The Coming War with Hizballah and Other Thoughts from Israel’s Former Chief of Military Intelligence

Jan. 22 2018

Amos Yadlin was the Labor party’s candidate for defense minister in Israel’s 2015 elections, served as deputy commander of the Israeli air force and later as the head of IDF intelligence, and in 1981 flew one of the planes that bombed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor. In conversation with Zev Chafets, he discusses some of the threats and challenges confronting the Jewish state. On the possibility of war with Hizballah, Yadlin comments:

[Israel must] prepare not for a third war in Lebanon but for the first “northern war,” one that will be fought not only against Hizballah but against Syria and Iranians in Syria, all along the northern front. . . . Israel has a better air force [and] better intelligence [than its enemies], and it has learned the lessons of previous wars and implemented them. This time, for example, it will not differentiate between Hizballah and Lebanon. And if Bashar al-Assad joins the fighting, he could well lose everything he has gained, with Russian help, over the past two years. . . .

[Nonetheless], we will pay a higher price than we did during the Lebanon war of 2006, especially on the home front. Israel has developed a very effective defensive shield built on several layers and dimensions, including the world’s best missile-defense system. We have intelligence capabilities that will allow us to destroy some long-range rockets on their launch pads. We can also mitigate damage [at home] with an early-warning system that will give civilians a couple of minutes to reach shelter. But there will be substantial damage.

Israelis are resilient. But they are also critical. There is an asymmetrical balance of expectations on both sides. They want the IDF to protect them 100-percent, to win the war in six days, and to force the other side to raise a white flag of surrender. This will never happen. If we measure the score of the next war like a basketball game, Israel will win 99 to 19. Hizballah will declare a divinely inspired victory. Israelis will complain and nominate a committee to investigate the failure.

As for the possibilities of an American peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, rumored to be in the making, Yadlin comments:

As an Israeli, I’m praying that it will be a success. As an analyst, I think the chances for a final deal are close to zero. But if President Trump can come up with something that is good enough for now—an arrangement that preserves Israeli security, enables Palestinian state-building from the bottom up, and demonstrates to our Arab allies that we are sincere—he will deserve a Nobel Prize. The rest of the unbridgeable parameters he can leave for future generations to solve.

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More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Iran’s Defeat May Not Be Immediate, but Effective Containment Is at Hand

Aug. 20 2018

In the 1980s, the U.S. pursued a policy of economic, military, and political pressure on the Soviet Union that led to—or at least hastened—its collapse while avoiding a head-on military confrontation. Some see reasons to hope that a similar strategy might bring about the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Frederick Kagan, however, argues against excessive optimism. Carefully comparing the current situation of Iran to that of the Gorbachev-era USSR, he suggests instead that victory over Tehran can be effectively achieved even if the regime persists, at least for the time being:

What must [an Iran] strategy accomplish in order to advance American national security and vital national interests? Regime change was the only outcome during the cold war that could accomplish those goals, given the conventional and nuclear military power of the Soviet Union. Iran is much weaker by every measure and much more vulnerable to isolation than the Soviets were. . . . Isolating Iran from external resources and forcing the regime to concentrate on controlling its own population would be major accomplishments that would transform the Middle East. . . .

It is vital to note that the strategy toward the Soviet Union included securing Western Europe against the Soviet threat and foreclosing Soviet efforts to pare America’s allies, especially West Germany, away from it while simultaneously supporting (in an appropriately limited fashion) the Solidarity uprising in Poland and the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. It is not meaningful to speak of a victory strategy against Iran that does not include contesting Iranian control and influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq while strengthening and hardening the Arab frontline states (including Oman and Qatar) against Iranian influence.

Syria is Iran’s Afghanistan—it is the theater in which Iranian forces are most vulnerable, where Iranian popular support for the war is wearing thin, and where the U.S. can compel [Iran] to expend its limited resources on a defensive battle. Iraq is Iran’s Poland—the area Iran has come to dominate, but with limitations, and a country Iran’s leaders believe they cannot afford to lose. The U.S. is infinitely better positioned to contest Iran’s control over Iraq than it ever was in Poland (and similarly better positioned in Syria than it was in Afghanistan).

A long-term approach would focus on building a consensus among America’s allies about the need to implement a victory strategy. It would deter the Russians and Chinese from stepping in to keep Iran alive. It would disrupt the supply chain of strategic materials Iran needs to advance its nuclear and conventional military capabilities. And it would force Iran to fight hard for its positions in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously pressing the Iranian economy in every possible way. Such a strategy would almost certainly force the Islamic Republic back in on itself, halt and reverse its movement toward regional hegemony, exacerbate schisms within the Iranian leadership and between the regime and the people, and possibly, over time, and in a uniquely Iranian way, lead to a change in the nature of the regime.

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More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy