'Only military action will stop Iran'

INSS ME Strategic Balance report also advises not to ignore Syrian overtures.

eiland 248.88   (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
eiland 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Warning that the recent war in Lebanon damaged Israel's level of deterrence, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University released its annual Middle East Strategic Balance on Tuesday with one major conclusion: "Without military action, an Iranian nuclear bomb is only a matter of time." The report's determination concerning Iran was first reported exclusively in The Jerusalem Post. According to the think tank, Israel is capable of carrying out a military strike against Iran on its own.
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    Known as a "bible" for military analysts, the book says the war against Hizbullah severely degraded Israel's deterrence and revealed several basic "weaknesses and flaws in the IDF and the decision-making echelon in the Israeli government." Concerning Iran, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland - a member of the INSS, formerly known as the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies - said that if the US or Israel wanted to stop the Islamic republic's nuclear program, it "should have attacked the nuclear facilities in Iran yesterday, or tomorrow [at] the latest." A former head of the National Security Council, Eiland said that if Israel decided to attack Iran, it would need to coordinate the action with the US. The lack of diplomatic progress with the Palestinians combined with Teheran's continuing efforts to obtain nuclear weapons has weakened Israel's strategic standing in the Middle East, according to the book, authored by INSS head Zvi Shtauber and former IAF Intelligence officer Yiftah Shapir. "This year was marked by Israel not finding a solution to the Palestinian issue, not stopping Iran, and the failure of the world's war against terrorism," Shtauber, a retired brigadier general and former ambassador to the United Kingdom, said during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. "The reality did not develop like we had hoped it would," Shtauber said, adding that the United States' failure to stabilize Iraq had also contributed to the dangerous situation brewing in the Middle East. On the Lebanese front, the report says that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 has not prevented the rearmament of Hizbullah, which is currently working to topple the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. The book predicts that quiet will prevail along the northern border in the near term but says the war this past summer strengthened Israel's enemies, who saw it as a victory. "Arab states now realize that Israel's strength is limited," said Eiland, a member of the INSS, adding that as a result these countries might be tempted to take military action they never would have dreamed of six months ago. Regarding Syria, the book says that while President Bashar Assad is "weak" and it is doubtful if he can "deliver the goods," Israel should seriously consider peace overtures coming from Damascus. "Syria is examining its options in order to improve its strategic position," Shtauber said. "One of those ways is by opening negotiations with Israel." According to the report, Hamas is currently interested in quiet with Israel to help to stabilize its regime in the Palestinian Authority. But Hamas is finding it difficult to rein in splinter terror groups, which could cause an eruption in violence, the report continues. Saudi Arabia was the top arms buyer in the Middle East between 2001 and 2004, with arms deliveries totalling $19 billion. Israel did not sign any major deals in 2006, the report found, except for the purchase of two Dolphin-class submarines from Germany, first reported in the Post. Egypt does not appear to be on the verge of acquiring new combat aircraft, the report states. The Egyptian Navy is in the process of buying three fast missile patrol craft under development in the US for $565 million.