Iranian strategy and Israeli response



News item:

Iran’s defense minister has warned of an “unlimited destructive” response if they are attacked by Israel, according to Iranian State TV Sunday.

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said Sunday that “Iran will strongly counter any hostile action with a destructive response, considering all options regardless of time and place.”

Najjar called a recent Israeli military exercise a “psychological operation” saying Iran will not initiate any tension or conflict.

US military officials on Friday said they believed the large-scale IAF exercises were aimed partly at warning Iran of its capabilities to attack Teheran’s nuclear sites.

Despite all of its bluster about wiping Israel off the map, and all of its antisemitic insults, the Iranian regime is actually afraid of Israel.

Unlike some, I do not think that the Iranian strategy against Israel is to directly attack it with nuclear bombs. This is 1) because Ahmadinejad has clearly explained his (non-nuclear) strategy, and I tend to believe megalomaniac antisemites (like Hitler) when they threaten Jews; and 2) because Israel retains a very powerful second-strike capability which could quite literally send Iran “back to the stone age” in the immortal words of General Curtis LeMay.

The Iranian strategy appears to be to destroy Israel by conventional means, so as not to trigger a nuclear response. To this end, Iran is sponsoring a massive buildup of missile forces in Syria, Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The long-term plan is to weaken Israel through low-intensity, asymmetrical conflict, while strengthening these proxy forces. Ironically, this process works in synergy with pressure initiated by Iran’s enemy Saudi Arabia and applied via the US for Israel to concede territory to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Although the US and the Saudis wish to establish a countervailing power to the presently Iranian-backed Hamas, this will most likely fail and result in Hamas control of the PA.

At some point, think the Iranians,  the combination of proxy strength and Israeli weakness will tip the balance of power against Israel.

Iran’s nuclear program is intended to enable Iran to project its power more effectively in the region at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the US, so as to get control of Middle Eastern oil reserves and a stranglehold on the world economy. Ultimately, Iran wishes to reduce the US to a second-rate power with little influence beyond its borders. It will probably not be necessary for these weapons to be actually exploded anywhere for them to be an effective deterrent to Western interference with Iran’s plans.

Goals are both economic and political, with the added benefit of fitting the Islamist program of establishing a Shiite Caliphate in the Mideast and regaining lands lost to Islam. The destruction of Israel is a way station to this destination, for reasons both strategic  — Israel is militarily quite powerful and an ally of the US — and religious.

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will be quite damaging to Iran’s policy. It will provoke regional conflict before the proxies of Hamas and Hezbollah are strong enough to assure victory, which may greatly reduce or even destroy their capabilities. It will delay the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran for at least some years, and make the program even more expensive.

Iran will be expected to respond to an Israeli attack by activating its proxies. Therefore if Israel does attack Iran, she should strike the proxies — Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas — simultaneously, in order to suppress the response. In addition, Israel will need to do what she has so far not done, which is to allocate the necessary resources to protect the home front against the inevitable missile attacks.

Such a confrontation would be very painful for Israel. In order to be successful, Israeli society will have to be fully mobilized for this struggle. There are political, economic and social factors in Israeli society — for example, the concentration of wealth in a few (private) hands, an incompetent and corrupt government, an increasingly hostile Arab minority, a delusional Left with disproportionate power via the media and judicial system  — which work against success.

There is another alternative, which is to continue to do what Israel has been doing, to deal with the various proxy threats as separate and distinct, to think that Syria will be made less — rather than more — dangerous if she is given the Golan Heights, to allow Hamas and Hezbollah to build up their forces, to pretend that rational appeals for a mutually beneficial peace will be attractive to Iranian satellites, and to depend on the US and the rest of the international ‘community’ to prevent Iran from getting nuclear capability.

The first alternative has a small chance of success. But then, this could have been said in 1948 and 1967.

The second has none at all.

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