Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

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Does China have its sights set on naval dominance?

January 21, 2014

Not in the near term, surely, but recent reports indicate that the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) has medium and long term goals that are well beyond regional command.   While the US Navy remains well ahead of China both quantitatively and qualitatively, the diffusion of technology is narrowing the qualitative gap, and the shrinking of US military budgets is narrowing it quantitatively.  Indeed, budget woes are also threatening the qualitative edge – basic R&D and the military industrial base itself are endangered, some claim.

The answer is going to have to be more burden sharing amongst our allies.  Japan is under direct threat from Chinese missile advances – at least 1000 missiles are currently targeted at Tokyo alone, and China plans on building 50,000 new missiles per year in the near future.   Another US ally on the other side of the world – Israel – is also under constant threat of missile attack and has developed systems and tactics to defeat them.  A three way relationship between the US, Israel and Japan combining the technological prowess of all three with the operational experience of Israel should be able to build a real counter to this threat without breaking the budget of any one nation.

In the near and medium terms, at least, if real missile defense can be mastered, then the most serious Chinese naval threat can be muted, and buy another few decades when the US Navy does not have to contest for global control of the seas.

 

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How will development of new natgas fields impact the Middle East?

October 28, 2013

Not much, argues Paul Rivlin of Israel’s Dayan Center (pdf):

” . . . even if Cyprus and Israel (and later perhaps Lebanon and Syria) decide to export gas it will not be a game-changer. Much of the speculation about dramatic changes in the strategic balance because of East Mediterranean gas has been exaggerated. The benefits to an industrialized country like Israel will be substantial if the revenues are used for investment rather than consumption, and a stronger economy will strengthen the country’s strategic position too. This will also be true for other countries in the region if they use the revenues correctly. These kinds of gains will be more significant than some of the grandiose export schemes that have been proposed.

In other words, Rivlin sees real potential for local economic benefits, but little chance that gas will re-order the geopolitical landscape.  Indeed, the gas bounty might well increase tensions as everyone vies for a larger piece of the pie.

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Geopolitical ramifications of Israeli natural gas production

April 10, 2013

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs presents a new analysis of The Geopolitics of Israel’s Offsore Gas Reserves.   Late in the last decade, oil & gas exploration companies discovered several oil and gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  The nations of Lebanaon, Syria, Turkey and Cyprus might all eventually benefit from the finds, but the biggest fields lie in Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

undiscovered

At the end of last month, Israel began transiting to onshore facilities the first gas from the Tamar field.  While the gas fields hold the promise of energy security and increased national prosperity, they also present a host of new targets for Israel’s enemies and will require a restructuring of Israel’s existing defense assets as well as the purchase of new ones – in particular, Israel will require a new navy and perhaps a new Red Sea fleet.

Read the whole thing.

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The Palestinian Emirates: An 8-State Solution for Peace in the Holy Land?

December 7, 2012

Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University is an expert on Arab history, literature and demography.  Kedar, like many others, believe that the “two state solution” to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is doomed to failure.  In its place, he proposes the creation of a virtual “Palestinian Emirates,” a chain of independent Palestinian city-states that would claim sovereignty over the eight major Palestinian population centers.  It is an interesting plan that could at once gain a sovereign future and economic development for the Arabs and genuine long term security for Israel.  Kedar maintains a website promoting his idea, PalestinianEmirates.com, from which the following description is taken:

Successful Arab leadership must be independent, local and firmly rooted with a traditional and homogenous sociological foundation. Israel and the world should recognize and support local leadership in the Arab Palestinian population centers that desire lasting peaceful relations as independent city-states. Because of ongoing corruption and an overt anti-Israel agenda, the leaders of the PLO, PA/Fatah and Hamas have devoted almost a half century in a futile attempt to eliminate Israel and destroy all that her citizens have accomplished.

The eight city-states would comprise the areas of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Tul-Karm, Kalkilya, the Arab part of Hebron and the Gaza strip. Local residents would become citizens of these eight independent countries. Any Arab leadership that attempts to circumvent or dominate the development of these Palestinian Emirates would inhibit a future of security and economic opportunity for the citizens of these eight independent countries

The above excerpt is just a taste; read the whole thing.

 

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Israeli assault on Gaza

November 16, 2012

For all it’s bluff and bluster, the only real strategic military options that Iran has are Hamas and Hezbollah.  If Israel or the US attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the main retaliations will come first via an attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz and second via attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.  It is only the latter that directly impacts Israel.

For that reason, it seems to me that an Israeli assault on Gaza would be a necessary (though not sufficient) precursor to a strike on Iran.

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US, Israeli options for strike on Iran

November 8, 2011

Alexander Wilner at the Center for Strategic & Intelligence Studies (CSIS) has put together a very thorough analysis of the military balance of power between Iran on the one side and the US and Israel on the other (pdf here).  As Iran appears close to full development of nuclear weapon capability, the pressure on Israel to respond to what it sees as a truly existential threat is growing.  Israeli leaders cannot sit by and do nothing; their history and their strategic position demands action.  However, while Israel certainly has the theoretical capability to hit Iran, the reality of the situation is that they will have to traverse potentially hostile skies all the way to Iran and back.  Also, although they have the ability to hit Iran, it is an open question whether they have the ability to deliver a devastating blow without resorting to their own nuclear arsenal (I tend to think not).

Wilner assesses Israel’s capability to conduct both a conventional and a nuclear strike on Iran.  In either case, the likely outcomes are suboptimal both from a pure military as well as a global opinion point of view.

If a military strike is to be made, it has to be the US that conducts it.  Wilner lays out the array of choices before US policymakers.  There are six basic options:

  • Demonstrative, coercive or deterrent strikes – a very small number of cruise missile strikes to demonstrate US seriousness and possible willingness to escalate should Iran comply with demands
  • Limited US attacks – dozens of cruise missile and attack aircraft strikes designed to destroy are critically damage 2 or 3 major nuclear and/or missile facilities
  • Major attacks on missile and nuclear targets – hundreds of strikes over a number of days designed to destroy or critically damage a wide array of nuclear and/or missile facilities
  • Major attacks on military and civilian targets – 1000 to 2500 strikes to destroy nuclear/missile facilities, “technological bases” such as universities, and critical military and asymmetric warfare functions.
  • Delay and then strike – lay the foundation for any of the above options, but wait for further evidence and/or allied support
  • Ride out Iranian proliferation – a number of defensive/deterrent options, such as publicly announcing the nuclear targeting of Iranian sites, encouraging Israel to also make such a declaration, aiding Saudi Arabia in the acquisition of a nuclear deterrent, building anti missile capability in GCC nations, etc.

Wilner goes over each option in much more detail.  I believe that the Obama administration will take military action against Iran in the coming months, and I strongly recommend this report to anyone who wants to understand the problems and potentials that will inform that decision.

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Turkey seeks to preempt potential Israeli gas bonanza

October 27, 2011

Last year, the USGS assessed the potential energy bounty of billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily around Israel.    Since its inception, Israel has had the misfortune of being one of the very few Middle Eastern nations without massive energy reserves.  This discovery would change the character of Israel both economically and strategically.  Not only would there be enough oil and gas to power the nation, but the potential to export resources to energy hungry Europe would not only bring in foreign revenues, but also fundamentally change a number of dependency relationships.

However, Israeli-Turkish relations have been on the decline (since before this discovery, but more rapidly since then).  Now, Turkey has taken things a step further, announcing that Turkey would block any Israeli access to European markets via the pipeline network that transits Turkey:

Turkey will not permit the transit of natural gas produced in Israel, linking the rejection to the present state of relations between the two nations.  Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey has turned down requests private firms to allow the transit of natural gas produced in Israel through Turkey to Europe.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been tense since the attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla on May 30, 2010 that killed nine Turkish nationals.  In very blunt terms, Yildiz stated: “Had not nine of our nationals been murdered, there could be major developments in the energy distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. [Then] we would not have rejected the demand by private firms,” he said on Friday.

The Minister’s comments also reflect adverserial positions on the contested drilling by Cyprus in the Levant Basin of Mediterranean Sea.

The flotilla deaths are a cover, IMO, for a hard nosed geopolitical calculation.  Turkey seeks to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean militarily and economically.  It needs to weaken Israel in both realms, and as an aside, probably has its own designs on the energy resources.