly cancelled when he won the election. This cost Canada millions in cancellation fees for backing out of the project, and then the Liberals ultimately purchased the same aircraft for search and rescue — now rebranded as “Cormorants.” They remain in service today.

This kind of debacle couldn’t be allowed to happen again with the F-35. But it did. And it is. And it seems it always has. In many NATO countries, national defence is a bipartisan or nonpartisan issue. Any cursory examination of Australian and British defence policy over the past five decades will reveal that no matter the party in power — ie: Liberal/Conservative or Labour — defence policy remains constant. Of course the defence departments are subordinate to the government of the day, but those governments don’t use defence as a political tool to punish the opposition.

In Canada, the Liberals and Conservatives work together as well — but often in the worst interests of Canadian Armed Forces. The F-35, again, illustrates that point. The previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper pointedly supported the acquisition of the F-35, but dithered over three terms because Harper thought the expenditure might erode his voter support.

Ironically, it was NDP leader Thomas Mulcair who was the most vocal proponent of the F-35 during the marathon 2015 federal election campaign. Had Harper been re-elected, I don’t believe the Royal Canadian Air Force would be looking at new fighter jets to fly or even the contract to manufacture them. But he wasn’t re-elected. Justin Trudeau is the prime minister, and our next generation of fighter aircraft is still nowhere in sight. The entire fleet of CF-18s is approaching absolute retirement age and that won’t be changed by the absurd plan to buy Australia’s used aircraft while our allies take delivery of planes that Canada was — in a fit of judicious, nonpartisan planning — eyeing decades ago. It really is no way to run a military, but there’s no end in sight.

 

Contents 

On Topic Links

Israel’s All-Terrain EZRaiders Latest Law Enforcement Rage: David Israel, Jewish Press, Sept. 21, 2018—The EZRaider is presented by its maker, Israeli startup company DSRaider, as a breakthrough vehicle in a new category all by itself in all-terrain riding, allowing the user complete control with minimum training.

What Will the Next Israel-Hezbollah War Look Like?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Oct. 7, 2018—Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy and a non-state organization based in Lebanon, had fought the IDF in the 1980s and mostly in the 1990s when the Israeli military was deployed in Lebanon. In 2006, the two sides clashed again, for 34 days, a war that ended in a kind of a tie. They might fight again because of escalation or if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, following an Iranian attempt to produce a nuclear weapon.

A Tale of A Lone Soldier: Ariel Rudolph, Jerusalem Online, Sept. 14, 2018—M. was born in Israel but after her parents divorced, when she was six years old, her mother left Israel and M. grew up in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. She completely identified with her Israeli roots and maintained contact with her Israeli peers, visited Israel occasionally and associated with the Jewish community in England.

Two Junk Submarines, and Our Long Tradition of Terrible Military Procurements: Nima Karimi, National Post, Oct. 3, 2018—It was recently discovered that Canada (apparently Transport Canada) has expressed interest in purchasing a surveillance drone from Germany. This, however, as David Pugliese reports, is no ordinary drone: not only is it second-hand, it is also severely gutted, “without many core components it needs to fly.”