Why Israelis are afraid — very afraid

Jewish World Review Yossi Klein Halevi & Michael B. Oren January 29, 2007

The Jewish State’s worst nightmare

The first reports from military intelligence about an Iranian nuclear program reached the desk of Yitzhak Rabin shortly after he became prime minister in May 1992. Rabin’s conclusion was unequivocal: Only a nuclear Iran, he told aides, could pose an existential threat to which Israel would have no credible response. But, when he tried to warn the Clinton administration, he met with incredulity. The CIA’s assessment — which wouldn’t change until 1998 — was that Iran’s nuclear program was civilian, not military. Israeli security officials felt that the CIA’s judgment was influenced by internal U.S. politics and privately referred to the agency as the “cpia” — “P” for “politicized.”

The indifference in Washington helped persuade Rabin that Israel needed to begin preparing for an eventual preemptive strike, so he ordered the purchase of long-range bombers capable of reaching Iran. And he made a fateful political decision: He reversed his ambivalence toward negotiating with the PLO and endorsed unofficial talks being conducted between Israeli left-wingers and PLO officials. Rabin’s justification for this about-face was that Israel needed to neutralize what he defined as its “inner circle of threat” — the enemies along its borders — in order to focus on the coming confrontation with Iran, the far more dangerous “outer circle of threat.” Rabin’s strategy, then, was the exact opposite of the approach recently recommended by the Iraq Study Group: Where James Baker and Lee Hamilton want to engage Iran — even at the cost of downplaying its nuclear ambitions — in order to solve crises in the Arab world, Rabin wanted to make peace with the Arab world in order to prevent, at all costs, a nuclear Iran.

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5 thoughts on “Why Israelis are afraid — very afraid”

  1. Two things stand out about this article. 1) Extreme Paranoia and 2) What is so bad about engaging Iran in Dialog? It costs absolutely nothing to try to talk about it. If it fails, at least a *peaceful* option was tried.

    Iran could not nuke Israel without upsetting Iran’s own neighbors, aside from the civilized world. Likewise for a preemptive and unprovoked nuclear strike. If either Israel or Iran does it, they will be cutting their own throats. I only wish our U.S. Government was smart enough to stay out of this mess. Somehow, I know I will be disappointed if I pray for peace as both Iran and Israel promote terrorism.

  2. It would be a very serious miscalculation indeed to mistake the inflamatory rhetoric of Iranian President Ahmadenejad for the views of the Iranian people. Almost every report I read indicates that there is great popular disenchantment in Iran with Ahmadenejad, particulaly among urbanites and the young. An Iranian-American reporter I heard on NPR Saturday talked to anti-American “demonstrators” in Tehran shouting “Death to America” who sheepishly confessed that this was what they were ordered to do if they wanted to receive their salaries.

    The one thing that would certainly discredit and silence Iranian moderates and strengthen President Ahmadenejad would be a hostile American act directed at Iran. We also have a trump card to play – as Shiites, the Iranians are as frightened by the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda, as we are. In Iraq, Al Qaeda has bombed Shiite Islams holiest sites. There is common ground for dialog and diplomacy.

    Lastly the US military has already war-gamed a potential military conflict with Iran and discovered serious vulnerabilities:

    The simulated combatants were the United States, denoted “Blue”, and an initially unknown adversary in the Middle East, “Red”. Most of the people on the U.S. side assumed that the adversary in the game would be Iraq, but it was later revealed that the other side was simulating the military forces of Iran, the only Middle Eastern state that most observers feel has a strong ability to counter an American military engagement.

    Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps general Paul K. Van Riper, used motorcycle messengers to transmit order to front-line troops, evading Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. They also used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s ships without being detected. In the early days of the exercise, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles, overwhelming the Blue forces electronic sensors, destroying thirteen warships. Soon after that offensive, another significant portion of Blue’s navy was “sunk” by an armada of small Red boats carrying out both conventional and suicide attacks, able to engage Blue forces due to Blue’s inability to detect them as well as expected.


    A military conflict with Iran could be costly in terms of military assets, it could provoke a wave of terrorist attacks, possibly in the US, expose US troops in Iraq to Shiite as well as Sunni attacks, and would certainly cause oil prices to double or triple, damaging our economy. Diplomacy is certainly the preferable option.

  3. The more urgent and serious threat lies just outside Afghanistan:

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

    American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

    The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

    Terror Officials See Al Qaeda Chiefs Regaining Power

  4. Israelis ARE afraid, but according to Lt. Gen. William Odom, the former director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan and head of Army intelligence, it is their own Prime Minister and President Bush who should scare them the most.

    Interview of General Odom by talk radio show host Hugh Hewitt:

    HH: All right. Next in your article, you wrote, “We must continue the war to prevent Iran’s influence from growing in Iraq.” That’s one of the arguments you attribute to proponents of staying. And I do believe that’s a very important issue. Do you believe that Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons?

    WO: Sure. They’re going to get them.

    HH: And should we do anything to stop that?

    WO: No.

    HH: Why not?

    WO: Because we can’t. We’ve already squandered what forces we have, and we’re going to have more countries proliferate. If somebody told us not to proliferate, and that if we wanted to do it and we started, that they were going to change our regime, you damn well bet we’d get nuclear weapons. Well, that’s the approach we’ve taken. We could not have increased Iranian incentives for getting nuclear weapons faster, or more effectively, than the policy we’ve used to keep to prevent them from getting them. . . .

    HH: Do you believe they would use a nuke against Israel?

    WO: Not unless Israel uses one against them. . . .

    HH: So Israel should not take unilateral action, either?

    WO: That’s up to them, but I think it’ll make it worse for them. Israel’s policies thus far have made its situation much worse. If you read all of the Israel press, you’ll find a lot of them there are firmly in my camp on this issue. And I’ve talked to many Israelis who are very sympathetic with the view I have on it. You’re making it much, much worse for Israel.

    HH: Are you familiar —

    WO: If I were an Israeli right now, given Olmert’s policies and Bush’s policies, I would fear for my life.

  5. One has to be deeply troubled by the apparently contradictory policies that the Bush-Cheney administration is pursuing in the middle-east. Within Iraq, we are supporting Shiite President Maliki, who represents a coalition of Shiite Islamic militias, such as the Mahdi army and the Badr brigade. Within Iraq, it has been the Sunnis from Al Anbar province, former Baathists and Al Qaeda, whon have been our primary adversaries and who are responsible the overwhelming majority of casualties inflicted on US servicemen and women.

    Outside of Iraq, however, the United States is more publically alligning itself with Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states some of whom have been the finiacial sponsors of the Sunni groups in Iraq killing young American men and women. Instead of engaging in dialogue with Iran and Syria, as strongly recommended by former Secretary of State James Baker, and the Iraq Study Group, the Bush-Cheney administration is actively working to overthrow the governments of both countries. Bush and Cheney are actively working to forment Sunni-Shiite regional strife in the middle-east.

    Old distrurbing patterns are repeating themselves. One is the manufacture of bogus information regarding Iran’s nuclear program by the US. Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that “much of the intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded.”


    Also just as the US in the eighties armed most of the militias that became the Taliban in Afganistan, the United States is now providing financial aid to radical Sunni groups, some trained by and affilated with Al Qaeda, is order to use them to counter the Shiite Hezbollah organization and undermine the Syrian regime of Bashir Assad. Seynor Hersh writes:

    The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of a radical Sunni movement founded in Egypt in 1928, engaged in more than a decade of violent opposition to the regime of Hafez Assad, Bashir’s father.

    ..There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.

    ..During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting “to hijack the state,” but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. “Salafis are sick and hateful, and I’m very much against the idea of flirting with them,” he said. “They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly.”

    THE REDIRECTION: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

    The policies of the Bush-Cheney administration have benefitted no one more than Al-Qaeda itself.

    Documents captured after 9/11 showed that bin Laden hoped to provoke the United States into an invasion and occupation that would entail all the complications that have arisen in Iraq. His only error was to think that the place where Americans would get stuck would be Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden also hoped that such an entrapment would drain the United States financially. Many al-Qaeda documents refer to the importance of sapping American economic strength as a step toward reducing America’s ability to throw its weight around in the Middle East.


    Vice President Cheney has been the driving force behind every disasterous decision made in Iraq. But it now looks like his greatest disasters, and ours, still lie ahead.

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