Foreign-policy experts predict that an Iranian attack on Israel is just a matter of time
November 15, 2019
(JNS)—As Iranians took to the streets this week to commemorate 40 years since the U.S. embassy takeover in 1979, Iran announced new violations of the nuclear deal it signed in 2015. The rogue Islamic Republic admitted that it now operates 60 advanced IR-6 centrifuges and is working on a new type of centrifuge that will work 50 times faster than what is currently permitted under the deal.
This announcement comes after Iran has engaged in attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities, shooting down an American drone, and, of course, its ongoing and aggressive efforts to build a war machine against Israel in Syria and elsewhere.
For its part, on Monday the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctionsagainst nine Iranian military commanders and officials. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions in an effort to curb the regime’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and around the globe.
Regardless, Tehran has continued to engage in destabilization efforts and heavily supports terror activity and weapons buildup in the Middle East.
Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and currently an analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and a fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, told JNS that the Iranians want to remain far away from the Jewish state, but at the same time build “a ring of fire” around it. Iran supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and the terror organization is estimated to have as many as 100,000 missiles. Iran is also trying hard to create an independent war machine in Syria, which Israel has been working to dismantle. According to foreign and some Israeli reports, Israel has struck 300 targets in Syria so far.
According to Amidror, Iran realized that Israel has been succeeding in Syria, so it began to build a branch of its independent war machine in Iraq, taking advantage of the fact that the Iraqis don’t have total control of some parts of their land. For Iran, the idea is to have a military capability close to Israel, while it itself remains at a distance.
“An interesting question,” Amidror said, “is what should Israel’s reaction be in such a situation? We know the head of the snake is in Iran. Will Israel go after targets in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Yemen? Or will we go directly to the head of the snake?”
Iran has the capability to attack Israel from multiple locations, including Lebanon and Syria—and now Iraq and possibly Yemen—as Netanyahu mentioned recently.
‘This will be complicated’
Eytan Gilboa, professor and director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, told JNS that a number of elements have changed recently that impact Israel’s preparedness and decision-making.
First, Iran attacked the Saudi oil fields. Second, the United States withdrew from Syria. And third, Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf were not met with any aggressive American answer.
“We also see Islamic Jihad in Gaza, on orders from Iran, trying to sabotage and undermine the situation there,” he said.
Like Amidror, Gilboa noted that Israel has been trying to prevent Iran from building another front in Syria, saying “this strategy has been extended to Iraq.”
He laid out the current state of affairs from Israel’s perspective. According to Gilboa, “it is obvious, for all kinds of reasons, that Iran would not attack Israel directly from its own territory. Iran lost some of the surprise that could have been inflicted on Israel had it not used cruise missiles against Saudi Arabia.”
Israel is preparing adequate answers to this kind of threat as it expects Iran to attack it with precision-guided cruise missiles and drones.
Gilboa suggested that the components of Israeli strategy must first be to reveal Iran’s plan. Then, Israel must threaten direct and severe retaliation. Finally, Israel must make it clear that Syria and Lebanon will pay the price if attacks on Israel originate on their soil.
“If Iran orders Nasrallah to attack Israel, this will be complicated,” said Gilboa. “In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel distinguished between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah. This is no longer the case. If Israel comes under attack, it will attack Lebanon, including Hezbollah. The same is true for Syria. Israel is trying to persuade [Syrian President] Basher Assad and Russia that if Israel comes under attack from Syria, it is Assad who will pay the price.”
Additionally, continued Gilboa, Israel must inform Russia of potential Israeli action after any attack by Iran. “These exchanges of fire between Israel and Iranian attempts to build a base in Syria is completely not in Russia’s interest, and this is why Russia is not protesting Israeli military actions in Syria,” he said.
Israel should work to procure an American statement of support and must coordinate with the United States to announce that attacks on Israel will trigger American action.
“On the face of it,” Gilboa said, “these components should create some level of deterrence. Israel’s main strategy is to create deterrence or at least limit any potential Iranian attack.”
If Iran does indeed attack, there will have to be a massive retaliation against Iranian interests.
According to Gilboa, Europe should not be expected to join in the fight against Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and support of global terrorism. They are “stupid and deaf,” he charged, and only trying to appease Iran.
Both Amidror and Gilboa agree that Iran is certainly bent on Israel in its crosshairs.
“Confrontation between Iran and Israel is unavoidable,” said Gilboa. “There is great probability for some Iranian military action; this is something Israel is preparing for.”
“Our assumption,” said Amidror, “is not a question of if, but when.”