Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

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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.

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Dark and dangerous days for Israel

September 12, 2011

With a vote on Palestinian statehood looming, Israel has lost its two best allies in the region – Turkey and Mubarak’s Egypt.   It’s most important ally – the United States – is led by the least Israel-friendly administration in memory, and is being pressured by a more strategically important ally to accept Palestinian statehood.

The Middle East is always a tinderbox awaiting a spark; a UN recognition of Palestinian statehood followed by an Israeli/Turkish naval skirmish could easily consume the entire region.

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Is Turkey seeking naval confrontation with Israel, or not?

September 12, 2011

Prime Minister Erdogan seemed to “walk back” his recent belligerent comments this past weekend, claiming that he had been taken out of context.  However the same source as that the J Post cites for their “walk back” story (Today’s Zaman) is reporting TODAY that Turkey plans to sortie three frigates with the mission of confronting Israeli warships around Gaza:

The Turkish frigates, to be dispatched by the Navy’s Southern Sea Area Command, will provide protection to civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, blockaded by Israel since 2007, the Turkish daily Sabah reported. If the Turkish warships encounter an Israeli military ship outside Israel’s 12-mile territorial waters, they will advance up to 100 meters close to the ship and disable its weapon system, in a confrontation that resembles dogfights in the Aegean Sea with Greek jet fighters . . ..

So, is there or isn’t there a brewing confrontation in the Eastern Med?

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Turkey takes another step toward the abyss

September 8, 2011

Prime Minister Erdogan, working without experienced military leadership to guide him (since his senior commanders have all resigned in protest over those lower ranking commanders who have been jailed for political reasons), has ordered his Navy to escort Gaza blockade runners and to court a serious military confrontation with Israel.  Erdogan is also intent on limiting Israeli exploitation of the recently (2010) discovered gas fields beneath the Eastern Mediterranean.  There is as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the region, not enough the change the global balance of power but certainly enough to change Israel’s strategic energy profile for the better.

Yesterday, we wrote that Turkey was risking the creation of another cold war with Israel not dissimilar from the one it has been engaged in with Greece.  But, the Israelis will not back down, and this war could easily become very hot, very fast.    The decline in Turkish/Israeli relations could end up being the most destabilizing event in the Middle East in decades.

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Turkey-Israel relations continue to degrade

September 7, 2011

Israeli business site Globes reports that Turkey momentarily severed commercial relations with Israel yesterday, before issuing a clarification limiting the ban to military ties and to state sponsored relations, allowing commercial activities between private companies to remain.  This was on the heels of the Turkish announcement of a presidential visit to Egypt to secure a new military agreement, and a proposal that Prime Minister Erdogan would use the occasion to break the Israeli embargo and personally visit Gaza via the Egyptian border crossing.

This more active and aggressive foreign policy might be appealing to the Turkish electorate, but Erdogan is boxing his nation in with hostile neighbors – a decades long cold war with Greece to the west, what is fast becoming a similar situation with Israel to the south, and a restive Kurdish population to the east.  At the same time, he is courting potential discord with the European Union over Cyprus (an EU member that is set to ascend to the EU presidency soon).  Although Turks claim that they are not turning away from the West, soon enough they may have no more friends there.