US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) poses with his Arab counterparts in Jeddah September 11, 2014. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel will likely have an important yet backseat role in the international coalition forming against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
That role will probably be defined by Jerusalem’s ability to provide rapid and precise intelligence support to the US-led military forces charged with making air strikes on Islamic State positions.
Israeli defense officials will not publicly confirm any plans to provide aid to the emerging war effort.
Over recent months, IDF Military Intelligence has grown by more than a thousand personnel to enable it to track the growing jihadi presence in neighboring Syria.
There is little reason to believe that this expanded intelligence- gathering capability can’t be used to assist coalition members targeting Islamic State positions across the Middle East.
In theory, Military Intelligence can turn the gaze of its spy satellites on Islamic State movements, and, as a recent Reuters report stated, can assist coalition members in carrying out accurate battle damage assessments after air strikes.
Visual intelligence is one of several forms that Israeli assistance can take.
Last year, when the IDF took the decision to expand the size of Military Intelligence, the move was driven by concerns that radical jihadi groups, particularly Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State, will one day turn their weapons on Israel, in the event that they succeed in bringing down the Assad regime. When that day comes, Israel wishes to be ready.
The original goal of the intelligence expansion was to enable IDF field units to receive the latest information on their sectors in case Israel is forced into clashes with jihadis on the Syrian border, a prospect that today appears distant.
In the meantime, however, Israel can help the West in its battle to degrade the nefarious influence of Islamic State, which represents a clear and present danger to Middle Eastern stability, and to international security as a whole.