IDF has been fighting solo. Now, Israel's not going at it alone anymore

Right from Wrong: In fairness to Israel’s top man-in-uniform, there were signs suggesting that Jerusalem would have to go it alone in any actual confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi [L] with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett  (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi [L] with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett
What a difference a new decade makes. The first to admit it might be IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who just over two weeks ago expressed disappointment with Washington’s Mideast activities, or lack thereof.
In his first major speech on Israel’s military preparedness and future challenges, Kochavi – who assumed his role exactly a year ago – issued a veiled criticism of US President Donald Trump, particularly in relation to Iran.
Reiterating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mantra about the real and present danger posed by Tehran’s fierce pursuit of nuclear warheads and ongoing development of long-range precision missiles with the ability to reach Israel, Kochavi said, “It would be better if we weren’t the only ones responding militarily” to the concrete threat.
In fairness to Israel’s top man-in-uniform, there were signs suggesting that Jerusalem would have to go it alone in any actual confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
In the first place, the IDF has been fighting solo for years against Iranian proxy groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, with the former directly commanded and controlled by the mullahs in Tehran, and the latter receiving moral and financial support from the same source.
Secondly, in October Trump announced that he was pulling US troops out of northern Syria. It was a move that not only concerned many of his supporters at home and abroad, but promptly ushered in a Turkish invasion of the area, which included the mass murder of America’s Kurdish allies.
Third, though Trump kept his campaign promise to rip up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the “Iran nuclear deal” signed with world powers in 2015 – and stepped up sanctions on the regime in Tehran – he has been signaling to his base that he has no intention of dispatching American soldiers to the Middle East only for them to return home in body bags.
But the doubters weren’t taking into account that Trump made no such commitment about military operations targeting arch-terrorists, such as the October 26-27 raid that led to the suicide of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nor did he rule out airstrikes like the one last week that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Nor have the naysayers given Trump enough credit for being consistent in echoing Netanyahu’s pledge to prevent Iran from completing the nuclear-weapons program that it never abandoned.
Of equal, if not greater, importance is the fact that in the three years since his entrance into Oval Office, Trump and his team never have questioned IDF actions in Gaza or Syria. Regardless of the operation, whether overt or covert, the White House and State Department repeatedly have reaffirmed Israel’s moral right and duty to defend itself against the pernicious forces bent on its annihilation.
In other words, support for Israeli from the Trump administration is there unequivocally, and has been all along. Ridiculing Trump for “pandering” to his base in an election year, then, is wrong. It is the president’s job to implement the will of the majority; it is on this basis that he garners votes. You know, as it should be in a democracy.
The good news is that while most Americans suffer from war-aversion when it comes to their own soldiers – something that tends to translate into isolationism – they are passionately pro-Israel. They also recognize the Jewish state’s need to fight existential battles, and champion its bravado in doing so.
In addition, US citizens who put Trump in office are extremely patriotic, which is why they don’t take kindly to having their embassies attacked by Islamists chanting “Death to America,” as happened in Iraq on December 31, for instance. Nor did any American other than the leftists in the Democratic Party mourn the demise of Al-Baghdadi or Soleimani.
This is not to say that they weren’t worried about the retaliation that Iran announced would be severe. But when it finally arrived, in the form of missile attacks on Tuesday night, it entered with more of a whimper than a bang. As radical as the mullahs and their puppets are, they’re not stupid. And their realization that Trump is no longer letting them get away with the chicken game they have been playing in the Persian Gulf instilled in them the kind of fear that deterrence is made of.
SO, THOUGH they were forced to save face among the members of their public who wept crocodile tears for Soleimani – and needed to convey a message of “tyrannical business as usual” to anti-regime Iranians – the powers-that-be in Tehran made sure that their missiles missed a mark that would have brought the full wrath of Uncle Sam down upon their heads.
As a result, Trump was able to deliver a triumphant announcement on Wednesday, aimed at his own people, as well as at those calling the shots in Iran and their subjugated populace.
He began by stressing that “no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” and that “only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.”
He went on to make two points: that US troops “are prepared for anything,” and that “Iran appears to be standing down” – which he called “a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
He then proceeded to issue a reminder and warning to Tehran by stating, “For far too long – all the way back to 1979, to be exact – nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.
Those days are over. Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.”
After listing Soleimani’s acts of death and destruction – as a way of letting Americans know that eliminating him was necessary – he gave an outline of American policy.
“As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,” he said. “These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.... Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism.”
Calling on the other P5+1 countries that signed the JCPOA to join him in withdrawing from it, he declared, “The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China... [to] break away from the remnants of the Iran deal... and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.... Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred and war.
The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward.”
To help in this endeavor, he added, he is “going to ask NATO to become much more involved.”
This indicated that his open intolerance for “freeloaders” is as intact as his utter contempt for the UN and understanding that it is no address for holding state sponsors of terrorism accountable. The contrast to his predecessor, Iran-deal-supplicant and chief ayatollah-appeaser Barack Obama, is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Trump ended his “stick-it-to-you” speech with a carrot. Addressing the “people and leaders of Iran,” he concluded, “We want you to have a... great future – one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”
His left-wing critics across the globe don’t believe that he wants peace. Conservatives in the US and Israel are nervous that he is being naïve about the true nature of Shi’ite ideology in general and that of the Iranian regime in particular – and that his announcement is evidence that he is easing up on his tough posture.
None of the above is accurate. What his speech revealed is that he is willing and able to combat Tehran, but would prefer not to launch a full-fledged war. It also contained an inherent aspiration for the Iranian people to topple the regime.
This is a positive development that Netanyahu has acknowledged and from which Kochavi should glean encouragement. Indeed, it seems that Israel will not have to go it alone after all.