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Saturday, December 22, 2012
Amir Rapaport : The Iranian Strategy is Working

The Iranian Strategy is Working
Israel is busy with its elections, the US is busy with the financial crisis,
but for Iran, it’s business as usual, as the centrifuges keep spinning

Amir Rapaport 21/12/2012
http://www.israeldefense.com/?CategoryID=483&ArticleID=1848

It is possible that the most significant defense event of the week took
place at a farm in the town of Tir Herfa in southern Lebanon, where Lebanese
media reported of a mysterious explosion in a Hezbollah weapon warehouse on
Monday morning. Naturally, Hezbollah, on its part, closed the area and did
not volunteer any details.

Such an event has the potential to intensify the situation considerably. If
Hezbollah decides to openly blame Israel, its response could be to direct
fire towards northern Israeli towns, which would result in a serious
escalation. This did not happen, this time. Does this mean that Israel was
not involved in the explosion? Certainly not. Many Western elements (as well
as Arab states) estimated that Israel is behind the explosion, as well as
behind a series of explosions from Tehran and all the way to Sudan. It is
difficult not to agree with their assessments, especially when the commander
of the Israeli Air Force, Major General Amir Eshel, said this week on camera
that those who sleep with weapon storehouses should be surprised that they
explode.

Whether if Israel is responsible for the explosion or not, the event makes
it possible to take another glance to the fascinating web of events,
transpiring throughout the Middle East. Even if Hassan Nasrallah is
convinced that Israel is responsible for the blast, he has a good reason not
to announce it and not to initiate another round of combat against Israel.
This is not just due to the deterrence Israel achieved in the wake of the
Second Lebanon War: Nasrallah is primarily concerned of the response of his
Iranian patrons.

With regards to Iran, the weapon storehouse is a trivial thing compared to
the truly bigger picture – Iran built up Hezbollah’s strength after 2006 as
a tremendous threat to Israel, which it would operate only in the event of
an Israeli or US attack on Iranian soil (in addition to the fire of missiles
towards Israel, which would be carried out in Iran). Any other objective is
trivial compared to this issue. It is not worth giving Israel a reason to
harm the long-range launchers before the “real thing" (such as the damage
caused to the long-ranged missiles in the Gaza Strip during operation Pillar
of Defense, for example).

Nasrallah was harshly reprimanded for his adventure in the summer of 2006,
with the abduction that led to war. Since then, Nasrallah cannot initiate
any sort of military measure against Israel without the explicit approval of
the bosses from Tehran. There are also internal considerations as to why he
shouldn't mess with Israel at this point in time, yet all of his
considerations pale in comparison to the orders he gets from the real
bosses.

Iran Marches Towards a Bomb

While on the subject of Iran, it is possible to assess that Israel is
controlling the height of the flames of the global publications regarding
the Iranian nuclear bomb that’s on its way. If the political echelon is
interested in it, the issue rises instantaneously to the top headlines
around the world. A childish drawing of a bomb in the hands of Prime
Minister Netanyahu or a leak by anonymous ‘western’ military sources is
enough to make headlines in one of the important US newspapers, which would
then be quoted by the rest of the global media.

In recent weeks, in which the continuous tie in the Syrian civil war has
broken (in favor of the rebels), the Iranian issue has stayed away from the
public agenda. This does not mean that the war over the Iranian bomb is
over. It should be assumed that Israel is continuing in efforts to foil the
bomb, but the bottom line is worrying: as of now, the Iranian strategy is
working. There is a possibility that it will reach the bomb.

Here is a scenario that has chances of materializing: while Israel is busy
with its elections, and the US is primarily dealing with the risk of the
fiscal cliff at the start of 2013, Iran is currently accelerating its
nuclear program. The centrifuges are working at top speeds to enrich
uranium. This might not necessarily remain the case - no one in the West
would be surprised if next spring, just as the US tries consolidating a
coalition to intensify the economic sanctions imposed on Iran (again), Iran
would unilaterally announce that it is halting the enrichment process. If
this happens, it would not constitute a surrender on Iran’s part, but rather
progression according to a pre-prepared plan.

By the spring of 2013, Iran will already possess more than 200 kilograms of
enriched uranium, which could be suitable for use in a nuclear bomb (a base
of 20% enrichment), a fine quantity. Iran will be able to complete the rest
of the planned enrichment process at its own rate, in secret, far from the
eyes of the UN inspectors. At the same time, it will be able to conclude the
development of the detonator for the nuclear bomb, as well as the adaptation
of the future bomb to a launch measure. This includes the conclusion of the
Iranian program for developing cruise missiles, based on former Soviet
missile technology acquired in the past decade in Ukraine. From this point
onwards, Iran will also be able to choose the time at which it will announce
the nuclear weapon in its possession.

In recent years, when Israel has spoken of how Iran must be stopped from
becoming a ‘threshold state’, this situation is exactly what was being
referred to. However, talks did not help, and Iran is on its way there. It's
reasonable to assume that Meir Dagan, who is recovering from surgery he
underwent in Belarus, had good reasons for his staunch objections against
the possibility that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear facilities on
its own. As head of the Mossad, he had access to information that only he
and the prime minister knew. What was this information? Either way, Dagan
was not alone in opposing an attack.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and head of Shabak Yuval Diskin
also sided with him. One of Ashkenazi’s closest aids, who also opposed an
Israeli assault in Iran without US coordination was the late Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak, former IDF chief of staff, who was laid to rest on Thursday.

Mishaps of Pillar of Defense

Another issue that is deeply troubling the IDF are the faults that were
revealed in the examinations into operation Pillar of Defense. Nearly a
month after the end of the operation, the examinations at the brigade and
battalion levels have been completed, and a general staff examination is
about to be conducted in several days. As with any operation or exercise, an
in-depth investigation reveals countless mishaps. In the case of Pillar of
Defense, one of the grave mishaps stood out in a noticeable manner during
the days of the operation – the gathering of thousands of reserve soldiers
in areas that were exposed to the fire launched from the Gaza Strip.

This was not the only failure, and there were, of course, positive lessons
(such as the supplies that the reservists received). However, it is doubtful
if the general staff examination will point explicitly to the main problem
of Pillar of Defense: one month later, it seems that the operation
contributed towards weakening the Israeli deterrence against Hamas and the
Palestinians more than towards strengthening it.

There has been total silence in the Gaza Strip since the end of the
operation, yet there remains turmoil in the Judea and Samaria area, even if
the number of violent events this week was relatively low.

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