Panel at Jpost Conference 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In recent days there has been much talk of “red lines.” On the Syrian front, the
IDF’s top intelligence analyst, Brig.-Gen. Itai Brun, said that President Bashar
Assad had on several occasions used chemical weapons, including sarin gas,
against opposition forces. Brun’s assessment, made during a conference organized
by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, seemed to hint
that Assad had crossed the figurative red line US President Barack Obama had
drawn. In August, Obama said that use of chemical weapons would be a “game
changer” and hinted that a US military response would follow any such
Meanwhile, on the Iranian front, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin,
former director of Military Intelligence, warned that Israel was “headed toward
a collision course” with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program “by the
end of the year.” The Iranians, Yadlin said during the same INSS conference,
would undoubtedly cross the red line drawn by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
during his speech in September before the United Nations.
Iranian and the Syrian red lines will be the focus of The Jerusalem Post
Annual Conference entitled “Fighting for the Zionist Dream” which takes place
this Sunday at the Marriot Marquis in New York City.
Yadlin, who is
slated to address the conference and to participate in two panel discussions,
will discuss both the Syrian and Iranian red lines with other IDF and
intelligence figures of the past and present such as former IDF chief of staff
Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former Mossad head Meir Dagan, former National
Security Adviser Uzi Arad and Minister of Intelligence, International Relations
and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz.
Regarding Syria, while it is true
that use of chemical weapons is a clear violation of basic morality as well as
international law and failure to respond could, as Brun noted, “signal that
[such use] is legitimate,” the US is justifiably wary of getting bogged down in
another conflict in the Middle East based on what Secretary of State John Kerry
referred to as “inconclusive evidence.”
And while prevention of the use
of chemical weapons is a moral imperative shared by the US, Israel and most
other countries, toppling the Assad regime might lead to unwanted consequences
such as the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood or the massacre of the non-Sunni
As for the Iranian red line, Netanyahu attracted world
attention when he drew one across an image of a bomb to emphasis that the US and
other Western forces had to commit themselves to preventing the mullahs from
obtaining enough 20-percent enriched uranium to reach the “breakout point,” the
point at which they could dash from reactor-grade to bomb-grade fuel within 30 to
The problem is that Washington and Jerusalem do not necessarily
agree on when Tehran will have reached this red line. While Israel might
forecast Iran crossing this red line as soon as this summer, as Yadlin warned,
the US might push off this critical point of no return to the fall, the winter
or even to next year.
Further complicating matters is the Iranian
decision, first detected by the International Atomic Energy Agency last fall, to
divert some of the 20-percent enriched uranium in its possession into a less
worrisome oxide form.
Should this be interpreted as evidence that
Netanyahu’s red line speech or the ongoing sanctions or both have deterred the
Iranians, or, as suspected by the IAEA’s former deputy director-general for
safeguards and senior nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen, is this just an Iranian
ploy to fool the international community? There are no easy answers to these
questions and others that are sure to come up during the Post
However, some of the people most qualified to answer them
will be participants in the conference.
And while we cannot promise
clear-cut conclusions, we can promise a stimulating and well-informed discussion
of the issues.