Friday, November 16, 2012

Deterrence policy confronts unravelling Mid-East

The Israelis needed to respond to a series of rocket attacks in recent days, including a guided missile attack on an Israeli jeep that wounded four soldiers. Deterrence is a critical component of Israeli military doctrine.

The most compelling factor, however, may have been escalating Israeli concerns over the ordnance Hamas was stockpiling. Israel reportedly hit several key weapons caches in Gaza yesterday, including some that included the deadly Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets, which have powerful payloads and ranges long enough to strike Israeli population centers. (From Jonathan Schanzer's piece, "Why Israel attacked Hamas" in National Post, November 15, 2012, excerpted below)
Deterrence, part of Israel's policy, while explaining these recent missile attacks on Gaza, would also go a long way to predicting some military action by Israel against Iran, given the latter's determination to acquire nuclear weapons. Deterrence, or in diplo-speak, the "right to defend herself" will be the subject of many UN debates in the Security Council, as well as in dozens of opinion pieces over the next several weeks.
Holding fast to a policy of deterrence, while perhaps politically advantageous to the Israeli government because it protects the Israeli people, could prove to be a short-sighted policy, given the dramatically changing conditions through the Middle East. Syria, Lybia, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and even more recently Jordan, are all experiencing instability, some even suffering from government-imposed military assaults (Syria) while Iran is being crippled under severe sanctions. The Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt is not Mubarak, nor Sadat, nor Nasser, nor any other west-leaning dictator on whom both the U.S. and Israel could rely for muscle to calm the Islamic tide of contempt for the existence of the state of Israel.
Unleashed, that tide could tip the balance in too many quarters for Israeli deterrence to cope with at one time. Also unleashed, the U.S. comitment to defend and protect Israel could prove difficult to execute, since a multi-pronged assault on Israel would be more complicated and potentially more dangerous than the kind of surgical strikes, one at a time, that have been the structural pattern of previous conflicts between Israel and her enemies. Further, the rise of Islamic terrorist groups, really front-forces for state actors like Iran and Syria, complicates the deterrence policy, since these groups do not have "state" recognition, although Palestine is seeking additional state recognition at the UN.
Terrorists can and will strike in more unpredictable and sometimes more lethal attacks, and are more trickly to detect with intelligence, even though the Israeli intelligence is among the best in the world.
Taking out the stock-piled Iranian missiles in Gaza, while incurring the wrath of the world's public opinion for the collateral damage, gives the deterrence policy both a target and an easily recognized justification. It may not be easy or even possible for Israel to maintain such clarity and justification as the region roils and unravels in an anti-semitic tide of violence.
We are all watching, in deep anxiety, and considerable fear...and no one really knows how this will play out.
Why Israel attacked Hamas
By Jonathan Schanzer, in National Post, November 15, 2012
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

....Hamas is reeling again now. After leaving its headquarters in Syria because of the ongoing carnage there, and after losing Iran’s patronage due to the international sanctions placed on the Islamic Republic’s illicit nuclear activities, Hamas has been forced to seek new support.

Qatar, Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Egypt, have contributed to a political rehabilitation effort, designed to reintegrate Hamas into an emerging Muslim Brotherhood political order in the Middle East. This reorientation has brought about a crisis of leadership, however. Long-time political leader Khaled Meshal appears to be stepping down, while the roles of other figures, including Jabari, have been in flux.
But sowing disarray was not Israel’s primary objective here. The Israelis needed to respond to a series of rocket attacks in recent days, including a guided missile attack on an Israeli jeep that wounded four soldiers. Deterrence is a critical component of Israeli military doctrine.
The most compelling factor, however, may have been escalating Israeli concerns over the ordnance Hamas was stockpiling. Israel reportedly hit several key weapons caches in Gaza yesterday, including some that included the deadly Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets, which have powerful payloads and ranges long enough to strike Israeli population centers.
Interestingly, last month the Israelis are believed to have carried out a raid on an Iranian weapons factory deep inside Sudan. Sensitive security sources indicated that “game-changing” rockets — the kind that could cause untold harm to Israel’s civilian population — were what prompted that daring attack into enemy territory.
The Gaza operation appears to be part two of that raid: A concerted effort to take out as many long-range rockets as possible, with the added benefit of eliminating those who procured them.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.



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