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No guts to fight over water rights

Four decades ago, Israel famously attacked Syria in retaliation for its attempt to divert water from the Jordan River. Since then, we have given the Jordan away to the Palestinians.

Now a similar situation is brewing in Lebanon. Lebanon is diverting the Hatzbani River, which supplies nearly a quarter of the Jordan River’s water. Besides Israel’s pitiful appeals to the UNIFIL, there are no plans to attack the enemy that is draining our most valuable resource, more precious than gas.

Hamas washes its hands of Al Qaeda

As the recent spate of violence in the Israeli-Gaza war winds down, it is clear that neither Hamas nor PIJ the were behind the initial attacks, which were perpetrated by Al Qaeda from Libya. Hamas was sufficiently offended by Israel’s retaliation for events beyond Hamas’ control that it started its own skirmish with us.

In fact, it was the NATO that resurrected Al Qaeda in Libya. The White House claims that the Libyan rebels’ military chief is no longer affiliated with Al Qaeda, but somehow the terrorist franchise operates in Libya unhindered. Qaddafi, we recall, fought Al Qaeda relentlessly, and was in fact one of the West’s major allies in the war on terror.

NATO recently brought Al Qaeda forces from Libya into Syria. The widening US and Israeli involvement with the Iranian terrorist group Jundullah forced the ayatollahs to restore their relations with Al Qaeda, which went sour after Zarqawi started massacring Shiites in Iraq, to the great dismay of Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Now both Zarqawi’s and Pakistan’s Al Qaeda fighters are streaming into Syria.

Israel is being surrounded by Al Qaeda.

Israel and the US differ on Iranian immunity

Bunker-buster bombThe Washington Post published a report on plans to bomb Iranian underground facilities. While unimportant in its military details, it clarifies what the American planners consider the ‘zone of immunity.’

For Israel, Iranian immunity to a strike starts when that country acquires effective nuclear technology. At that point, Iran can quickly recover any equipment lost in a strike, and even export nuclear technology in retaliation for the attack.

For the US, the point of Iranian immunity is the physical inability of the USAF to bomb Iran’s underground facilities. That moment is years away, if it ever arrives at all, because repeated strikes by bunker-buster bombs could indeed render Fordo and similar mountain facilities unusable.

Smuggling is not about tunnels

Gaza power station experienced a brief shutdown after the Egyptians closed the border in retaliation for Hamas’ continued terrorist and criminal activities in the Sinai. But wait—officially, diesel fuel was not supposed to enter Gaza from the Egyptian side in the first place.

For about a year Egypt has been phasing out Israeli shipments of diesel fuel into Gaza. But thousands of tons of diesel cannot be smuggled through tunnels in canisters. That shows that, contrary to Egyptian assurances, the bulk of smuggled goods goes overland in trucks rather than through tunnels.

And so the blockade is meaningless, and negative PR for Israel is its only effect.

Tunnel in Gaza

Tehran staged an excellent reprisal

The blast in New DelhiTwo recent attacks against Israeli embassy targets were beautiful in their simplicity. In New Delhi, a magnetic bomb was attached to the car of the wife of an official. In Tbilisi, a staffer found a bomb underneath his car.

The story is not without its oddities. Two Israeli doctors were readily available in New Delhi to take charge of the slightly wounded woman. In Tbilisi, the staffer discovered the bomb because it scratched the surface of the road while the car was in motion—but oddly enough, the bomb did not fall off.

The symbolism of the attacks is unmistakable. First, they mirror Israeli assassinations of Iranian scientists—but with an important difference: the media version of events notwithstanding, the scientists were really shot. So it is strange that the Iranians follow the wrong scenario. Second, the attacks were perpetrated against targets deliberately chosen for their relative unimportance. That was to demonstrate that Israel has a huge, soft underbelly that she cannot protect. There is no way for us to guard all Georgian staffers or officials’ wives.

So the Iranians showed us that retaliation is really very simple.

IDF faces budget crunch for good

The Chief of Staff has ordered field commanders to cut down on training after April 1 because of alleged budget cuts. In fact, the army’s budget has been increased a bit.

But the conflict raises an important issue: do we really need that much training or weapons? The army has not engaged in meaningful combat since 1973. Anti-guerrilla operations in Lebanon and Gaza and police functions in the West Bank are of a completely different order. They do not require the kind of training now being conducted, or the massive army we now maintain.

Nor do we need new tanks, the purchase of which the Chief of Staff has also vowed to cut down in retaliation against the government’s pet industries for the budget cuts. In the next war, tanks will be a liability, given the great advances in anti-tank weaponry in recent decades.

The details are open to discussion, but counter-intuitively, the budget crunch is a welcome development, one that puts pressure on the army to adapt itself to the new realities of regional battlefields.

Tel Aviv held hostage of US Syrian policy

A few months ago we argued against the reports that Assad might launch regional war if Syria were attacked by Turkey. We believe that analysis was correct, because at that time Assad was rational. By now, he is probably not.

Thus his reported threat to annihilate Tel Aviv if the UNSC condemns his regime to Gadhafi’s fate must be taken seriously. Israel cannot intercept the 1,600 medium-range missiles that Syria has at its disposal. We could destroy some of them, but hundreds will remain for a massive strike. Recall that Syrian SCUDs have chemical and biological warheads.

At this point, Assad does not fear whatever retaliation Israel would inflict on Damascus, because the UNSC resolution means that he is likely on his way out, anyway.

We gain nothing by replacing the hostile but sensible Assad with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.

Explosions in Iran: excellent, but counterproductive

Explosion at military base in IranExplosions at Amir al Momenin military base in Iran took life of the godfather of their missile program. Yes, it was a great operation tactically, but what about its strategic implications?

Barak openly praised the operation, thus breaking a major taboo. There was doubt among the Iranians about which country was behind the explosion, and Barak’s words led the blame and retaliation to Israel’s doorstep.

Targeting individuals is a poor strategy at this stage. Assassinations won’t stop the Iranian nuclear program, but they create the illusion that an all-out attack would be superfluous.

Why attack Iran now?

Why attack Iran now?Given the recent spate of reports on Obama’s approval for the attack on Iran, it s a good time to ask what such an operation could accomplish?

The Bushehr reactor is up and running. No one is going to destroy an operational reactor loaded with 80 tons of HEU. And an attack on other nuclear sites would give Iran an excuse to reprocess  spent rods into plutonium instead of returning them to Russia.

Some of Iran’s HEU has been removed from its last known locations. It is highly unlikely that we would destroy all the stocks. Iran has also begun to move its nuclear-related equipment to bunkers.

Bombing the centrifuges is feasible, but what’s the point? Iran would easily be able to set up new centrifuges within two years. And after the first attack proves futile in the long run, assembling a coalition for a second raid would be problematic.
Destroying dual-use factories would serve no purpose, either. Flush with oil profits, Iran would soon rebuild them with more up-to-date technology.

Nor would the bombing of Iran stop the nuclear programs of North Korea and Pakistan. Both countries’ nuclear stockpiles are of unknown size and stored in unknown locations. Iran could easily procure its bomb from them, especially from the Pakistani military. That’s assuming that the four nuclear warheads missing from Ukraine are not already in Iran.

Any sensible plan for dealing with Iranian nukes would involve inciting armed rebellions by the Kurds, Jundallah, Azeris, and Afghan border tribes. But instead, the US helps Turkey to suppress the Kurds.

As for the operation itself, it should be relatively easy. The capabilities of Iran’s air defenses are grossly inflated; Iranian operators are notoriously inept at using reasonably capable Russian SAMs, and even those Israel can both jam electronically and saturate with multiple missile attacks. Besides, the CIA wouldn’t miss a chance to bribe Iranian generals in the same way the agency dealt with Saddam and Gadhafi.

One nice corollary of attacking Iran is that Israel would have to preemptively destroy the arsenals of Hamas and Hezbollah, and at least warn Syria. Assad won’t provoke NATO retaliation by attacking Israel to avenge Iran. He also remembers that Iran did not avenge the destruction of Assad’s nuclear program four years ago.

Israel cannot defend herself against Iranian missiles

Israel’s Arrow-2 SAM can reasonably be expected to intercept crude Iranian ballistic missiles. Thus, Iranian retaliation against an Israeli strike is not likely to be a problem.

Iran, however, purchased from twelve to thirty-two X-55 cruise missiles from Ukraine in 2000–2005. Ukraine also sent training teams and auxiliary equipment. Most Ukrainian participants in the deal were promptly assassinated, but the missiles were delivered. They are capable of delivering a 200kt nuclear warhead over 1,500 miles.

X-55 cannot be intercepted by Arrow-2.

Israel pushed into a losing battle?

Israeli Dolphin-class submarineDebka has published an astonishing revalation: the White House is pushing Israel to sink Iranian submarines with her own Dolphin-class subs. As a guarantee, Obama even agreed to sell Israel a few GBU-37 bunker-busters.

The idea is suicidal. Iran wouldn’t launch its missiles against Israel in retaliation, but would certainly attack Israel’s soft underbelly of foreign Jewish targets. Palestinian terrorists will be instructed to renew attacks in Israel. And in the end, sinking a vessel or two wouldn’t reverse Iranian policy; if anything, it would strengthen IRGC’s resolve to achieve military superiority over Israel, if not in quality than in numbers.

We believe that Obama views Israel as an expendable spy, a pawn in his game with Iran. After Israel has started a silly conflict, Obama imagines he would be able to talk to the Iranians. But the Iranians would take a limited strike as a signal that the West is ready for war, and would steel their resolve rather than run to negotiate.

An Israeli strike on Iranian vessels in the Red Sea would also amount to clearing the water there for Egypt’s benefit. Washington wants to show the Muslim Brotherhood that it can bring even Jews into their service.

A wrong tree to bark upon

Settler activists cut down some four dozen young olive trees near Hebron, either in yet another land dispute or in retaliation for a recent terrorist act. Incidentally, that was possibly the first time Israeli police have attempted to cover up a terrorist attack by making it look like an accident, so as not to spoil Abbas’s UN aspirations.

According to halacha, the terrorists must be killed and their nation expelled. Political common sense is exemplified by Irgun’s and Lehi’s retaliatory attacks against Arabs. Short of that, uprooting olive trees may be a good way to vent one’s emotions, but it is hardly a realistic strategy for preventing terror.

US, Turkey, Iran cooperate against Israeli interests

The US has joined the Iranian-Turkish offensive against the Kurdish PKK rebels. According to the Debka, Washington supplies them intelligence about PKK targets.

The PKK, however, is an important ally of Israel. Unlike the mainstream Kurdish government, which is content with semi-autonomy in Iraq, PKK wants chunks of Turkey, Iran, and Syria for the Kurdish state—and rightly so, since Kurds indeed live in those regions. The PKK, therefore, gives Israel leverage against Turkey and the enemy states of Syria and Iran. When Lieberman merely hinted that Israel might support the PKK in retaliation for Turkey’s hostile actions, his Turkish counterpart went hysterical. In Iran, the PKK serves our interests against nuclear-related targets.

Just as with Mubarak and other examples of threatened Israeli national interests, our government did nothing to protect the PKK.

Israel at the dock

In retaliation for Israel’s refusal to issue a formal apology, Turkey will bring the matter of the Gaza blockade to the International Court of Justice in Hague. The court is heavily influenced by the NATO powers, who can help Israel to close the case; but on the other hand, the judges are on record questioning the legitimacy of the Gaza blockade.

Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has proved more independent than other Muslim states, which under US pressure have refrained from referring the blockade to the ICJ.

A ruling on the blockade’s illegitimacy would be a bad PR for Israel, but it really means nothing as in the current political climate the UNGA won’t suspend our membership in the UN, which itself is not a big deal, either.

Terrorists don’t trust Israeli resolve

The IDF units on the Sinai border have maintained the highest level of preparedness for a week now, expecting a terrorist attack from Egypt. The attack is thought to be carried out by PIJ in retaliation for Israel assassinating their leader, in retaliation for the rocket attacks, which were a retaliation for Israel’s assassination of PRC leaders, which itself was a retaliation for the PRC’s terrorist attack in Sinai.

Hamas wouldn’t let PIJ carry out more terrorist attacks right now unless Hamas had received Israeli assurances in the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that government installations in Gaza would not be bombed. Nor would the PIJ carry out more attacks if it believed that Israel would escalate the conflict.

Terror: overreaction or underreporting?

The eight deaths reported in the Negev terrorist attacks are statistically unexceptional, especially if we only count civilians, as the government does when considering proportional retaliation. Yet the government’s reaction—the immediate assassination of terrorist leaders—was unprecedented. This is not a particularly aggressive government, and it has a history of inaction against terrorist and rocket attacks.

The official death toll from terrorist attacks is rumored to be significantly underreported.

Major cities under missile attack

Muslims from Gaza launched multiple rocket strikes against the Israeli population centers of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba, and a number of smaller locations.

Such indiscriminate attacks against civilians are classified as war crimes during armed conflicts, much more so when the hostilities fall short of war. No condemnations ensued from the UNSC, and the Israeli government continued supplying water and power to Gaza. Now imagine the outcry if we were to bomb Gaza’s residential districts.

The attacks were perpetrated by Hamas even though they had been prompted by Israel’s retaliation against the PRC for its violation of Hamas’ own orders to stop violating the de facto ceasefire with Israel. Hamas, to be sure, is the legitimate government of Gaza, and so represents its people.

As usual, Israel swallowed the blows instead of bombing everything Hamas in Gaza out of existence.

HAMAS fighters

Terrorist attacks in the South: the government got it all wrong

Israeli soldier near the attacked busThe Muslim terrorists who killed eight Jews and wounded dozens more in coordinated attacks were able to cross from Sinai to Israel for a single reason: the government procrastinated in building a wall to stop the African infiltrators who flock along the same route.

The government knew about planned attacks a few days in advance, but failed to warn its citizens or beef up security along the major roads. Indeed, it was obvious that terrorists would attack Israeli soft targets in response to the Egyptian crackdown on them. Despite warnings, Israeli security was so lax that armed, camouflaged terrorists drove along the highway undetected.

Hours after the attacks, IAF killed a number of PRC leaders. Wait, if we can kill them so easily, what had we been waiting for? They had committed scores of previous attacks against Israelis and were legitimate targets. For political reasons, the government left them alive, and so allowed them to carry out these most recent attacks. What’s more, the attackers did not come from the PRC, but Israel has yet to bomb their Sinai strongholds for fear of diplomatic fallout with Egypt.

Even as it becomes clear that the Egyptians don’t control the Gaza-Sinai border, the Israeli government refuses to re-occupy Rafah to block Gaza, which is the only way to provide security in Sinai. Because of the short-sighted Camp David accords, Israel cannot enforce order in Sinai, and Egypt after Mubarak won’t enforce any order there.

Nothing is said about the cowardice of the soldiers on the bus: when the terrorists began shooting at them, they sped away instead of stepping out to fight the infiltrators—allowing the Arabs to carry out more attacks.

Note how well trained the Arabs were: they crossed during the daytime instead of at night as they normally do, engaged Israeli forces in signifigant firefights, staged coordinated attacks, moved between targets, and tried to down IAF helicopters with RPGs, a tactics recently perfected by the Taliban.

The problem is that the face of terrorism in Israel is changing. We used to deal with organized terrorism by well-established groups, which could be easily targeted for retaliation, thus establishing mid-term accommodation. Not so with Iraqi- and Afghani-type terrorism, whose leaders are perpetually in hiding in Iraq or enjoying safe havens in Waziristan and in the Sinai mountains. Israel lies wide open to Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists originating from Sinai.

Kurds: it’s complicated

Assad has ceased cooperating with Turkey against the PKK, apparently in retaliation for Turkish threats against Syria. It would be only logical for a dictator as smart as Assad to start aiding PKK separatists.

Such aid might reinvigorate nationalist fervor among Syria’s own Kurds, though Assad could condition any aid to the PKK on non-involvement in Syria. That policy mirrors Iran’s relations with the Kurds: the ayatollahs help Kurdish separatists in Iraq, but suppress Iranian Kurds across the border.

Kurdish separatism may prove the most potent force in the Middle East: Kurdish areas span several states, Kurds are by far more advanced than Arabs, they possess oil and align with the West, they are numerous and militant, and they remain at odds with the Arabs.

Kurds protesting

War of words over Syria

The US and Turkey warned Syria that the Turkish army would invade Syria’s border regions to provide safe haven for refugees from the towns attacked by Assad. Those threats have gone on for two months already.

Iran, for its part, warned Turkey that it would attack Turkish and even American military bases in response to such an invasion. Which is nonsense, as an Iranian attack on a NATO member would automatically bring a US reprisal against Tehran. Assad, too, threatened retaliation, but he would not have the guts to launch SCUDs against Turkey, just as he did not counterattack Israel after we bombed his nuclear reactor.

It is not easy to understand why the West should be concerned about Assad’s suppression of Hama, a well-armed hotbed of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Euphrates Valley towns whose tribes align as easily with Al Qaeda as with the White House, depending on who is paying the bribes.