Will there be war?

Recently a friend asked me if I thought there would be a war in the near future. Of course I don’t know. My contacts in the IDF aren’t on the General Staff, and I don’t know anybody in Hizballah, Hamas, Iran or Syria.

Guy Bechor, who is very well informed about the Arab world, thinks not. He thinks that Hizballah, Hamas and Syria, who will bear the brunt of the fighting, are afraid of Israel and wouldn’t purposely initiate hostilities. He writes,

Each side accuses the other one of intending to strike, and the explanation for this is as follows: Nobody has an interest in a new regional war. The opposite is true – the status quo is convenient for all sides involved, while the results of a war may be terrible. Hence, a war is not expected to break out this summer…

We scared Hamas so much in Operation Cast Lead that they have no interest whatsoever in prompting a new war. They got the message. We also scared Hezbollah so much that Nasrallah has been in hiding for almost four years now, fearing Israel’s long arm. He too got it…

So would Israel be the one to launch a war this summer? No chance. The deterrence that was created and the stability it prompted satisfy our defense and political leaderships. The status quo on all fronts is convenient for Israel.

Yaakov Katz, on the other hand, is more pessimistic:

Not many periods resemble this year in terms of military buildup among Israel’s enemies.  A quick glance along the borders demonstrates just how significant the current trend is – Hamas is re-arming at an unprecedented rate in the Gaza Strip; Hizbullah is doing the same in Lebanon; and Syria is also training its forces in guerrilla tactics in the event of a future war.

What will spark this future war is unclear, but IDF officers joke about how they will have to cancel their overseas vacation plans this summer.

And Caroline Glick believes that war is inevitable, and if so, she’d rather it be on Israel’s terms:

Israel’s political and military leaders have to take two considerations into account. First, the side that initiates the conflict will be the side that controls the battle space. And second, there is a real possibility that the Obama administration will refuse to resupply Israel with vital weapons systems in the course of the war…

In the coming war, Israel will have only one goal: to destroy or seriously damage Iran’s nuclear installations. Every resource turned against Iran’s proxies must be aimed at facilitating that goal. That is, the only thing Israel should seek to accomplish in contending with Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas is to prevent them from diverting Israeli resources away from attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

Here’s what I think:

Iran wishes to destroy Israel insofar as the Jewish state is the main obstacle to Iran extending its hegemony throughout the Mideast. Israel is seen as a forward base of US power, as well as a threat to the Iranian nuclear program; and of course there are the traditional religious/ideological motives.

Note that this has nothing to do with the ‘peace process’, Palestinian nationalism, ‘The Occupation’, the ‘Siege of Gaza’, building in East Jerusalem, etc. It is all about Iran’s ambitions.

The Iranian strategy, as articulated by Ahmadinijad and others many times, is that Israel will be overwhelmed by its proxies.  To this end, Iran has spent a huge amount of money arming Syria, Hizballah and Hamas and helping them prepare for war. The tens of thousands of missiles of multiple types in the hands of these proxies combined with fortifications and other advanced weapons in their possession, now constitute more than a mere (though deadly) irritant, but rather a force that can cause serious damage and loss of life in all parts of Israel.

Although Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the one state that it will most likely not use them against is Israel, because Israel’s retaliation would certainly put an end not only to the regime, but to Iran as a modern state. Estimates of the result of such an attack have been in the neighborhood of 30 million dead. However, the Iranian weapon will be very effective as an umbrella for conventional aggression against other states in the Mideast, and as a threat to damage Israel in multiple ways (economic, demographic, morale, etc.). Iran will also be able to threaten Israel indirectly by threatening US and European interests.

I think we’ve already seen some of this effect on the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israeli-Palestinian issues.

There’s no question that the combination of the conventional forces aimed at Israel by Iranian proxies and the nuclear umbrella that will soon be in place represents an existential threat to Israel. In the event of war, I suspect that Israel would not limit its strikes to the proxies, but would also seek to damage the Iranian nuclear capability as much as possible. It is thus in Iran’s interest to delay hostilities until its nuclear capability is in place and hardened as much as possible.

Combined with the real fear on the part of Hamas, Hizballah and Syria that Bechor describes, this probably means that Israel’s enemies will not initiate a war in the very near future. And they are banking on Israel’s concern for the unavoidable death and destruction that would occur even if an Israeli attack were successful, to deter her from preempting — not to mention the international reaction, which might go past the point of the usual condemnations to Security Council-imposed sanctions or even military intervention. I don’t think Israel could count on a US veto of such action from the present administration.

Nevertheless, I think Glick is right and that Israel must preemptively strike the missile forces of the proxies and the Iranian nuclear facilities before Iran’s capability becomes operational, because the alternative is war on Iran’s terms, under her nuclear umbrella. The consequences of such a war would be disastrous, although Israel would probably prevail, and I think that the Israeli political and military leadership understands this.

I expect, then, that sometime before the Iranian nuclear capability is ready, Israel will defy the Obama Administration and strike first.

This promises to be a difficult and terrible struggle, and I blame the nations of the world. Had the US and others taken a tough stand against the rearmament of Hizballah (as called for by UNSC resolution 1701) or the Iranian nuclear program, there would be no war. But our administration prefers appeasement as a tactic, and others have not only enabled, but actually taken up the cause of those who would destroy the Jewish state.

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11 Responses to “Will there be war?”

  1. Robman says:


    I’d go along with Caroline Glick. On the whole, I’d say you are right on most points, my only exceptions are as follows:

    Iran’s main objective is to nuke Israel. There is no other real purpose for her program. They can pressure and intimidate their neighbors – as they have been doing for some time now – without nukes. They don’t need nukes to push the Sunni states around. It’s not as though Saudi Arabia or the UAE is under an Israeli “nuclear umbrella”. Why provoke all this pressure from the world community – such as it is – for something they don’t need?

    No matter what Iranian propaganda says, no matter how much Syria, Hezbollah, or Hamas re-arm or build up, BY THEMSELVES, these actors cannot seriously threaten Israel. They can’t invade or seize territory. They can’t seriously damage Israel’s military capabilities. All they can do is kill civilians randomly, and damage the Israeli economy while the shooting goes on as they did in 2006. And, even as they have been building up, Israel has also been improving her capabilities, a fact of which I’m sure her enemies are well aware.

    They must be seen against the backdrop of the larger strategic picture. Iran needs her proxies as part of a larger strategy of, in the near term, keeping Israel at bay while they develop their nukes, and in the longer term, as a “provocateur” so as to give Iran an excuse to employ her nukes once she has them.

    Of course Iran would suffer devastation in return. Probably worse than her leaders would admit. And beyond that, I’m sure Israel would not let the rest of the Moslem SW Asian region get off scot free; they’d be wiped out as well.

    But remember: Even here in the “modern” U.S., during the Cold War, we had educated, informed analysts and government officials who spun up scnearios for a “winnable” nuclear war. Remember T.K. Jones and “with enough shovels”?

    So, what do you expect from a bunch of medieval mullahs who consider it essential to destroy Israel so as to enable the coming of the “12th Imam” or whatever the hell they are waiting for? And we aren’t talking about two huge superpowers facing each other here. Iran is large; Israel is small. Flight times are a lot shorter in this case. No matter how objectively insane it may seem to you are me, it is not hard for me to imagine at all that Iranian leaders can talk themselves into believing in a “winnable” nuclear war against Israel. This was the same country whose leaders sent battalions of ten-year-old boys out as human mine detectors during the war with Iraq. In fact, A-jad was one of the primary leaders/organizers of that particular aspect of Iran’s war efforts.

    I’m sure Israeli leaders are aware of the above, which is why they absolutely cannot accept an Iranian nuclear capability. They are out of options. So, in the end, you and Ms. Glick are absolutely correct.

    As the character of Billy Jack said in one of his movies, “…if you know you are in for a licking, you might as well get in the first lick.”

    Or, as I said in a posting elsewhere, better an uncertain future, than the certainty of no future.

    And we aren’t just going to be watching this on TV, Vic. The stock market will crash again. Gas prices will go through the roof. Whether Obama backs Israel or not (and the safe money says “not”), the U.S. will be drawn in just to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. We can do this (I’m not too worried about the ‘prowess’ of the Iranian uniformed military), but this will still mean U.S. body bags as a direct result of Israeli military action. The Jew baiters will have a field day with this (and you can bet the bad guys have already planted agitators here who will go into action to this end once the shooting starts). We will have pogroms, here, Vic. If you don’t have a firearm, I’d get one, if I were you.

    Your last paragraph says it all, Vic. The English language fails me in allowing to express my disgust at the world community generally in failing to stop this midget punk nation-state, Iran, when they so easily could have done so before the fact. But most of all, I place the blame on Obama. The leader of the world’s remaining superpower has a unique responsibility in providing leadership in situations like these, and he has failed completely. It is pretty sad when the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany are taking a harder public line against Iran than even the U.S.

    My only hope is that the responsibility Obama will have in this evolving mess will be brought into the public sphere, in a manner than will mitigate the pressure on Israel. I expect influential figures in the media – Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, perhaps Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh – to come out swinging for Israel and against Obama on this one. And the supreme irony here is that these are figures who the Jewish community here in the U.S. denigrates endlessly. Maybe this will be a learning experience for our brethren here. A very hard lesson that I would have hoped we never had to learn…..

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    I am not sure what I think so I will try to think this out as response to both Vic Rosenthal and Robman. They both agree with Caroline Glick that Israel must preempt Iran, and prevent it attaining a nuclear capability. They both suggest that Israel would prevail through terrible damage.
    I don’t know.
    I would however make a few points.
    One is that there is no certainty that the nuclear attack, God forbid, would come from Iran. It uses surrogates though it seems unlikely it would transfer weapons to surrogates. There are also many other dangers we do not know about , especially related to the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.
    Secondly, I would hate to be the Israeli leader who would have to decide whether or not to make a retaliatory nuclear strike. After all Israel’s aim is to survive and a strike which killed millions of people would totally deligitimize Israel. There have been claims that just as Japan survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki we could survive a one- time nuclear strike. I have no idea of whether or not this is the case. And I pray to God we will never have to find out.
    Thirdly, the climate of opinion created in the world now is one in which so many elements are simply waiting for Israel to make a ‘slip’. The key here is again the Obama Administration. Despite its mantra of being committed to Israel’s security the chain of action so far indicates that it will take unprecedented moves to pressure and diminish Israel. I agree wholeheartedly that the Administration cannot be trusted. It is as I understand it capable of making the step towards condemnation of Israel which would totally delegitimize it.
    But of course to say we might not respond to Iran is to forfeit our deterrence. Silence is the best government policy here.
    All in all I believe we are in an increasingly worsening situation in which our power to defend ourselves is being diminished. I too lay the blame at the Obama Administration. Its inaction in regard to Iran is criminal.
    Is war imminent? I don’t know.
    I do however think it is better for our deterrence that we have a Leiberman in the government , someone who the other side might genuinely have reason to fear.
    I also hope that our military is preparing for a multi- front war against all possible combination of enemies. This includes the Sunni as well as the Shiite elements.

  3. Robman says:


    I am fairly certain that as soon as Bibi got back from the U.S. this past March, he told his generals, “We’ve got nothing left to lose. Prepare for the ‘big one'”.

    I’d bet that Israeli war planners are indeed working on a complicated scenario. A strike on Iran will be coordinated with actions to blunt Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas at a minimum. They probably have contingency plans for Turkish, Egyptian, and even U.S. intervention. I’m sure they know what they are up against.

    Israel has some aces up her sleeve. She has technology in some areas that no one else has, not even the U.S. She’ll give a good account of herself, of that I am confident.

    It is the immediate aftermath that is most dangerous. The U.S. under Obama may very well not resupply Israel, and no one else will, either. She could very well be on her own for two and a half years. It will be devastating for her economy, but as others have pointed out elsewhere, she faced a far more daunting situation in 1948.

    If it comes to the issue of a nuclear war, I don’t think an Israeli leader would even have a chance to decide on a retaliatory strike. There won’t be enough time. Missile flight times from Iran to Israel would be on the order of fifteen minutes. In an environment where Israel would be facing a nuclear-armed Iran, she’d have to go on a “launch on warning” footing. Even in the absence of an attack, one computer glitch on Israel’s side could unleash a holocaust.

    That is another reason why Israel just cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. She cannot be backed into that situation.

    I don’t see how Israel could survive a nuclear attack. All it would take is maybe five warheads in the northern third of the country, and that would be the end of Israel as a functioning entity. All Iran would have to do is field say, thirty warheads on their IRBMs, and fire these along with about 300 missiles with conventional warheads. Israeli ABM defenses would not be able to sort out the “dummy” missiles from the ones with nukes, and would be overwhelmed. Redundant targeting – assigning five warheads each to the same five or six high-priority targets (major industrial/population centers) – would ensure their destruction.

    Iran probably wouldn’t have the capability I describe in the above paragraph for at least five years or so. But even if they have one bomb, something they could put in a truck or ship, the perceived risks associated with stopping them from developing further, once they’ve reached that point, will be intolerable. They are likely very close to this capability, according to most observers. That is why they have to be stopped now.

    Again, I’m sure Israeli planners are aware of all of the above. Again, that is why pretty much any other risk is worth preventing Iran from getting nukes.

    And again: An uncertain future is better than the certainty of no future.

    Even now, never mind a nuclear war scenario, I’d hate to be in Bibi’s shoes. He is carrying a hell of a weight on his shoulders. He is faced with “the path of least resistance” – i.e., whistling in the dark about Iran, hoping there is some sort of deliverance, while serving out his term as PM over an Israel that today enjoys relative prosperity – or ensuring that there will be an Israel fifteen years from now. But to accomplish the latter, he has to plunge Israel into a war of historic proportions, with suffering and sacrifice to match.

  4. Letsgetreal says:

    What’s missing from the apocalyptic analysis here is the possibility of a successful outcome to the peace process. It seems to me that Obama’s strategy is essentially the right one, supporting the moderates on both sides and rejecting the extremists on both sides. That way there is at least the chance of a workable compromise which by definition will not be perfect from Israel’s point of view but will be infinitely preferable to the alternative (they made a desert and called it peace).

    As regards Iran, Obama strategy seems to be the same, supporting the moderates and standing up to extremist demands. However much you would like to see it happen Obama is not going to invade Iran as Iraq was invaded. First of all he would be not be able to carry the country (let alone the world community) with him so soon after Iraq. Second another war at this time (with its effect on oil prices) would tip the world into the worst depression in history, at just the moment it is trying to recover from recent recesion.

    A surgical strike at Iran’s nuclear faciltiies is the most that one can expect and I’m sure that Obama and his allies are keeping this in reserve, should the sanctions option fail. But rightly he regards this as the last resort, while putting the emphasis on negotiated settlements of both these issues.

    Obama’s approach does not therefore amount to inaction or appeasement. Rather I think it’s a statesmanlike response to the crisis, which takes account of political realities and the dire consequences for everyone (including Israel) if negotiated settlments cannot be achieved.

  5. Vic Rosenthal says:


    Let’s suppose the impossible happens and there is a ‘successful’ outcome to the ‘peace process’, a Palestinian state is declared in the territories under the PA and Israel withdraws to the 1949 lines.

    Would Iran stop wanting to control the region and its oil resources, and to expunge US influence? Would the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad stop wanting to extend a Shiite caliphate throughout the Mideast and overthrow the conservative governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Would Iran stop working on its Bomb?

    Would Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists embrace the PA and congratulate them on achieving peace, or would they accuse them of selling out to the devil by colluding with Israel and the US?

    Would Hizballah stand down its rocket forces?

    Would the al-Aqsa brigades and other hardliners in Fatah stop wanting to reverse the nakba and get ‘their’ land back?

    Would the Palestinians stop insisting that 4.5 million ‘refugees’ be allowed to ‘return’ to Israel?

    I could go on, but the point is that the conflict is not caused by a failure of Israel to withdraw to the 1949 lines, but rather to Arab rejectionism and Iranian ambitions.

    Actually, if Israel withdraws all of the above will continue. The only difference will be that Israel will be smaller, weaker and more easily attacked.

  6. Robman says:


    Um, who are these “moderates” Obama supports?

    Are these the same moderates who refuse to amend the Palestinian National Charter which declares Israel as a Jewish state to be illegitimate?

    The ‘moderate’ Abbas openly refuses to do this, saying it is not his “job” to define the character of Israel. That is empty sophistry. It certainly is his job, when the founding charter of the political movement he represents makes it his business to define Israel in the negative with respect to the Jews.

    This is simply absurd, Letsgetreal.

    This would be like Russia not recognizing Poland’s right to exist as a Polish state, or Turkey not recognizing Greece as a Greek state (both contentious issues in their day, by the way).

    If this state of affairs continues, WHEN (not if) the PA reneges on some future agreement, they can logically claim that they can’t be held to the terms of an agreement with an “illegitimate” entity.

    Yeah, Abbas is some “moderate”. Helped plan the Munich massacre; his PhD thesis dealt chiefly with Holocaust denial. He recently dedicated some town square in Ramallah to some vicious terrorist who killed over 30 Israeli civilians. Imagine if an Israel leader dedicated some town square to that nutcase who shot up a mosque in the West Bank some years back, or even Meir Kahane, what an uproar there would be.

    What moderates are there in Iran? I mean, among those in power, not the dissidents, for whom Obama does not seem to lift a finger to support. Your leaders in Britain take a stronger line than he does. Isn’t that pathetic?

    Obama is not going to launch a surgical strike at Iran. There is nothing in his foreign policy behavior to support this, unless he is engaging in an incredibly grand deception aimed at getting Iran to let their guard down. I for one don’t engage in much wishful thinking that way.

    The closest thing to that kind of wishful thinking I will allow myself is to imagine that maybe, just maybe, Israel – who has the most advanced anti-missile defenses in the world – may now have technology in this realm that allows them to not be so worried about Iran after all. Along with this, the strongest argument AGAINST Israeli unilateral action this way would be that if she acts, she will, at one and the same time, be stuck with doing the “heavy lifting” against Iran that the Sunni Arab regimes desperately want done anyway, that they can’t do themselves, AND in so doing, giving these very same regimes a perfect excuse to gin up the anti-Israel propaganda machine in the wake of the resulting war, furthering their goal of turning Israel into a pariah state.

    So MAYBE (my hope against hope), Israel can say to the Sunni Arabs who are shaking in their boots in the face of Iran, “Screw you all. We’ve got the means to defend ourselves, AND we’ve got the means to retaliate, and you have neither. Too bad for you. Lotsa luck!”

    …and then I wake up out of my pleasant reverie.

    Let’s get real, Letsgetreal!

  7. Letsgetreal says:

    Robman, Vic we’re all on the same side but the unfortunate truth is that Israel cannot survive without a negotiated settlement, supported by America and the international community.

    Lets get real.

  8. Vic Rosenthal says:

    You can say that Israel can’t survive without pigs flying and that would be as true!

    The Palestinians cannot accept a settlement that would leave Israel standing. That’s why the 2000 and 2008 negotiations failed.

    Even if the PA agreed to a settlement that left Israel standing, they wouldn’t live up to it. And we are not even talking about Hamas.

    Then there’s the whole issue of Iran’s goals.

    The two-state solution is simply not an option given the cast of characters on the Arab side.

    You can’t say “but it’s the only solution” because it is a solution that can’t happen. So if it really is the only solution, then there’s no solution. My belief is that there is no good solution available today and Israel will have to stay strong until the Arabs understand that they are not going to win.

  9. Letsgetreal says:

    I agree that Israel must stay strong, Vic, but you don’t do that by doing things that isolate you from your friends and play into the propaganda of your enemies.

  10. Vic Rosenthal says:

    So if the Arabs persuade Obama that they absolutely won’t negotiate unless Israel agrees to [fill in the blank], then Israel should do it, even if it contravenes basic principles or endangers security (etc.)?

    Don’t you see that this is a tactic to squeeze concessions out of Israel, concessions that weaken it either politically or strategically?

    What if the next demand is to stop construction of the security fence? Should Israel do that? Or to sign the NPT and invite IAEA inspectors to Dimona?

  11. Robman says:

    …..Or, accept a bunch of Palestinians per “right of return”? You can bet that even if Israel caved on ALL of Abdullah’s – oops! Obama’s (hard to tell them apart) – demands, that would be next. Just like after Israel agreed to a 10 month settlement freeze that EXPLICITLY excluded Jerusalem…suddenly – surprise! – they couldn’t build in Jerusalem anymore, either!

    Letsgetreal, the fact of Israel defending herself, and demanding to be treated with the same basic common courtesy respect that anyone called an “ally” might minimally expect to deserve, should hardly be objective cause for “isolation”.

    How about this: America treats Israel with the same respect as say, South Korea. Does anybody insist that we have an “even-handed” policy for North and South Korea? Even today, there is no peace treaty between them, only an armistice.

    If North Korea refused to recognize South Korea’s right to exist as an independent state, and in addition, demanded all sorts of territorial concessions, etc., from South Korea, as the price for a formal “peace treaty”, do you suppose we’d pressure South Korea to accept these terms?

    You realize, a new peninsular war in Korea would stand to be far, far more deadly than ANYTHING we’d EVER have to do on behalf of Israel today, even if they asked us (and mostly, unlike South Korea, where we have over 20,000 troops, all Israel asks us to do is LET THEM DEFEND THEMSELVES).

    To the extent that Israel’s insistence on being treated like something resembling a sovereign state with the basic rights accorded to all other sovereign states – LIKE RECOGNITION, FOR STARTERS – “isolates” her from her “allies” says a hell of a lot more about her “allies” than it does about her. And what it says is that her allegedly “closest” ally, in the form of the U.S. under Obama & Co., is nothing but a petrodollar corrupted pitiful excuse for a major power representing anything worth representing. Obama is openly aligning the U.S. against a fellow liberal democracy, taking the part of some of the most backward and repressive regimes on earth.

    THAT perfidy is what real friends of Israel need to stress and expose, Letsgetreal, not rationalizing cowardice, appeasement, and moral bankruptcy.