Is the IDF ready for possible interstate war with Iran?

Trump’s "Game of Thrones" with Jerusalem has left Israel even more exposed to Iran.

By
December 13, 2017 22:20
Revolutionary Guard

Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Israel has been left abandoned by the United States to deal alone with the Shi’ite Iranian, Russian and Turkish axis. Former US president Barack Obama’s American isolationism, which President Donald Trump is following, continues to focus on hollow and meaningless gestures.

Trump’s declaration has not only been detrimental to the unity of Jerusalem but this declaration harms Israel’s attempt to form an informal coalition with Sunni states.

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In contrast to Trump, Russia and Iran’s strategies were astounding.

While correctly reading the map, Iran has been remarkably successful in developing into an effective regional power. A power that constantly expands its power and influence.

Iran views Israel as a hindrance to its hegemony in the Middle East, and in general. In this context, the Iranian superpower reached a crossroads.

Is direct military conflict an option for Iran and Israel in the foreseeable future? The issue of direct confrontation between Israel and Iran is critical especially in the light of the IDF’s power buildup in recent years.

Over the last 20 years IDF relay on the assumption that there is a reality of low-intensity fighting against guerrilla forces and interstate wars are no longer an option.



The ayatollah’s regime presents itself as a revolutionary Muslim regime that ostensibly has the revolutionary spirit as oil in its bones. In reality, the ayatollah’s regime is pragmatic in the realization of its objectives and has undergone a number of significant fundamental processes that have brought it to the decisive point before us.

The Khomeini revolution underwent three fundamental stages:

The Defensive phase – The long stage of defense included dealing with threats from within and without, including the Iraq-Iran war. This stage since the beginning of the Khomeini revolution continued about thirty years until 2009 when the ayatollahs faced the threat of civil disobedience that preceded the Arab Spring several years before. After the suppression of this short “Iranian Spring,” the ayatollahs became even more anxious to find ways to cope with the unrest among their citizens.

The Establishment phase – After the suppression of the signs of rebellion, Iran succeeded in reaching the second stage of the Khomeinist revolution - the stage of establishment. The consolidation phase included restoring the economy, advancing military capabilities in various areas, including long-range missiles and developing nuclear capabilities, sowing seeds throughout the Middle East of Shiite proxies and others. Such proxies have been cultivated and nurtured for decades in Lebanon – Hezbollah, Yemen – and beyond the Middle East, such as Australia, Argentina and even Africa. Armament and influence.

The Proactive Imperialism phase – The rise of Trump that continued Obama’s stuttering isolationism, which left Russia as the only effective global power in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

While Israel has good reasons for its exclusive dependence on the United States, Iran has succeeded in joining the relevant power – Russia. So that Iran, with the help Russia, ISIS, Obama and Tramp, has significantly progressed the phase of proactive imperialism. In eyes of the ayatollahs’ regime, the development of nuclear capabilities and the imperialist behavior are not for the sake of sheer power but an essential means of preserving the survival of their regime.

The Iranians’ success in moving from defense to proactive imperialism may lead to one of three options. A very unlikely possibility is that the regime’s growing sense of success and security will lead to the improvement of its relations with the West and the minimize hostility with the US (similar to Vietnam and China becoming a market economy oriented countries).

Another possibility with particularly high chances of realization, is that the Iranian regime will choose to continue the slow but determine quest of the regime’s regional domination while striving to complete its nuclear capabilities.

This option means delaying a full-scale conflict with Israel or US to much later time. This option may be considered a continuance controlled conflict similar to the West conflicts with North Korea and somewhat to the conflict with Russia. The third possibility is also has a significant probability – moving to an aggressive position vis-à-vis those who threaten the expansion of Iranian hegemony – Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – thereby increasing the risk of a direct conflict.

As far as Israel is concerned, all the possibilities and the continued trend of Iranian buildup are very dangerous.

Iran, under certain Russian patronage, and with the help of its proxies, poses a direct and effective military threat to the State of Israel in a way that the IDF has not really fully prepared for.

Over the last twenty years, the IDF has been building low-intensity warfare capabilities designed against terrorist organizations – the Shi’ite crescent led by Iran can bring a fullscale state-level military to the Golan Heights and the borders of Israel within days or weeks. It is not clear neither to Iran nor to most Israelis how Israel will react if Iran suddenly decides to include armored divisions, long-range artillery and missiles about 5 to 40 km. from the Israeli border.

There is no way of knowing whether the Iranians might choose dramatic moves that would constitute a direct military threat to Israel. Therefore Israel should make sure that Iran realizes that there will be high price to pay for its aggressive moves. Establishing such deterrence requires the execution of basic processes.

Resources – While Israel has about eight million residents, in Iran there are more than 80 million. The GNP of Iran is four times that of Israel.

Land access to the enemy border – While Iran’s land army can be found within a few days on Israel’s borders, Israel has no practical way of bringing divisions close to Iran’s borders.

Super Power Support
– While Iran’s sponsor is emerging global superpower Russia, Israel is totally dependent on the United States. Although the mightiest of all powers, the US has been making its way towards separatism for nine years of two administrations.

Building the Force
– Since Israel has focused in the past few decades on the war on terrorism (low intensity), the concept that Israel no longer faces a state threat must be updated. It is quite likely that Israel is facing a military-military threat to all intents and purposes from its northern border. From now on, Israel is required to be prepared for a battle against a state army accompanied by highly motivated commando fighters of Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias. A fundamental condition for deterring the Iranians is that Israel has significant and effective ground military capabilities that can successfully engage in full-scale interstate war.

IDF Preparedness – The Yom Kippur War is supposed to be a disruptive event in Israel’s national security concept. From the purely military point of view, the IDF failed on several issues that were deficient in the IDF’s preparations for the war. Alarmingly, the IDF repeated the same serious failures in the Second Lebanon War and even in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

In order to deter Iran, Israel must show that it knows how to deal with these and similar failures:

Ground forces – Armored warfare and tank hunters. Israel lost dozens of tanks during the Second Lebanon War when faced with limited forces of Hezbollah fighters as tank hunters – in fact the Second Lebanon War repeated in this sense the failures of the Yom Kippur War when Egyptian commando tank hunters also caused substantial damage to Israel’s armored force. It is quite possible that the Israeli military will have to fight this time with the Iranian tanks accompanied by Hezbollah tank hunters.

Logistic preparedness
– Lack of equipment and a dysfunctional communications network. In both the Yom Kippur War and the Lebanon War, the IDF came to war with embarrassing equipment shortages and flawed logistical ability. If it was not enough that the soldiers arrived on the battlefield unequipped the some of the communication technologies were inefficient. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israel was missing ammunition in the battlefield against Hamas terrorists on a strip with a maximum width of 4 km. for about 50 days. Unless a basic topic such IDF logistics are solved – deterring Iran will be difficult.

The Air Force – Air Force’s handling of the ground-to-air missile (GTAM). In the Yom Kippur War for various reasons, the IAF was not properly dealt with GTAM, thus effectively undermining the capabilities of the air force to assist the ground forces and achieve other targets. In spite of Israel’s efforts, Iran and Hezbollah were able to equip themselves with the S-300S SA-17 missiles.

If these missiles appear in a significant numbers on the scene the IAF may be forced to deal with them. Will the failure to deal with these surface-to-air missiles on Yom Kippur repeat itself as the other failures have repeated? The effect in the Israeli home front – precision missiles falling on Tel Aviv and Powerplants, the use of anti-tank missiles, raids and takeover of kibbutzim, strongholds and strategic junctions - all have not taken place in the wars of Israel in the past 50 years.

Is there any meaningful way to prepare for it?

The head of the snake - because Iran to a large extent is a country serving a regime - the Ayatollah regime, this is also the weak point of Iran.

Deterrence by “targeted assassination” – Some Arab states are entirely based on the rule of one family representing a minority such as the Assad family and the Alawites in Syria and Saddam’s family in Iraq. The Iranian regime is different and relies on a broad base of a Shiite majority of Iran and organizational structure, including the Revolutionary Guards. We can assume that elimination of individual personalities will not result in significant harm to the regime’s ability to keep its power.

Deterrence by promoting counterrevolutionaries against the regime – Democratic states are not very successful in forcing authoritarian changes in totalitarian and autocratic states. That is true also when a democracies conduct a physical conquest of the target countries. Such occupation also often brings chaos or even worst regime than the one which was eliminated. We all need to remember that the conquest of Iraq and its liberation from the burden of Saddam led to the expansion of ISIS.

Deterrence by a direct threat to Iranian soil – Underground currents in Iran that have raised their heads in 2009 and have expressed relatively broad public disobedience may still be submerged. Until now, Israel has not ensured that Iran believes that a significant strike on Israel would lead to a direct Israeli threat to Tehran. Implicit threats by Israel were focused only on Iran nuclear facilities and missiles factories.

In order to create deterrence, Israel must seriously consider military and awareness-raising measures as a threat to Iran. Iran should realize that in the event of a full-scale war by proxy (Hezbollah, Shia militias) or even massive invasion by Iranian ground forces in Syria – Israel would pose a direct threat to the regime in Tehran. If Ben Gurion Airport Bombed by Hezbollah on behalf of the Iranians and the Kirya becomes a heap of rubble as part of Ramat Gan in 1991 – will Tehran remain intact?

The author is a researcher at the International Counter-Terrorism Institute in Herzliya specialized in deterrence strategies.

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