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.