Recently, I wrote about Ahmadinejad’s bragging that Iran was already the predominant power in the region. There is no doubt that US influence has declined radically in the last few years, but Ahmadinejad is counting gestational chickens.
The biggest obstacle in his way is tiny Israel, remarkably. The conservative Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are paper tigers militarily and politically. Israel, with all of its problems, still projects Western power in the region (would that the West, and particularly the US administration understood this).
The Iranian strategy is to weaken Israel in every way possible, particularly by conventional warfare between it and Hizballah and perhaps Syria. Hamas is also a threat to a lesser extent. Many recent events point to a resumption of hostilities in the North in the near future, which would serve Iranian interests in multiple ways, including giving the regime more time to proceed with its atomic weapons program.
Iran and its clients believe that they are in a much better position than in 2006, and are confident of success. They believe that they will be able to fire rockets into all parts of Israel at will, and kill thousands. They believe that the IDF will be powerless to overcome Hizballah’s fortifications and will suffer massive casualties. They believe that their secure communications system is impenetrable. They believe that Israel will be surprised by advanced weapons that Hizballah has secretly received from Iran. They believe that the Israeli leadership will dither ineffectively as happened in 2006.
They are so wrong.
Israel suffered a huge trauma in 2006, when the ground branches IDF were entirely unprepared for the conflict, and the leadership was incompetent to manage a war. But the lesson was learned. The IDF embarked on a massive shakeup, returning to the values that made it so effective in the past. Careful planning, preparation and attention to detail have become paramount again.
The IDF knows how the rocket launchers are hidden and fortified and where they are. It knows what weapons the Hizballah forces will deploy and how to counter them. It has built models of villages, bunkers and missile launchers and its soldiers have been training intensively on them. There is good intelligence, human and otherwise, on Hizballah and Syria’s plans and capabilities. And regarding the ‘impenetrable’ command and control system, Hizballah’s Nasrallah can’t order a pizza in Beirut without the IDF being aware of it.
There are contingency plans for almost any eventuality, and decisions will be made quickly. The leadership team of PM Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi are all highly qualified military men who come from the IDF’s ground forces. The contrast with the 2006 team of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz is sharp.
Syria’s Assad, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad have been strutting, threatening and bragging in a way that is reminiscent of Nasser’s pre-1967 hubris. Israel does not desire yet another conflict; Ehud Barak recently emphasized Israel’s commitment to peace by offering yet again (to my distress) to return the Golan Heights to Syria in return for a peace agreement. But Assad responded that Syria would agree only to take the land back; discussions about peace would have to wait.
There are many question marks. What will Iran do? What will the US do? Russia? Will someone take action against Iranian nuclear facilities? I’m happy that I’m not the PM of Israel.
Israel’s enemies, as always, are overconfident. And as always, they are going to pay the price. What a pity for everyone involved that they won’t take the other road.