Evgeny KIRSANOV (Russia)
Following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama said the Israeli armed forces will not conduct a military operation against Iran without first consulting the White House. Obama is clearly either disingenuous or he is simply sparing the pride of his Israeli partner. Israel plainly isn’t capable of conducting a totally independent operation against Iranian targets. Of course, we won’t even hypothetically consider the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used. It would be virtually impossible for the Israelis to conduct such an operation using conventional weapons. Without American help, the Israelis won’t be able to obtain reliable air corridors, and they won’t have access to satellite navigation and targeting systems, etc. They simply will be unable to get the missiles and bombs they need that are stored in American depots (including depots in Israel itself). We could cite an endless list of purely military-technical reasons, but we’re doing this analysis for a slightly different reason.
It’s a matter of principle. The United States will never allow Israel to take part in such an operation; it won’t even allow Israel to assist. That’s impossible because it would totally discredit the operation in the eyes of the Muslim world, regardless of how noble the goals were. Even hard-line Republicans understood that during their campaigns in Iraq, and the Obama administration understands it even better. The entire premise of “establishing a dialogue with the Islamic world” would crumble. Moreover, for all the Arab hatred of Tehran, no Arab country would allow its airspace to be used for such a purpose. That would mean declaring war on Iran, something which—rightly or wrongly—all Arab leaders are trying to avoid. Also, there’s Turkey’s position to consider; Israel still has to apologize for the incident with the Freedom Flotilla. All of this suggests that Israel will not participate in such an action under any circumstances. Some experts argue that if the international community (meaning the United States) takes a passive approach, Israel will act alone. That won’t happen, and not just for purely technical reasons. The Israeli leadership currently has no politicians willing to take responsibility for military operations against Iran, and there are none on the horizon. No matter what anyone says, Israel’s dependence on the United States also has to be considered. The best illustration of this were the recent statements by Netanyahu, who suddenly took an interest in direct dialogue with the Palestinians and apologized profusely for little or no reason. It’s absolutely clear that he isn’t ruling with an iron fist; the reality of the situation forced him to take a different approach. The most that the current “strong” Israeli politicians can do is deploy a US military base in Israel based on a simple logic: war with Israel isn’t the same as war with the United States. Virtually all the Persian Gulf monarchies have taken the same approach; they have shielded themselves against possible trouble by allowing US bases on their territories. The only question is whether White House will agree, because it doesn’t fit the current policy of “dialogue with Islam.”
But that applies to the Israelis. They have become hostages to their strategic relationship with “big brother,” and that relationship comes with a price. As far as the Americans are concerned, not everything is as clear as it appears from public statements. We would argue that the Pentagon is actively studying the use of force against Iran. The White House does not plan on standing idly by and watching an unpredictable regime become untouchable. Current statements by officials at different levels about the impossibility of conducting a military operation are only a tribute to the realities of the day, nothing more. The US military simply can’t afford to do it now. They are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to open a third front now would be a strategic blunder. There’s more to it than a lack of purely military resources. An operation like that is very expensive—it could derail the entire domestic American market. And the country’s prosperity is always the top priority for any American president. The economic sanctions, which will solemnly be declared ineffective in a year or two, are nothing more than a way of indulging the international community. Their only purpose is to prove to all doubters that it’s impossible to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem by peaceful means. This transitional period is needed to give the Chinese and Japanese the opportunity of redirecting their hydrocarbon requirements to different exporters. By all accounts, Tehran has no intention of giving up its plans for developing nuclear weapons, so the question of using force to change its plans for becoming a super-regional state will be resolved unambiguously within five years. Unfortunately, Russia’s position on the issue will not be considered.
We repeat our contention that the Pentagon is actively working out the details of the future operation. That includes increased intelligence sharing with the Israelis despite their bias. We have to bear in mind that Israel is the only country with a more or less extensive and effective agent network in Iran. The Americans have traditionally stressed technical intelligence. Interestingly, in addition to the purely military factors, the United States is also tackling the counter-propaganda war. The Pentagon learned a lesson from its crass publicity failures and set to work with a vengeance. The first experimental victim of the new technologies was the Qatari channel Al Jazeera, which Washington has repeatedly accused of bias and promotion of radical Islamist ideas and which actually “beats the Americans to the punch” in all of its broadcasts. This time, the Americans chose the right moment for their “final warning.” “Unknown malefactors” blocked broadcasts of World Cup soccer matches, preventing the Egyptian satellite’s signal from reaching the entire Middle East. Knowing the Arab world’s fanatical love of soccer, you can imagine how much that hurt the broadcaster. Naturally, no one has claimed responsibility, but only one power in the world is capable of that kind of engineering trick. Here’s a broader hint. First of all, the frisky Qataris aren’t up to it, and they have actually turned Al Jazeera into al-Qaeda’s official organ. Secondly, it involved development of new information warfare technologies. There’s no doubt that they will soon begin to accompany the growing American military activity in Afghanistan, and then they’ll be used for censorship during the upcoming operation in Iran. Considering the low literacy rate in the Muslim world, the jihadists will be deprived of a significant resource for their propaganda. The Pentagon is undoubtedly also developing those technologies for the Internet, but for now they want to avoid spooking people. It’s obvious that they can’t use those kinds of things continuously. That means they’ll be turned on just when they’re needed. That is, during a large-scale military operation when information warfare surges.
Everything indicates that the Pentagon is preparing for a large war in the Middle East, and nobody doubts where the main attack will occur.
Evgeny Kirsanov is an expert at the Institute of the Middle East.
Source: New Eastern Outlook