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Strange Bedfellows: Israel and Arabs United in Opposition to Iran

Wednesday 13 November 2013, by siawi3

Conn Hallinan/Mitch Ginsburg

Source: Foreign Policy in Focus/Times of Israel
November 6, 2013

Via Portside

Could a negotiated settlement between the United States and Iran could trigger yet another war in the Middle East? Two views.

September talks included Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, second from right., CNN,

Strange Bedfellows: Israel and Arabs United in Opposition to Iran
Iran Deal Would Greatly Reduce Israel’s Military Option, Ex-Advisers Say

Strange Bedfellows: Israel and Arabs United in Opposition to Iran
By Conn Hallinan
Foreign Policy in Focus
November 6, 2013
Is Israel really planning to attack Iran, or are declarations about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike at Teheran’s nuclear program simply bombast? Does President Obama’s “we have your back” comment about Israel mean the U.S. will join an assault? What happens if the attack doesn’t accomplish its goals, an outcome predicted by virtually every military analyst? In that case, might the Israelis, facing a long, drawn-out war, resort to the unthinkable: nuclear weapons?
Such questions almost seem bizarre at a time when Iran and negotiators from the P5+1—the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany—appear to be making progress at resolving the dispute over Teheran’s nuclear program.And yet the very fact that a negotiated settlement seems possible may be the trigger for yet another war in the Middle East.
A dangerous new alliance is forming in the region, joining Israel with Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, thus merging the almost bottomless wealth of the Arab oil kings with the powerful and sophisticated Israeli army. Divided by religion and history, this confederacy of strange bedfellows is united by its implacable hostility to Iran. Reducing tensions is anathema to those who want to isolate Teheran and dream of war as a midwife for regime change in Iran.
How serious this drive toward war is depends on how you interpret several closely related events over the past three months.
First was the announcement of the new alliance that also includes the military government in Egypt. That was followed by the news that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were stocking up on $10.8 billion worth of U.S. missiles and bunker busters. Then, in mid-October, Israel held war games that included air-to-air refueling of warplanes, essential to any long-range bombing attack. And lastly, the magazine Der Spiegel revealed that Israel is arming its German-supplied, Dolphin-class submarines with nuclear tipped cruise missiles.
Saber rattling? Maybe. Certainly a substantial part of the Israeli military and intelligence community is opposed to a war, although less so if it included the U.S. as an ally.
Opponents of a strike on Iran include Uzi Arad, former director of the National Security Council and a Mossad leader; Gabi Ashkenazi, former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff; Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin, former heads of Shin Bet; Uzi Even, a former senior scientist in Israel’s nuclear program; Ephraim Halevy, former Mossad head; Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and Shaul Mofaz, former IDF chiefs of staff; Simon Peres, Israeli president; Uri Sagi, former chief of military intelligence; and Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, who bluntly calls the proposal to attack Iran “The stupidest thing I ever heard.”
Mossad is Israel’s external intelligence agency, much like the American CIA. Shin Bet is responsible for internal security, as with the FBI and the Home Security Department.
However, an Israeli attack on Iran does have support in the U.S. Congress, and from many former officials in the Bush administration. Ex-Vice-President Dick Cheney says war is “inevitable.”
But U.S. hawks have few supporters among the American military. Former defense secretary Robert Gates says “such an attack would make a nuclear armed Iran inevitable” and “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.” Former Joint Chief of Staff vice-chair Gen. James Cartwright told Congress that the U.S. would have to occupy Iran if it wanted to end the country’s nuclear program, a task virtually everyone agrees would be impossible.
In interviews in the fall of 2012, reporter and author Mark Perry found that U.S. intelligence had pretty much worked out the various options the Israelis might use in an attack. None of them were likely to derail Iran’s nuclear program for more than a year or two.
Israel simply doesn’t have the wherewithal for a war with Iran. It might be able to knock out three or four nuclear sites—the betting is those would include the heavy water plant at Arak, enrichment centers at Fordow and Natanz, and the Isfahan uranium-conversion plant—but much of Iran’s nuclear industry is widely dispersed. And Israel’s bunker busters are not be up to job of destroying deeply placed and strongly reinforced sites.
Israel would not be able to sustain a long-term bombing campaign because it doesn’t have enough planes, or the right kind. Most of its air force is American-made F-15 fighters and F-16 fighter-bombers, aircraft that are too fragile to maintain a long bombing campaign and too small to carry really heavy ordinance.
Of course, Israel could also use its medium and long-range Jericho II and Jericho III missiles, plus submarine-fired cruise missiles, but those weapons are expensive and in limited supply. They all, however, can carry nuclear warheads.
But as one U.S. Central Command officer told Perry, “They’ll [the Israelis] have one shot, one time. That’s one time out and one time back. And that’s it.” Central Command, or Centcom, controls U.S. military forces in the Middle East.
A number of U.S. military officers think the Israelis already know they can’t take out the Iranians, but once the bullets start flying Israel calculates that the U.S. will join in. “All this stuff about ‘red lines’ and deadlines is just Israel’s way of trying to get us to say that when they start shooting, we’ll start shooting,” retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman told Perry. Inman specialized in intelligence during his 30 years in the Navy.
There is current legislation before the Congress urging exactly that, and Obama did say that the U.S. had “Israel’s back.” But does that mean U.S. forces would get directly involved? If it was up to the American military, the answer would be “no.” Lt. Gen. Robert Gard told Perry that, while the U.S. military is committed to Israel, that commitment is not a blank check. U.S. support is “so they can defend themselves. Not so they can start World War III.”
Polls indicate that, while most Americans have a favorable view of Israel and unfavorable one of Iran, they are opposed to joining an Israeli assault on Iran.
That might change if the Iranians tried to shut down the strategic Straits of Hormuz through which most Middle-East oil passes, but Iran knows that would draw in the U.S., and for all its own bombast, Teheran has never demonstrated a penchant for committing suicide. On top of which, Iran needs those straits for its own oil exports. According to most U.S. military analysts, even if the U.S. did join in it would only put off an Iranian bomb by about five years.
What happens if Israel attacks—maybe with some small contributions by the Saudi and UAE air forces—and Iran digs in like it did after Iraq invaded it in 1980? That war dragged on for eight long years.
Iran could probably not stop an initial assault, because the Israelis can pretty easily overwhelm Iranian anti-aircraft, and their air force would make short work of any Iranian fighters foolish enough to contest them.
But Teheran would figure a way to strike back, maybe with long range missile attacks on Israeli population centers or key energy facilities in the Gulf. Israel could hit Iranian cities as well, but its planes are not configured for that kind of mission. In any case, bombing has never made a country surrender, as the allied and axis powers found out in World War II, and the Vietnamese and Laotians demonstrated to the U.S.
The best the Israelis could get is a stalemate and the hope that the international community would intervene. But there is no guarantee that Iran would accept a ceasefire after being bloodied, nor that there would be unanimity in the UN Security Council to act. NATO might try to get involved, but that alliance is deeply wounded by the Afghanistan experience, and the European public is sharply divided about a war with Iran.
A long war would eventually wear down Israel’s economy, not to mention its armed forces and civilian population.If that scenario developed, might Israel be tempted to use its ultimate weapon? Most people recoil from even the thought of nuclear weapons, but militaries consider them simply another arrow in the quiver. India and Pakistan have come to the edge of using them on at least one occasion.
It is even possible that Israel—lacking the proper bunker-busting weapons—might decide to use small, low-yield nuclear weapons in an initial assault, but that seems unlikely. The line drawn in August 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has held for more than 60 years. But if Israel concluded that it was enmeshed in a forever war that could threaten the viability of the state, might it be tempted to cross that line?
Condemnation would be virtually universal, but it would not be the first time that Israel’s siege mentality led it to ignore what the rest of the world thought.
A war with Iran would be catastrophic. Adding nuclear weapons to it would put the final nail into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Within a decade dozens of countries will have nuclear weapons. It is a scary world to contemplate.
For more of Conn Hallinan’s essays visit Dispatches From the Edge. Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle Empire Series.
Iran Deal Would Greatly Reduce Israel’s Military Option, Ex-Advisers Say
By Mitch Ginsburg
Times of Israel
November 11, 2013
Two former national security advisers told The Times of Israel Sunday that once the six world powers sign an agreement with Iran, Israel’s military option will be significantly less likely to be exercised, if not completely off the table.
“Practically speaking, [a deal] shuts the [Israeli military] option down,” said Maj. Gen. (res) Giora Eiland, who served as head of the National Security Council under prime minister Ariel Sharon. He added, “It doesn’t matter what we think about the deal. Israel won’t be able to do a thing.”
Acting against the signed word of all of the world’s powers, Eiland said, would put Israel front and center as the world’s menace and would not be feasible as long as Iran abided by the agreement. A “crude violation,” however, if provable, would offer a chance for a strike, he said.
Three days of talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran ended in Geneva on Saturday night without an agreement, but with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues declaring that an accord was close, and that the talks would resume on November 20 in an effort to finalize it. Israel has castigated the apparent terms of the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protesting Sunday that it would not require Iran to dismantle so much as “a single centrifuge.”

Former head of the National Security Council Giora Eiland (photo credit: Flash90)
Eiland’s colleague and predecessor at the post of national security adviser, Maj. Gen. (res) Uzi Dayan, agreed that Iran’s fidelity to an agreement would be pivotal. But he asserted that, even if Iran abided by the terms, a bad deal — signed by the US and protested against by Israel — would allow some wiggle room for a military strike. “The probability of the military option would be reduced, but not erased,” he said.
The two spoke hours after the three days of Geneva talks concluded. The nuts and bolts of the actual proposals have largely been concealed from sight, but most reports indicate that the preliminary deal under discussion would be of a reciprocal nature, with the world powers offering some sort of sanctions relief in return for a temporary cessation in enrichment of uranium and perhaps an Iranian commitment to remove all of its 20-percent enriched uranium from the country.

Former general Uzi Dayan (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
The heavy water reactor in Arak, used to create plutonium, has emerged as one public sticking point.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who told France-Inter radio that “we want a deal… but not a sucker’s deal,” said France was “absolutely firm” in its demand that construction of the reactor be halted.
This, along with an apparent readiness to sign a preliminary deal that left Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges in place — essentially allowing the regime to keep most of its cards in its hands and offering it a spot within sprinting distance of the bomb — has prompted a series of bitter critiques from Netanyahu.
Known to admire the Harvard-educated Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt — the man who advised, when still vice president, to speak softly and carry a large stick — Netanyahu has been forced by the international community, and perhaps by nature, to adopt a contrary approach.
His angry statements have been broadcast around the world: a “bad deal,” a “historic mistake,” an “egregious historic error,” he ruled in recent days. But the stick, ostentatiously waved in recent weeks, is not likely to be used or even brandished if negotiations spawn a signed agreement, the two ex-national security advisers indicated.

Dore Gold (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A Netanyahu confidant, however, who traveled with him to New York and Washington in October, and stated that he did not wish to directly address the matter of military capabilities, nonetheless indicated that Israel would ultimately retain the right and ability to act. “Obviously, Israel is not signatory to any of these deals and the prime minister has said so,” said Dore Gold, the President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
“If Israel comes under threat from Iran after the deal,” he added, “then certainly we will have to do what is necessary to protect ourselves.”
Gold suggested that Obama and Netanyahu both agree that Israel sees the Iranian threat differently from its vantage point amid the Middle East, within missile range, and added that “Israel has to embed its security in its understanding of the region and the threats it immediately faces.”