The new reality in the next regional conflict is reflected in the ways the Israeli military is fighting a war between wars. The brilliant psychological operations campaign against Iran is a result of careful strategic planning and high technological advantage in fighting an asymmetric war. The sharp contrast is found in the cornucopia of complex evolving threats on land, air, sea, outer space including the fifth domain – cyberspace.
A critical yet fair assessment of Israeli decision to go to war against Tehran rests on a thoughtful introspection of the means and ends of Israeli foreign policy. Machiavellian’ theory aside, should it be a war of choice or a war of necessity? What should Israel accomplish in unilaterally attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? How should it be done?
After exploring other viable options, it is arguably the most important foreign policy question facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unity government.
With the current stalemate in Six World Power talks about Iran’s contentious nuclear program, Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Lt. General Benny Gantz is stepping up special operations that include the Horn of Africa, the Greater Middle East and where Iranian, Palestinian and al-Qaida groups congregate.
Meanwhile, Iranian security experts report a virus far more dangerous than the Stuxnet worm, dubbed the ‘Flame’ has struck the country’s computer systems. Kaspersky Internet security expert, Vitaly Kamluk told the BBC, that at least 600 specific computer systems in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority were hit.
The ‘cyber-espionage worm’, designed to collect and delete sensitive information, is said to have 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which attacked an Iranian uranium enrichment facility (and some 16,000 computers), causing centrifuges to fail. Security experts believe that only a state could be behind the development of such a sophisticated virus.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told Army radio that several Western countries that possess advanced technologies and see a nuclear Iran as a significant threat could be behind the large-scale cyber attack that infiltrated thousands of computer systems in Iran and across the Middle East.
In another sign of plausible deniability, the US and its Arab allies has staged three weeks of joint maneuvers in Jordan which ends Wednesday, May 30.
On Friday, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s quarterly report reveals that since February Iran almost doubled its stockpile of more highly enriched uranium which is close to weapons grade from 73.4 to 145 kilograms.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), using data from the UN nuclear watchdog’s report said if the uranium were refined further, it could create five nuclear weapons. The UN inspectors recorded “the presence of particles” of 27 per cent-enriched uranium at Fordo underground nuclear facility.
To top it all, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says nuclear weapons are a sin and un-Islamic, and officials insist they only want a civilian nuclear program for energy and medical research. When Khamenei declared nuclear weapons to be “haram” — forbidden by Islam, is just deceitful talk while exploiting Obama’s ego-centrism.
As a matter of fact, The Washington Post quoted Mohammad Hoseyn Moussavian as revealing that in 2004, Khamenei said, “I would resign if for any reason Iran is deprived of its rights to enrichment.” Moussavian is presented as an Iranian academic visiting Princeton to lecture and write a book on the Iranian nuclear issue.
DEBKAfile reveals that he was the contact man in one of the direct, back-channel negotiations in Paris between the White House and Khamenei for both their sakes, Washington must endorse Iran’s “right to enrichment.”
Israel was correct in its timeline of Iran’s nuclear development and that the next year will be critical, an assessment that western intelligence and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta share when he told ABC’s This Week that the US is “ready from a military perspective’’ to attack Iran under the guise of preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Indeed, the weeks prior to November election will be a crucial turning point in strategic policy for both the US and Israel, since it will be the last opportunity to attack before Iran enters what Barak calls the “immunity zone”.
In an international survey of 21 countries conducted by Pew Global Attitudes Project finds widespread opposition to Iran obtaining nuclear weapons with 63% of Americans favoring the use of military force. The general apprehension is rooted in the sense that Israel is dependent on the tacit support of the United States to survive, rightly or wrongly to defend itself.
As I noted awhile back, in an op-ed article, “7 Reasons Why Israel Should Unilaterally Bomb Iran” one of the comments caught my attention:
“The overwhelming evidence is very worrisome to the world to add our own input, this radical Islamic regime of mullahs, uses religion in the most extreme sense not for co-existence or in harmony with the rest of the world, but to dominate as a caliphate most people around the world do not grasp the idea, the weapons stockpile, the faltering economy, the amount of money invested in the Iranian nuclear project are all testimony to the end game of world dominance, this is not sci-fi, this is real.”
As Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak puts it, “This is not about some abstract concept, but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.”
For six months in a row, Obama’s secret backchannel to Tehran has been a calculated failure and a distraction. As the Baghdad talks ended without progress except to continue talking, Iran’s catch-22 in diplomacy is an attempt to defuse suspicions of military dimensions to its nuclear program.
Obama believes he can cut a diplomatic deal with Tehran and his fantasy of a nuclear ‘breakthrough’ when negotiations resume in Moscow on June 17, is logically flawed. For their part, the Israelis suspect that Obama is merely playing a dangerous game of appeasement with Iran.
Despite intense political pressure, covert operations, counter-proliferation and stifling economic sanctions, the rehashing counter arguments show that a determined Iran cannot be prevented from becoming a nuclear power.
Ideally, the best way to fight it is by regime change through the opposition groups who asked for our help over and over again. As usual, the Obama administration turned a blind eye by ‘leading from behind’.
After Obama rejected Israel’s minimal demands for nuclear negotiations with Iran, DEBKAfile reported that Israel has withdrawn its pledge to Obama not to strike Iran’s nuclear sites before the November presidential election.
Netanyahu said that the talks will be successful only if Iran agrees to halt all uranium enrichment, ship its current stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country and dismantle an underground enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
The rupture between the US and Israel over Iran’s nuclear program widened further Friday, May 25 when Netanyahu and Barak decided not to be available to hear the briefing brought to Jerusalem from Baghdad by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Obama’s extraordinary diplomatic faux pas and failures to defend the progressive vision of American interests and Jewish values helped doom the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. What else do we need from Obama to convince the American Jewish lobby that Obama is pro-Muslim and anti-Semite?
More importantly, Iran’s nuclear program is an ‘existential threat’ to Israel and a danger to US national security that must be eliminated at all cost.
If diplomacy fails this time, the price may be an all-out war.