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Sunday, December 9, 2012
[A slightly alternative view] Experts: Gaza War Changed Face of Mideast Conflicts

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

Take a look at the statistics: of 1,506 rockets launched, 479 were
designated by Israel’s Iron Dome as threats to life or property - that's
almost 32% - a lot higher than what seemed to be the operative assumption
when people talked about using Iron Dome to protect large civilian areas
instead of just strategic locations.

It would be nice to think that the performance of Iron Dome is a message to
Iran that their planned response to an Israeli attack would simply be
intercepted but there are only 5 Iron Dome batteries reportedly deployed in
the country today and assuming there's no great secret store of several fold
more in a warehouse somewhere that means that Hezbollah's tens of thousands
of rockets can choose from a multitude of Israeli targets that won't be
protected by Iron Dome.

As for Gaza, thanks to the "quiet-for-quiet" ceasefire agreement, the
Gazans can apparently focus their efforts on extending their missile threat
beyond the envelope of the 5 Iron Dome batteries.without concern that Israel
will interfere with their activities within Gaza. Equipment may be
intercepted by Israel before it reaches Gaza but under "quiet for quiet"
once it is inside Gaza Israel can only try to add it to the "target bank".
By the same token, under "quiet for quiet" Hamas could open missile
factories - with public factory tours and a live cam showing the rockets
rolling off the assembly line on a website and apparently the only thing
Israel could do is add the factory to the "target bank".]

Experts: Gaza War Changed Face of Mideast Conflicts
Dec. 9, 2012 - 10:51AM By BARBARA OPALL-ROME

TEL AVIV — As quiet descended over the skies of Israel and Gaza in late
November, it became clear that a new kind of warfare was emerging that could
counter an enemy’s asymmetric advantage through a combination of strategic
surprise, surgical standoff and active anti-missile defense

Technical superiority and a civilian population whose confidence was boosted
by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system provided Israel with breathing space for
diplomacy that delivered a ceasefire in eight days with no need for a bloody
ground invasion.

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense demonstrated that the enemy’s long-time
asymmetrical advantage — in which cheap weapons inflict damage against a
nation boasting a more expensive and numerically superior force — could be
losing ground as Iron Dome levels the battlefield.

A leveling of that playing field, experts said, potentially redraws the
threat picture in other regional nations such as Syria and Iran. It may also
shift, without fully sidelining, the scenarios in which ground maneuvering
forces could be used, experts said.

Officials and experts credit technological superiority and civilian staying
power for their equalizing effect on asymmetrical tools and tactics used by
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Gaza-based groups over the eight-day fight.

In the nation’s first large-scale operation in the new strategic environment
sparked by the Arab Spring, Israel met its limited military objectives with
minimal civilian casualties and with its international standing intact.

By refusing to be dragged into a bloody ground war that could coalesce the
region’s Sunni-Shiite camps against the Jewish state, experts here insisted
Israel’s Gaza campaign empowered Egypt, Qatar and other Sunni states at the
expense of Iran and its Shiite clients in Lebanon and war-wracked Syria.

“Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, like the ongoing crisis in Syria,
constitutes a sort of microcosm of the process of change reshaping the
Middle East,” retired Lt. Col. Michael Segall, a senior analyst at the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote in a 16-page analysis published
by the think tank.

“The regional and international dynamic that accompanied the [Israel-Gaza]
crisis, along with Israel’s successful deflections of Iranian missiles fired
at its cities, puts Iran in a problematic position of growing isolation. ...
Its ongoing attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Arab street are
failing due to its role in militarily supporting the repressive [Syrian
President Bashar al-]Assad regime,” Segall wrote.

Segall, a Farsi-speaking former Iran desk chief within Israeli military
intelligence, wrote that Tehran’s efforts to discredit the performance of
Israel’s Iron Dome stemmed from its opposition to the deployment of regional
strategic missile defenses.

“The impressive feats of Israel’s Iron Dome … places a large question mark
over the Iranian asymmetrical-war doctrine to which Iran devotes so much
effort. The stationing of similar systems in the Gulf states, or their
addition to staging areas in case of a military operation against Iran,
could undermine the response Iran is planning for a possible conflict and/or
attack on its nuclear facilities,” Segall wrote.

Mideast analyst Gerald Steinberg, a Bar Ilan University professor, said
Israel’s operational achievements in Gaza, coupled with constructive
diplomatic support from Egypt and other U.S. regional allies, has weakened
Iran politically and militarily. Moreover, he said, Israel’s demonstrated
ability to defend against salvo attacks “basically quashes that entire
dimension of Iranian strategy.”

Nevertheless, Steinberg and others here warned it is still too early to draw
lasting lessons from Israel’s Gaza strategy or the political conditions
anchoring the Egyptian- and U.S.-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Since the truce took effect Nov. 21, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has
become mired in domestic strife over Muslim Brotherhood-proposed power
grabs. He may be too preoccupied, experts here said, with the survival of
his fledgling government to stem Iranian arms smuggling through Sinai into
Gaza, as truce terms demand.

At the same time, U.S. and European outrage over Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to build thousands of new homes in a
particularly sensitive corridor linking East Jerusalem and the West Bank
could alter the cooperative dynamic needed for a sustainable ceasefire,
experts here said.

‘No Turning Back’

Uzi Rubin, founding director of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Missile
Defense Organization, said capabilities manifested by both sides of last
month’s rocket battles herald a new era of “pushbutton warfare” from which
“there is no turning back.”

“Pillar of Defense will likely be remembered for revealing the face of
future warfare, where pushbutton warriors on both sides — from bunkers and
tunnels in Gaza and from operation centers and command-and-control trailers
in Israel — clashed on an empty battlefield while maneuvering forces
remained sidelined,” Rubin said.

In a Dec. 4 interview, Rubin said specific scenarios could still dictate the
use of maneuvering ground forces, but they are not a prerequisite for future
warfare. In contrast, he said, Israel can no longer contemplate military
action without a robust network of active defenses.

“Defense has become a central pillar in Israel’s ability to prevail in
future battles,” said Rubin, a Tel Aviv-based international defense
technology consultant. He added, “This situation will be even more
significant in cases where the other side initiates battle prior to Israel’s
pre-emptive attack.”

According to Rubin, a key lesson from Gaza is the need to rethink military
modernization priorities, given the rapidly advancing Iranian missile threat
and its race to bolster the rocket and missile arsenals of its proxies along
Israel’s borders.

“The threat is racing forward. We need to run just in order to stay in
place,” Rubin said.

In a comprehensive, 28-page preliminary assessment prepared for Bar Ilan
University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Rubin details
operational achievements from last month’s battles and concludes with
lessons likely to be drawn by both sides.

Using open-source data, Rubin analyzed the types of rockets launched from
Gaza, their operational effects and Israel’s ability to defend against
incoming threats. He noted several Palestinian precedents from last month’s
campaign, including the targeting — albeit unsuccessful — of Jerusalem, a
higher launch tempo than that of Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon war, and a
nascent ability to generate the real-time intelligence needed to create
targets of opportunity during the fighting.

All told, Gaza-based militants launched 1,506 rockets, 152 of which didn’t
reach Israel and 875 of which fell in open areas. Of the remaining 479
designated by Israel’s Iron Dome as threats to life or property, 421 were
intercepted, a success rate of nearly 88 percent.

Rubin listed three categories of rockets launched in last month’s fight,
most from Iran, some produced in Gaza with Iranian technology and a few
shorter-range rockets from stores of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Segal, the retired military intelligence officer, noted that during last
month’s Pillar of Defense operation, Iranian officials — including Mohammad
Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — openly
boasted about the weaponry smuggled and the technology transferred to Gaza.

Unlike earlier conflicts with Israel, in which Iran couched the extent of
its support for Palestinian resistance, “This time, it was amazing how
confident they felt in flagging their ability to supply Hamas and Islamic
Jihad,” Segall told Defense News on Dec. 6.

Despite Israel’s destruction of most of the category 3 Fajr-5s, Palestinians
managed to launch 12 of these 1-ton rockets, four of which overflew
Jerusalem and landed in the West Bank. Iron Dome intercepted seven of the
eight heavy rockets fired at Tel Aviv, but the one that leaked through
Israeli defenses claimed one life when it landed in Rishon Lezion, south of
the city.

Six Israelis were killed during the seven days and five hours before the
Nov. 21 truce, including four who disregarded Civil Defense safety
procedures in their desire to witness the pushbutton war.

The Hamas Health Ministry listed 163 killed from more than 1,500 Israeli
standoff strikes, mostly by air with support from sea-based missiles.

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