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Israeli aggression towards Iran shows fear, not strength

Donald Forbes
January 6, 2022

Israel's recent aggressive stance towards both its Iranian enemies and US allies is indicative of their fear of what a resurgent Iran may bring, writes Donald Forbes.

Israel, smelling betrayal by the United States over Iran's nuclear status, is ramping up pressure on both its archenemy in Tehran and its paper ally in Washington by threatening to attack Iran's nuclear sites in defiance of the US.

This is an abrupt change of policy by Israel's new coalition government led by Naftali Bennet, that supposedly set out to be more co-operative with Washington than former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Suspicion has arisen that the Americans have gone behind Israel's back to negotiate secretly with Iran over the revival of President Obama's agreement with mullahs to slow their nuclear programme.

If true, it means the Americans never really abandoned the negotiations that failed in Vienna last year. These ostensibly collapsed when the US walked away, accusing the Iranians of reneging on the process. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that no options were off the table until Iran's position softened.

Israel now believes this threat was a bluff to mislead it while President Biden pursued a secret deal with Iran which can only be harmful to Israel's long term security.

It has long pledged to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Its new belligerence is dictated by the fear that Israel's survival is in greater danger than at any time since the Yom Kippur war in 1973 when a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria brought it to the brink of defeat.

This fear has prompted defence minister Benny Ganz to warn the Americans that he has ordered the Israeli force to prepare for an attack to destroy Iran's scattered nuclear installations, some of which are located in bomb-proof underground bunkers. Air force chief General Tomer Bar said he was ready "to attack Iran tomorrow if necessary" and that he expected to receive an order to do it.

Their message was received in Iran, which replied through an article in the English-language Tehran Times. It showed a map of the targets in Israel which Iran would hit in retaliation. "Just One Wrong Move!" the headline warned. Iran announced it had successfully carried out a mock missile attack on Israel's Dimona nuclear site in the Negev desert.

Given Israel's dependence on the US, Ganz and Bar are talking about a huge gamble against adverse odds. Israel is tiny in size and population compared to Iran which has a greater ability to withstand an exchange of air strikes and missiles. Iran is situated at the extreme of the range of the Israeli air forces without mid-air refuelling capacity which it does not possess. Iran could survive an all-out air war, Israel less so.

The circumstances suggest Ganz and Bar are shadow boxing in order to test the strength of President Biden's pro-Iranian policy and appeal to the American public in hopes of tying his hands. Although many Democrats are hostile to Israel, Republicans and a majority of Americans opposed Obama's 2015 deal until President Trump annulled it three years later because Iran cheated.

The power and resolve of the Israeli military are well proven. But there are doubts it has the military capacity to do more on its own than set back Iran's nuclear development while risking a lethal Iranian response. Were the installations to be destroyed, Iran would simply rebuild.

The mullahs have deployed hundreds of precision guided missiles on their own territory and in southern Lebanon which could overwhelm Israeli's Iron Dome anti-missile defences. Enough missiles could penetrate the dome and hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as military installations.

Israel looks as if it has been caught in a trap between the West – which clings to the belief that a solution to the Palestinian conflict is the key to Middle East peace – and the intransigence of the mullahs.

Much of the West including the United States under Democratic government is ambiguous about the depth of its commitment to Israel whose weakness may be an opportunity to finally force a settlement with the Palestinians.

Everything now hinges on the outcome of the efforts to bring the Obama agreement back from the dead and Israel's willingness to accept the inevitability of a nuclear Iran. The growing Iranian missile arsenal within easy reach of Israel through proxies in Lebanon and Syria means the balance of power is swinging inexorably in its favour.

Can the mullahs be persuaded to guarantee Israel's security in return for a peace settlement between Israel and the hardliner-led Palestinians who have hitherto been dedicated to "driving Israel into the sea". What would it cost and who would pay? Could the Iranians be trusted?

This has the appearance of a Gordian situation with both the West and Israel being subject to Iran's will. It is exacerbated by the readiness of both Obama and now Biden to appease Iran at any cost which may include the survival of Israel as it has existed since 1948.


Donald is a retired journalist who wrote for the Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, and Reuters. He was a chief correspondent in Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Donald now regularly writes for The Conservative Woman.

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