Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more. – George S. Patton
The idea that a war can be won by standing on the defensive and waiting for the enemy to attack is a dangerous fallacy, which owes its inception to the desire to evade the price of victory. – Douglas Haig
Without a plan, there’s no attack. Without attack, no victory. – Curtis Armstrong
It has recently been reported that Iran is deploying ballistic missiles in Iraq, and is even manufacturing them there. And it seems that every few days we read about another Israeli strike in Syria against a shipment of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The Russians have in the past said that Iran shouldn’t be allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, but they have recently walked this back and are suggesting that it is legitimate after all. The US is already sanctioning Iran, but has no further leverage short of military intervention, which is highly unlikely.
Military analyst J. E. Dyer argues that the new developments are a part of Iran’s strategic plan to obtain a land corridor across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean that will directly threaten Israel. Of course the ballistic missiles also threaten other Iranian targets, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and American forces in the region.
Iran is trying hard to provide components to convert the 130,000 relatively dumb rockets already deployed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon into precision guided missiles that can hit specific targets in Israel, such as military bases and high-value civilian infrastructure. It is also building factories in Syria to manufacture such missiles.
A Hezbollah attack will not just be rockets next time. They plan to cross the border and kill or kidnap Israeli civilians, and to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms.
Iran is also helping Hamas improve its fighting capabilities. And it is very carefully and incrementally pursuing the ability to make nuclear weapons.
The Iranians, like the good chess-players that they are, are playing for position. They are careful to stay away from direct clashes, satisfied to get all their pieces into place before drawing their swords. Nevertheless there is no doubt of their objectives: to dominate the region and ultimately create a Shiite caliphate, to push out the remnants of US influence, to gain control of the Mideast oil supply (which can be wielded as a powerful weapon against the West), and to destroy Israel, which is both offensive to their Islamic sensibilities and a practical obstacle to all of their other plans.
None of this is hidden. It is known in Jerusalem, Riyadh, Washington, and everywhere else. J. E. Dyer has been writing about it for years. Benjamin Netanyahu has given dozens of speeches about it, even one to a joint session of the US Congress.
So here are my questions for Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, PM Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman:
How long do you want to wait?
Do you have some intelligence that someone is about to overthrow the revolutionary regime? Do you believe that the real source of power in Iran, the Revolutionary Guards, can be dislodged and Iran converted from an aggressive, expansionist, terror-exporting nation to a peaceful neighbor to the rest of the Middle East?
If not, do you think the regime will be destroyed by the American sanctions? Or isn’t it more likely that it will continue to be able to divert resources from its civilian population to preparations for war indefinitely?
Do you think the US will go to war for us? Donald Trump has been a friend to Israel, but there’s a limit to what you can expect from a friend. Both he and his base, not to mention the opposition, have made it clear that they are not interested in another Mideast war.
Trump is an ally, and we would receive material and diplomatic support from the US in the event of war. But how long will he remain in power? The most vicious political opposition that I’ve seen in America in my lifetime is gunning for him. Maybe he will have a second term, and maybe he won’t finish his first. But one thing that is certain is that when (not if) the other side takes over, there will be a massive backlash against all of his policies, and that includes support for Israel. So do you want to wait for President John Kerry, Michelle Obama, Cory Booker, or Elizabeth Warren?
We know that Iran is preparing the ground for a nuclear breakout. Do you have confidence that we can predict precisely when that will be?
What, if anything, do you think is going to happen in the next months and years that will improve our strategic position against Iran? Or is the balance shifting in Iran’s direction?
Do you want to fight on their terms, at a time of their choosing, or on ours? Do you prefer absorbing a 1973-style sneak attack or would you rather knock out the enemy’s offensive capability in a 1967-like preemptive strike?
Admittedly, that last question is unfair. It’s unlikely that an Israeli preemptive attack today could come close to replicating the success of the one in 1967. The Iranian enemy is far more militarily sophisticated and its assets are better hardened and dispersed. Israel wouldn’t be able do what it did in 1967. But it could dramatically shorten the war and reduce the damage the enemy could do. On the other hand, a sneak attack by Iran and its proxies might be even more traumatic for Israel than 1973. The element of surprise is a great advantage. Why would we give it up to them?
So here is my last question:
Will you cut off the head of the snake before or after it has buried its fangs in our flesh?