Iran is facing growing economic and domestic pressure due to international
sanctions, but Tehran believes that the chances of a military strike on its
nuclear program is low, IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi
told the Herzliya Conference on Thursday.
Kochavi said Iran was facing
growing economic strains due to the sanctions, including oil exports that have
nearly halved, a 60-percent inflation rate, and rising unemployment.
vehicle [manufacturing] sector, which is the largest sector in the Iranian
economy, dropped by 60%,” Kochavi said. The regime is facing growing domestic
criticism due to the economic pressure, he added.
“I believe the weight
from the sanctions is becoming an increasingly decisive element in the Iranian
decision-making process, but it has not yet caused them to change their
[nuclear] policy,” he said.
“We believe Iran will continue to develop its
nuclear program, and intelligently deal with pressure from the street and the
international community,” he continued.
“The regime believes there is not
a high probability for an attack on it.”
In 2013, Iran will continue to
advance its nuclear program and will offer no major concessions during talks
with the international community in the coming year, Kochavi stated, adding that
the Iranian leadership would like to find itself in the position of being able
to break out to an atomic weapon stage in a short period of time, according to
the IDF’s intelligence assessments. However, he said that Iran has not yet
decided to build the bomb.
Addressing the situation in Syria, Kochavi
noted that the Syrian air force is carrying out 40-50 sorties a week, and that
the Assad regime has fired 70 Scud and M-600 missiles so far since the conflict
erupted. An additional 600 rockets with warheads carrying 250 kilograms of
explosives have been fired.
Assad’s allies, Iran and Hezbollah, know that
the Syrian dictator’s fate is sealed, Kochavi said, and have flooded Syria with
a militia consisting of 50,000 fighters.
As the Middle East continues to
convulse from destabilizing developments, Israel, for the first time, finds
itself facing four active terrorism borders: Lebanon, Syria, Sinai, and the Gaza
“This is a different reality,” Kochavi told the
The threat of terrorist attacks abroad, generated by Hezbollah
and Iran, is also high, and several such attacks have been thwarted. Meanwhile,
Sunni global jihadi terrorist organizations are proliferating in Syria and the
“The threat of a security deterioration, caused either
by us attacking, or a terrorist attack on us... is growing,” Kochavi
Turning his attention to the Palestinian arena, the intelligence
chief said Hamas used Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 to base itself as a
regional and dominant player, and to strengthen its claim that it is “leading
the resistance” against Israel.
Hamas sustained serious damage during the
conflict, but it received support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and
It is currently holding up its end of the truce in
order to pursue what Kochavi described as a “strategic-diplomatic track” aimed
at taking over the West Bank through a reconciliation with the Palestinian
“The quiet we are experiencing is only in place because Hamas
wants this. It is deterred [by Israel], and needs time to recover. It has a deep
obligation to Egypt, which enabled the [truce] agreement,” Kochavi
Hamas is rearming itself with rockets in Gaza, but at a slower pace
than before, because of limitations it is facing.
President Mahmoud Abbas is in a “complicated trap,” Kochavi said. The round of
violence in November has shown that “he’s not relevant,” and that “Hamas is
growing in strength.” The PA is in a difficult economic situation.
are no negotiations and no diplomatic horizon, he added.
As a result,
Abbas is “waiting to see what will be the stance of the United States and
Israel faces a total of 200,000 rockets and missiles directed at
it by its enemies, Kochavi said during his closing remarks.
short-range, though I wouldn’t underestimate those. Some have a range of
45 kilometers. There are thousands of rockets with ranges of 200-300
kilometers. And dozens of long-range missiles,” he said.
entities such as Hezbollah are seeking to improve the accuracy and range of
their firepower, and searching for ways to overcome Israel’s air
Hamas and Hezbollah also plan to direct rockets at IDF ground
forces in any future conflict.
On the other hand, the Hezbollah-
Syria-Iran axis is at an all-time low, and Sunni states prone to radicalization
are restrained by economic factors, according to Kochavi’s
Israeli deterrence remains high in the region. Yet, the
radical jihadi elements that are infiltrating the area are less prone to that
deterrence, he warned, adding that the region is currently being defined by
instability and uncertainty.
Military Intelligence’s advice to the
Israeli government is not to make decisions based on temporary and unstable
trends, he concluded.
In light of the fundamental changes sweeping the
area, Kochavi said, Military Intelligence is reformatting itself as well, with
the goal of the changes being to generate “more intelligence in more arenas.”