Thursday, April 25, 2013

INSS Meeting

The annual meeting of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University entitled "Security challenges of the 21st century," produced some sensational news.  Gen. Shlomo  Brom, former Director of Strategic Planning of the IDF, stated in his presentation that the Syrian Government has in fact used chemical weapons, Sarin gas, against its opponents, killing civilians. Since Pres. Obama has said that the use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons would be a "game changer" that would trigger US intervention in the Syrian civil war.  US Secty. of State Kerry, visiting Jordan, called PM Netanyahu and then went on record to say that since the PM could not himself confirm this finding, the US would hold off on any reaction.  While I think that Gen. Brom was correct, nevertheless it doesn't gain anything to embarrass our best ally, the US.  Better to consult with them first.
Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, former Head of Israel's Military Intelligence, stated in his talk that Iran has already passed the red line set by PM Netanyahu in his UN speech, that it has achieved enough highly enriched uranium to develop a nuclear weapon.  However, he then backtracked slightly to say that with the thousands of centrifuges that they have working, plus the recent addition of hundreds of super-efficient centrifuges, they could attain this status in about a month or two and certainly by this summer. He intimated that Iran is in fact holding back from crossing the red line in order not to trigger any military reaction either from Israel or the US.  He averred that an Israeli attack would be feasible, but not as comprehensive as one by the US.  Iran would much prefer an attack from Israel, since that would give them sympathy throughout the Muslim world and much of the West, whereas if the US strikes, the results would be more successful and the reaction not so sympathetic to Iran. 
Also, at the conference, a panel of experts that had investigated the Palestinian situation declared that there is little likelihood of any negotiations with Pres. Abbas and that it would be better for Israel to carry out a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.  This would be popular in the Western world and would reduce international pressure on Israel.  But, since the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was such a fiasco, resulting in the takeover by Hamas and thousands of missiles being fired from Gaza into Israel and resulting in major military confrontations, it is unlikely that any Israeli Government would follow such ill-considered advice. 
There was also a discussion on which outcome of the Syrian civil war would be preferable for Israel, a continuation of the war as it is now (a stalemate), a win for Assad or his overthrow and a win for the insurrection.  Given the crucial role that Assad's Syria has played as an ally of Iran and as the conduit of arms to Hizbollah and Hamas, the best outcome for Israel would be Assad's overthrow and the establishment of a moderate Sunni regime.  That would cut the connection between Iran and Hizbollah, stop further arms supplies and, as long as the Al Qaeda faction does not gain major influence, lead to a more stable situation, almost as with Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has not jeopardized the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty. 


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