MI chief: Next conflict will be bigger, broader, deadlier

Amos Yadlin tells Knesset FADC Syria preserving its relationship with Iran, Hizbullah; Teheran, Russia giving Syria advanced weapons.

Amos Yadlin 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Amos Yadlin 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Outgoing head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin may have initially waxed sentimental on Tuesday during his final appearance before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but the MI head later gave a stark warning regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and painted a grim portrait of what Israel’s next war could look like.
Yadlin, who will be replaced this month by Brig.- Gen. Aviv Kochavi, began his briefing by wryly noting he had dealt with “three defense ministers, two chiefs of the General Staff and two prime ministers, gone through two wars and dealt with two nuclear programs in enemy countries.”
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Many in the audience took his last comment as a wink to the air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear plant three years ago, which foreign reports have attributed to the IAF.
“There are intelligence fields that were blurry when I entered the position, a lot of black holes,” continued Yadlin. “There are far fewer such spots today.”
But Yadlin’s upbeat assessment then came to an abrupt halt.
“The next conflict, even if it is limited in scale,” warned the former IAF general, “will be much bigger, much broader, and with many more casualties than we saw in Operation Cast Lead or the Second Lebanon War.”
Such a conflict, predicted the 59-year old Yadlin, will be played out on two or more fronts; moreover, Israel’s enemies “believe that the only way to overcome Israel’s deterrence is through longrange missile fire and improving air defense capabilities.”
Pulling no punches, Yadlin warned that the cutting-edge anti-aircraft system that Syria has purchased from Russia could send the IDF and IAF’s capabilities “back to their status in the 1970s Suez years,” according to a source present at the meeting.
“With the S-300, we are talking about relatively cheap missiles – but no less deadly,” Yadlin cautioned during his foreboding address to the committee. In addition, he said, the Russians are upgrading older Syrian weapons systems to make them far more advanced.
In outlining how the weapons deal benefited Damascus, the MI chief said the Syrians are conducting “intense efforts to acquire extremely advanced weapons – so advanced that everything just off of the production line in Russia ends up in Syria.”
Yadlin also disclosed that Israel had detected the Iranians laying the groundwork for two new nuclear sites – but did not reveal their locations.
“Iran is the greatest threat to Israel and to the well-being of the entire region,” he said.
And in an ominous note, Yadlin informed the committee that Iran already had enough uranium enriched to 20 percent to make one nuclear bomb – and before long, enough for two nuclear devices.
“Iran’s progression towards a bomb is slower than they had hoped for,” advised the general. “They are running into quite a few problems. But Iran is also taking radical action regarding the transfer of money, technology, weapons and intelligence.”
Yadlin pointed out that with 3,000 to 4,000 centrifuges in operation, Iran could very easily make the leap from civilian-grade enriched uranium to the higher enrichment required for building a nuclear explosive device.
Ending on a more positive note, Yadlin said Teheran had run into difficulties developing the Ashura missile, intended to have a range exceeding 2,000 kilometers and widely thought to be the planned delivery system for a nuclear bomb.
The missile was supposed to be operational by end of 2010, but Teheran has run into “technological difficulties they have not been able to overcome.”