Regional threats too strong to ignore signs of war

Analysis: Difference between ministers is not about gravity of Iranian threat, but rather when the right time would be for Israeli action.

December 6, 2011 04:15
4 minute read.
Home Front Command drill in Holon

Home Front Command drill 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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There are too many signals to ignore the possibility that war might be looming on the horizon.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that leaders are tested by their ability to make decisions that might be unpopular among their own people and around the world.

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While a possible Israeli strike against Iran was not specifically mentioned, Netanyahu’s speech over the grave of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion came just two days after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke out against Israeli unilateral action.

As Netanyahu spoke, Syria launched a Scud B missile.

While not the most sophisticated missile in its arsenal, the Scud was detected by Israeli radars, which tracked its trajectory and flight path. It was also noticed by the Israeli intelligence community, which understood President Bashar Assad’s message that he still controls his missiles and could use them against Israel or other Western targets if they try to topple his regime.

Next, came Netanyahu’s decision to hold Likud primaries by the end of January. The move, which came as a surprise, is Netanyahu’s way of reaffirming his leadership and support among his constituents.

This way, if he were to decide at a later date to attack Iran, he would be able to say that he did so as the uncontested leader of the country, or at least of Likud.

And finally, there is the Home Front Command exercise being held on Tuesday in the North and will simulate a chemical missile attack. The drill is part of the command’s annual training regimen but is also part of a series of exercises, like the one held last week to simulate a biological attack and the one that will be held next month to simulate a radioactive dirty bomb attack.

When will this war take place? No one knows yet.

While the press has been full of headlines in recent weeks about a possible Israeli strike against Iran, the cabinet has yet to make such a decision.

Contrary to what has been reported, the differences between the ministers is not over the extent or gravity of the threat – all agree Iran needs to be stopped – but rather when the right time would be for Israeli action.

Some, like Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, appear to be arguing that time is against us due to Iranian efforts to harden and disperse their facilities. Others, like Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, believe there is time at least until we know for certain that Iran is building the bomb.

The possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran has always been on the table and while it was occasionally discussed over the years, in today’s global political climate, every comment, every exercise and every political move can be interpreted as being part of the a larger Iranian-connected plot.

The mysterious explosions that rocked the Iranian missile base near Tehran last month and the Isfahan nuclear facility are part of the covert war the West is waging against Iran. Even if the explosions were not caused by sabotage, the general atmosphere in Iran is one of suspicion and fear, particularly among scientists who are involved in the country’s missile and nuclear programs.

That is why even if Israel was not behind the bombings, it has no interest in making this publicly known since it is in its interest for the Iranians to think their program is vulnerable and can be infiltrated.

The combination of these bombings, together with the beating of war drums by Netanyahu and the new round of sanctions being imposed by the West are all part of the general effort to get the Iranians to rethink their current course of action.

The problem is that all assessments in Israel are that without sanctions on the Iranian energy sector it is skeptical that the Islamic regime will stop its program no matter how hard the sanctions are and how isolated Tehran becomes around the world.

In the meantime though, Iran and its ally, Syria, are showing the world there is a price for trying to interfere in their affairs. The launching of the Scud combined with the takeover of the British Embassy in Tehran last week is their way of explaining to the world that the covert war against them will not go unanswered.

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