Israeli Strategic Challenges and Opportunities in the New Year: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Sept. 16, 2015 — Global upheaval is upon us. Europe is being flooded by refugees fleeing dysfunctional Africa and the disintegrating Middle East, and the influx, which it is struggling to deal with, may change Europe’s cultural and social fabric.
Putin in Syria: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Sept. 28, 2015 — Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS.
The New Multi-year Plan of the IDF and the Agreement with Iran: Amir Rapaport, Israel Defense, Sept. 9, 2015— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow Monday with military chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot to try to achieve coordination and understanding with Russia, which has become an actor and military force in the Syrian war.
The Gideon Doctrine: The Changing Middle East and IDF Strategy: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2015 — In mid-July, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot met with military reporters and briefed them off the record on the latest local and regional developments.
Russia in Syria, Threats and Opportunities for Israel: Ron Ben-Yishai, I24, Sept. 21, 2015
In Rare Move, Netanyahu to Bring Army Chiefs to Meet Putin in Moscow: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2015
Trading Horses With Putin: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 17, 2015
Going it Alone: Israel's Cold War with Iran: Ari Sofer, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 9, 2015
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
Besa, Sept. 16, 2015
Global upheaval is upon us. Europe is being flooded by refugees fleeing dysfunctional Africa and the disintegrating Middle East, and the influx, which it is struggling to deal with, may change Europe’s cultural and social fabric. The fluctuations in China’s economy resonate through global economy, all while Beijing is striving to increase its influence in the South China Sea. And Russia, plagued by economic troubles of its own, refuses to loosen its grip on Ukraine, even at the cost of economically crippling Western sanctions.
The Middle East is changing dramatically. Nations are disintegrating, their residents are fleeing, and its rulers are wary of the future, which is clouded by growing Iranian power that troubles both the Sunni states and Israel. The terrorism wielded by radical Islamist groups is drenching the Muslim world in blood as they overrun it, and it threatens the rest of the world, courtesy of “imported” jihadists, who are trained in Syria and Iraq before returning to their homelands.
Nevertheless, is seems world powers understand their mutual responsibility for world peace. Wary of seeing international tensions spiral out of control, they try to downplay their differences on global issues, so not to agitate an already volatile situation further.
Examples of this can be seen in the prudence exercised by Washington and Beijing regarding the dispute ranging between China and its neighbors over tiny islands in the China Sea; in the patience the world is showing Russia, whose foreign policy tactics breach acceptable norms; and in the EU’s efforts to keep Greece a part of the 28-member union, so not to undermine the framework that has been sustaining Europe peacefully since World War II. On the other hand, recent developments underscore the lack of true leadership among global powers, as there is no one who seems to know what can be done to avoid or overcome these crises.
Several issues seem to be shaping the global theater at this point in time. It seems the most prominent change is the growing feeling within the international community that the United States is slowly backing away from its role as the free world’s leader, a role it has been shouldering for the past century. This shift in U.S. policy is seen as the source of the troubles plaguing the world, from Beijing to Saudi Arabia. As a result, countries that in the past were wary of antagonizing the U.S. for fear of retaliation are now seeing its reluctance to intervene globally as their chance to improve their position in the international theater, and to aggressively promote their interest. Reality will present the U.S. with challenges that mandate its involvement, reluctant as it may be. Fighting the Islamic State group is one of these challenges.
Another change involves the global energy market. The U.S. enjoys near-independence when it comes to meeting its own energy needs, and this change has inspired some of its ability to reduce its involvement in world events. Oil prices have plummeted, causing the economies dependent on it, such as Venezuela and Russia, to encounter serious financial difficulties. Even Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has been affected, and it is already dipping into its cash reserves. Exploration ventures striking oil and natural gas in new locations worldwide are shaping what seems to be a global economic trend. Most major energy exporters depend on oil prices and a sharp drop in barrel prices could potentially bring some economies to the brink of collapse…
The current Jewish year has ended against the backdrop of the nuclear agreement reached between world powers and Iran. As things stand it is hard to predict whether this deal will breed a positive change, in the form of Iran abandoning its nuclear program, or if it will be used as a poor excuse for the West to ease the pressure off Tehran, foster closer ties with the Islamic republic, and acquiescing with its becoming a nuclear regional power.
Iran has made it perfectly clear that what little has changed in its nuclear policies will not affect other areas, and that it will continue to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, and arm Hezbollah and Hamas. It has stated that it remains committed to eradicating the “Zionist entity,” as well as its ambition to establish its hegemony over the “Shiite Crescent,” a region of the Middle East where the majority population is Shiite, stretching from Tehran through Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut. It remains to be seen if any of Iran’s policies will be mitigated by the nuclear deal, as the West hopes. Since chances for that are slim, Israel will have to devise new methods to generate deterrence opposite Iran.
The bloody civil war in Syria, in which tens of thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced, rages on with no end in sight. The tragedy has been compounded by the introduction of Islamic State to the sphere, and the jihadi terrorist group has already overrun parts of Syria and Iraq. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s determination to annihilate Islamic State, and some partial coalition successes against IS, overall the effort thus far has proven ineffective. Various terrorist groups in Nigeria, the Sinai Peninsula, Asia and Libya have affiliated themselves with Islamic State this year, allowing it to gain momentum, and fueling its desire to expand.
Assad has become increasingly dependent on external elements – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – for his survival. The end of his regime will be a stipulation of any cease-fire or peace deal brokered in Syria, and world powers are eager for the fighting to end so they can turn their full attention to the war on Islamic State.
Israel has so far refrained from intervening in the Syrian civil war, limiting its actions to retaliation over terrorist attacks on the northern border, and to blocking the transfer of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah. The Shiite terrorist group is heavily involved in the conflict raging in Syria, making it hard for it to train its sight on Israel. Hezbollah may be using this time to bolster its weapons arsenal and fighting capabilities, but the threat of the next Israel-Hezbollah conflict is not imminent. Barring a major shift in the balance in power in Syria, a shift that would entrench a regime that is even more dominated by Hezbollah and Iran, there is no reason for Israel to change its policy…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Weekly Standard, Sept. 28, 2015
Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS. John Kerry says that his Russian counterpart told him that the Russians are “only interested in fighting” the Islamic State. Other administration officials hold out hope for a grand U.S.-Russia coalition against ISIS. But that’s nonsense: Vladimir Putin landed troops in order to protect his investment in Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
The White House should know better, because no matter what U.S. officials say about fighting the Islamic State, Obama’s underlying goal in Syria is the same as Putin’s—to protect Assad. That aligns Washington with Moscow—and with Iran, as it happens—and pits all against Israel, which sees the Iranian axis as an existential threat. Well, as critics of the U.S.-Israel relationship are quick to note, Israeli and American interests often diverge. That’s certainly the case here, with the Obama administration tying American interests to a confederacy of despots, terrorists, and mass murderers.
Senators were dismayed to learn from General Lloyd Austin’s testimony on Capitol Hill last week that for all the administration’s talk of arming Syrian rebels, there are only four or five trained by the United States now engaged in the fight against ISIS. The really shocking thing is that the White House managed to recruit anyone at all when it conditioned assistance on signing a document stating that their U.S.-supplied arms would not be used against Assad and his allies. How did the White House convince any Syrian, never mind four or five, to ignore the dictator responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their friends, family members, and countrymen and instead turn their guns only on ISIS—a problem that the White House helped create?
It was when Obama balked at arming and funding moderate rebel units that extremist groups like ISIS filled the void. And when Obama tilted towards Iran and its allies around the region—e.g., providing air support for the operations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) expeditionary unit, led by Qassem Suleimani, in Tikrit, flying drones on behalf of the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese Armed Forces, promising Tehran that he would respect Iranian interests in Syria—the ranks of the region-wide Sunni rebellion swelled. The equation is straightforward: To defeat ISIS, first you have to topple Assad and ruin Iran’s position in Syria.
But that’s not what Obama wants, for fear that it will sour his dealings with Iran. Moreover, it’s increasingly unlikely that any other power will manage the feat now that Putin has staked out his position in Syria. From Obama’s perspective, that’s not the worst thing in the world, since the Russians can be his boots on the ground while he continues to use Moscow as he has since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011—as the reason that it’s impossible to do any of things he doesn’t want to do anyway.
I’d like to dispose of the Syrian dictator as much as the next guy, Obama can say—but we’re going to have to go through the Russians first, and they don’t see it that way. Setting up a no-fly zone was always going to be tricky, he can argue, but with Russian planes now in the area, we’re not going to do stupid stuff and risk an incident that could lead to a Third World War. In fact, you could say that what Putin has just done is establish a no-fly zone of a different sort. The Russian presence has limited Israel’s ability to interdict Iranian arms shipments from Syria destined for Hezbollah. Presumably that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu is off to visit Putin this week—in order to discuss the new rules of the region.
Netanyahu knows that Putin isn’t very ideological. Sure, he’s an old-school Russian nationalist who dislikes Obama and means to replace the United States as Middle East power-broker, but it’s not like he cherishes the time he spends with Suleimani, Hassan Nasrallah, and other heroes of the resistance. He simply sees them as instruments to get what he wants out of Syria: to project power and collect rent from everyone, from Iran as well as Israel.
The problem for Netanyahu is that no matter what Putin charges, it’s going to be too high. Israel can’t afford to let any other actor veto its self-defense. It’s not enough to have Putin’s permission to attack one shipment of Iranian missiles, if some other shipment is allowed to go through. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran means that Jerusalem must carry out a scrupulous campaign of deterrence against Iranian assets in its neighborhood. Both Hezbollah and the IRGC have to be kept on a tight leash. But Putin’s idea of what it means to project power in the Levant is that everything will have to go through him, or there will be consequences.
For 70 years, the thrust of American foreign policy in the Middle East was to keep Moscow out—first as a Cold War adversary and later as a spoiler that profits from destabilizing the status quo. It was in this context that Israel clinched its place as an American ally of the first rank. In the June 1967 war, the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and again during the first Lebanon war, Jerusalem handily defeated Soviet clients and became America’s aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean.
Over four decades, the Israelis found that the American demands in return were easy to bear. Yes, Washington would have its peace process and sometimes threatened to make life harder on Jerusalem. But what more could Israel ask for than a relatively reliable friend—a superpower that shared its values and was home to as many Jews as there were in Israel? And now the Obama White House, through a combination of incompetence and hubris, is undoing all of that, restricting Israel’s room to maneuver, and bringing the threat of war ever closer.
Israel Defense, Sept. 9, 2015
The “nuclear” agreement signed between the P5+1 and Iran in July 2015 is an event of historic proportions that will affect the Middle East for decades. The top-priority assignment of the Israeli intelligence services after the signing of the agreement is to deliver proof that the Iranians are fooling the entire world.
It is safe to assume that all of the surveillance satellites and all other intelligence gathering resources will attempt to pick up every speck of dust or any irregularity in the local power consumption that might betray the Iranians’ continued journey toward the bomb. The Iranians are no fools, however. They will not risk anything during the 60-day interval until the agreement is endorsed by the US Congress, with or without a veto by President Barack Obama, remaining very cautious until the sanctions currently imposed on them have been lifted.
What will they do a few months from now? Well, that is a completely different story. The situation will change radically. It will happen fast, as even if formally the sanctions are to be lifted gradually, in effect, the whole world is already racing to do business with the Iranians. The sanction regime is disintegrating very fast. The Russians are already planning arms sales to Iran on the scale of US$ 30 billion, including their state-of-the-art S-300 missile defense system. The Americans hope to make money, too: the USA will sell arms and aircraft on the scale of dozens of billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. It is reasonable to expect that they will offer Israel an increase of their defense aid package and a few new weapon systems as “compensation” for the arms reaching the Arab countries and for the Iranian rearming.
Meanwhile, the ‘conventional’ arms race is just one result out of many pursuant to the historic reconciliation agreement. A nuclear arms race is expected to begin as well: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will estimate that Iran would reach an atomic bomb sooner or later, and seek their own “Sunni Bomb” as a counterweight to Iran’s “Shi’ite Bomb”. The recent historic development was received as no surprise in Israel. The Israeli defense establishment and political echelon had estimated in advance that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry would strive for an agreement with Iran at any cost, and that the Iranians, too, will make that assumption, so they would have no real reason to back down from any of their basic stands in the negotiations.
The declaration that Israel is not bound by the agreement could hint to the fact that Israel may continue to operate against the Iranian nuclear program, whether by means of an overt attack or by covert operations, as Israel may deem appropriate. In fact, Israel does not have a practical option of staging an attack in Iran without engaging in a confrontation with the entire world. Such an attack is not currently on the agenda, at least not without undisputable proof that the Iranians are actually fooling the entire world and are pressing on with their military nuclear program.
Israel has positioned itself as the leader of the campaign against the agreement. This blurs the fact that the Iranian bomb threatens not just us but the entire Middle East, with implications even as far as the Balkans and the Caucasus (even there, an Iranian nuclear superpower is conceived as a major threat). Moreover, the Israeli-Arab conflict is currently marginal compared to the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict and the confrontations within the Sunni community between ISIS and everyone they regard as “infidels”. Under these circumstances, Iran’s rearming and evolving into a nuclear threshold country with an international license is far from being an Israeli-only concern.
The “Gideon” plan: regardless or pursuant to the nuclear agreement, the IDF is preparing to implement a new long-term plan for the five-year period beginning in 2016, under the codename “Gideon”. If the “Gideon” plan is actually implemented, it will be the first multi-year plan the IDF implements since the conclusion of the “Tefen” plan in 2011. None of the plans prepared during the tenure of Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz as IDF Chief of Staff were actually implemented, first and foremost – because of the reduced defense budgets allocated by the Israeli government in 2013 and 2014. The shortage of funding led the IDF to halt training activities in 2014, just before Operation Protective Edge. The government had known about this well in advance and authorized this default…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2015
In mid-July, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot met with military reporters and briefed them off the record on the latest local and regional developments. He also presented a new five-year plan “Gideon,” named after the Israelite judge-warrior, who was instructed by God to battle the Midianites and destroy their idols.
The Gideon plan has two purposes: First to avoid cuts and, in fact, obtain yet another increase in the defense budget – currently around NIS 60 billion ($15.3 billion), not final and still growing – at the expense of welfare, education, health and all the other national necessities. Gideon is also another effort – the fourth in recent years – to obtain approval from the government to implement long-term planning. So far, due to never-ending dispute and bickering between the Ministries of Defense and Finance, various long-term plans have either been rejected or not authorized.
In mid- August, the Chief of Staff’s briefing turned into an official, but sanitized, 33-page document titled “IDF Strategy.” Though the document does not state it in so many words, what emerges is the fact that the Israel Defense Forces is the strongest military structure in the entire region, which spreads from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The “IDF Strategy” is meant “to serve as a guideline to the IDF and is based on vital national interests and agreed notions of national security and military thinking and practice.”
Already in 2007, then-minister Dan Meridor wrote a very lengthy and detailed security doctrine defining the “National Goals” for the State of Israel: 1. To ensure the existence of the state, defend its territorial integrity and the security of its citizens. [It’s worth noting, however, that Israel has never defined its borders.] 2. To preserve its values and nature as a Jewish and democratic state and home to the Jewish people. 3. To ensure the social and economic strength of the state. 4. To strengthen the regional and international status of the state while aspiring to have peace with its neighbors. Here, it should be noted that while the pursuit of peace is mentioned by the IDF, judging from the actions over the last three years taken by the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it seems that peace with the Palestinian Authority is no longer a possibility. “IDF STRATEGY” accepts and reaffirms these four principles. It also acknowledges that, in a democratic state, the military is subjected to the supremacy of the government.
Yet, interestingly enough, the document goes beyond this obvious imperative – it states that the IDF obligation is not only to the elected government and Knesset, but also to society and citizens of the state who elect their representatives and ministers. Since he was appointed Chief of Staff less than a year ago, Eizenkot has stressed, on several occasions, that “the people’s trust” is an important element of the way the IDF works, operates and sets its goals. “We have to be sensible” in our demands and “sensitive to other needs of society.”
According to the document, the security doctrine is based on four pillars. Three are as old as the state and were already defined by the first prime minister David Ben-Gurion: deterrence, early warning and decisive outcome. A fourth pillar – defense – was officially added a decade ago. All in all, the IDF sees its mission as repelling and neutralizing threats, creating effective deterrence; postponing confrontation, if possible, but also to use both defensive and offensive strategies and utilize force in the most determined and effective way, while respecting international law and the rules of war. The IDF also emphasizes the importance of strategic cooperation with the US and the development of strategic ties with other countries…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Russia in Syria, Threats and Opportunities for Israel: Ron Ben-Yishai, I24, Sept. 21, 2015—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow Monday with military chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot to try to achieve coordination and understanding with Russia, which has become an actor and military force in the Syrian war.
In Rare Move, Netanyahu to Bring Army Chiefs to Meet Putin in Moscow: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2015 —IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi will accompany Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a lightning trip to Moscow on Monday, in a clear signal that regional arms transfers and Russia’s troop deployments in Syria will be the main focus of the discussions.
Trading Horses With Putin: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 17, 2015 —Trading horses with Putin This week US President Barack Obama informed Jewish leaders that he plans to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on November 9. Yawn.
Going it Alone: Israel's Cold War with Iran: Ari Sofer, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 9, 2015— It's painfully clear by now that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed in his mission to prevent a bad deal with Iran.