Friday, September 05, 2008


From MERIA, Volume 12, No. 3 - September 2008, by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez:

Abstract: The authors continue their analysis of Soviet involvement in the 1967 War with a discussion of new evidence and a response to criticisms regarding their controversial thesis that the USSR provoked that war, sought to use the conflict to eliminate Israel's nuclear capability, and seriously considered direct intervention...

"Admittedly, key archival documentation remains under lock and key and will be inaccessible for a long time to come.... But enough material is available, in the form of declassified documents, memoirs, oral histories and journalistic treatments, to begin to piece together the story." -- Fredrik Logevall

Eight years ago, MERIA Journal provided the first academic platform for the highly revisionist findings of our joint research on direct Soviet military involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Focusing on the Six-Day War and relying on newly available sources in the former USSR and elsewhere, we challenged the prevailing concepts of Western and Israeli historiography, not to mention the official Soviet version that was upheld by post-Soviet Russia. Several additional papers in scholarly journals led to the appearance of our conclusions in book form, on the fortieth anniversary of the war.

In brief, we sought to demonstrate that:
  • The war resulted from a deliberate Soviet-Arab effort to provoke Israel into a preemptive strike;
  • A central motive for the Soviet move was to halt and destroy Israel's nuclear development before it could attain operational atomic weapons;
  • This Soviet effort was accelerated by a direct message from Israel that despite its official ambiguity, it was bent on acquiring such weapons;
  • Soviet nuclear weapons were readied for use against Israel in case it already possessed, and tried to use, any nuclear device;
  • The Soviets prepared a marine landing--with air support--on Israel's shores, which was not only planned but actually set in motion, and readied strategic bombers to strike Israeli targets;
  • The USSR committed its most advanced, still secret experimental aircraft and top pilots for provocative reconnaissance sorties over Israel's most sensitive installation--its nuclear complex--in possible preparation for the planned attack on this target and/or in order to create such concern in Israel that would ensure its launch of a first strike;
  • The planned Soviet intervention was to be unleashed once Israel was drawn into this preemptive attack and was internationally branded as the aggressor, out of calculation that the Soviet input could tip the balance in favor of an Arab counterattack.

Even before our book's official publication on June 5, 2007, press reports about its main thesis touched off two chain reactions, which have since produced such an abundance of repercussions that this update can only present a brief sampling....

Follow the link to the full article with copious details and referenced sources.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

MHR Debate on 'Palestinian-Israeli conflict'

See 4 speeches in Hansard (go to pp106-111 of the volume) on a Private Members’ Business motion by Ms Vamvakinou (my own emphasis added):

That the House:
(1) recognises the social, economic and human cost of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict;
(2) notes the broader implications of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in terms of regional stability as well as diplomatic relations in the Middle East;
(3) condemns all forms of violence as an obstacle to peace;
(4) supports the renewal of diplomatic efforts to negotiate a just and lasting peace and recognises the efforts of the Quartet-led Road Map to peace in the Middle East;
(5) notes the Middle East peace initiative formally announced by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah during a meeting of the Arab League Summit in Beirut in March 2003;
(6) acknowledges that a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must necessarily involve both parties reaching agreement on final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem, the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, settlements, security, borders and water;
(7) supports the Australian Government’s recent decision to increase Australia’s development assistance program to the Palestinian Territories; and
(8) believes that Australia has an important role to play as a middle power in encouraging peace initiatives between Palestinians and Israelis that are consistent with Australia’s commitment to multilateral diplomacy, responsible international citizenship and the principles of international law.

The motion is obviously biased against Israel. 3 of the speeches are fairly critical of Israel, by
  • Maria Vamvakinou (Labor, Calwell VIC, chair of the Parliamentary Palestine Friendship Group);
  • Sussan Ley (Liberals, Farrer NSW, former chair and current deputy chair of the Parliamentary Palestine Friendship Group) and
  • Melissa Parke (Labor, Fremantle WA).
The one very good speech is by Stuart Robert (Liberals, Fadden QLD).

The Russian-Georgian War: Implications for the Middle East

From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 6, 15 August 2008, by Ariel Cohen (brief excerpts from the synopsis and conclusion only - follow the link to the full, very important analysis):

  • Moscow formulated far-reaching goals when it carefully prepared - over a period of at least two and a half years - for a land invasion of Georgia. These goals included: expelling Georgian troops and effectively terminating Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; and preventing Georgia from joining NATO.
  • Russia's long-term strategic goals include increasing its control of the Caucasus, especially over strategic energy pipelines. If a pro-Russian regime is established in Georgia, it will bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow's control.
  • In recent years, Moscow granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship. Use of Russian citizenship to create a "protected" population residing in a neighboring state to undermine its sovereignty is a slippery slope which is now leading to a redrawing of the former Soviet borders.
  • Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect.
  • U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas.

The long-term outcomes of the current Russian-Georgian war will be felt far and wide, from Afghanistan to Iran, and from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. The war is a mid-sized earthquake which indicates that the geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting, and nations in the Middle East, including Israel, need to take notice....

... a mission over Iran, if and when decided upon, is very different than operations over neighboring Syria.

First, if Israel waits until March 2009, there may be a president in the White House who emphasizes diplomacy over military operations. Even if the George W. Bush Administration allows Israel over-flight of Iraqi air space and aerial refueling, a future administration might not, opting for an "aggressive diplomacy" approach instead - especially with an emboldened and truculent Russia as a geopolitical counter-balance.

Second, Israel, military experts say, does not have long-range bomber capacity, such as the Cold War-era U.S. B-1 heavy supersonic bomber, or the B-2 stealth bomber. Israel, a Russian source estimated, can hit 20 targets simultaneously, while the Iranian nuclear program may have as many as 100. Many of the Iranian targets are fortified, and will require bunker busters.
Operational challenges abound. Israel's EW planes, needed to suppress anti-aircraft batteries, are slow and unarmed, and could become a target for Iranian anti-aircraft missiles or even fighter sorties.

But the most important question analysts are asking is whether the current Israeli leadership has the knowledge and the gumption to pull it off. After all, the results of the 2006 mini-war against Hizbullah were disastrous for Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces have exposed numerous flaws in its preparedness, supply chain, and command, control, communications and intelligence.

The Need to Defang Tehran
Nevertheless, the need to preemptively defang Tehran may prove decisive in view of Tehran's hatred and intransigence.
As noted by Professor Stephen Blank of the U.S. Army War College:

When one is dealing with a national leadership which is motivated by ethnic and religious hatred, one needs to remember that such a leadership becomes obsessed and loses its ability to calculate things. They may risk war rather than seek accommodation. This was not only the case with Nazi Germany, but also with the antebellum American South of the 1840s and 1850s, where racial hatred of the slave owners cause them to lose sight of what was at stake.

Blank goes on to conclude that the Iranian leadership believes that Russia and China will provide them with protection, of which the S-300 is an important component, and that the sanctions are not effective.

Under the circumstances, an Israel-only preventive bombing campaign - without the United States - might be too risky to pull off. If the United States sits this crisis out, Israel could possibly settle for deterring Iran by taking its cities and main oil facilities hostage.

This was known during the Cold War as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), brought to you courtesy of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. Going MAD would make the Middle East even more fragile than it already is, and would make the life of its inhabitants ever more difficult and tragic.

Clearly, with the renewal of East-West tensions as a result of Russia's moves against Georgia, it will be much more difficult to obtain Moscow's agreement to enhance sanctions and international pressures on Iran. The struggle to diplomatically halt its nuclear program will become far more difficult.

Lessons from the War
Lessons for the Middle East and Israel from the Russian-Georgian War abound, and apply both to military operations, cyber-warfare, and strategic information operations. The most important of these are:

  • Watch Out for the Bear - and Other Beasts! Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect. Provoking a militarily strong adversary, such as Iran, is worthwhile only if you are confident of victory, and even then there may be bitter surprises. Just ask Saakashvili.
  • Strategic Self-Reliance. U.S. expressions of support of the kind provided to Georgia - short of an explicit mutual defense pact - may or may not result in military assistance if/when Israel is under attack, especially when the attacker has an effective deterrent, such as nuclear arms deliverable against U.S. targets. In the future, such an attacker could be Iran or an Arab country armed with atomic weapons. Israel can and should rely on its own deterrent - a massive survivable second-strike capability.
  • Intelligence Failure. U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas. Both are deeply flawed. There is no substitute for high-quality human intelligence.
  • Air Power Is Not Sufficient. Russia used air, armor, the Black Sea Fleet, special forces, and allied militias. Clausewitzian lessons still apply: the use of overwhelming force in the war's center of gravity by implementing a combined air-land-sea operation may be twentieth century, but it does work.6 Israel should have been taught this lesson after the last war with Hizbullah.
  • Surprise and Speed of Operations Still Matter - as they have for the four thousand years of the recorded history of warfare. To be successful, wars have to have limited and achievable goals. Russia achieved most of its goals between Friday and Monday, while the world, including President George W. Bush, was busy watching the Olympics and parliaments were on vacation.
  • Do Not Cringe - within reason - from taking military casualties and inflicting overwhelming military and civilian casualties at a level unacceptable to the enemy. Georgia lost some 100-200 soldiers and effectively capitulated. A tougher enemy, like the Japanese or the Germans, or even Hizbullah, could well suffer a proportionally higher rate of casualties and keep on fighting.
  • Information and Psychological Warfare Is Paramount. So is cyber-security. It looks like the Russians conducted repeated denial of service attacks against Georgia (and in 2007 against Estonia), shutting down key websites. Russia was ready with accusations and footage of alleged Georgian atrocities in South Ossetia, shifting the information operation playing field from "aggressor-victim" to "saving Ossetian civilians from barbaric Georgians." These operations also matter domestically, to shore up support and boost morale at home.

The Russian-Georgian war indicates that the balance of power in western Eurasia has shifted, and that U.S. power may be deteriorating in the face of its lengthy and open-ended commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror, which are leading to a global overstretch.

While the Middle East, and especially the Persian Gulf, will remain a top priority in U.S. foreign policy regardless of who wins the White House, Israel is heading towards a strategic environment in which Russia may play a more important role, especially in its southern tier, from the Black Sea to Afghanistan and western China. Twenty-first century geopolitics is presenting significant survival challenges to the Jewish state and the region.

A house is not a Homeland...

...and now, a straightforward strategy suggestion for Israel (alevey it would be used) from the new Blog from GLORIA, Watch on the Middle East (WOTME), by Barry Rubin, September 3, 2008:

... many people selling their apartments or houses...[set] the price ...high. As any real estate agent can tell you, if you ask for too much money you might not make a sale. On the other hand, if you have patience, someone may come along and meet your price or something close to it.

And then it hit me: this is the ideal strategy for Israel's leaders. For a number of years [too many - SL], their main strategy has been to make concessions in order to be liked or in hope that this will lead to a peace deal. They acted as if they had to make an agreement fast, even on worse terms. Thus, they gave away a lot of real estate and are offering bargain basement prices for more.

This didn't work for several reasons. First, Israel could afford to be patient, far more so than many outside pretend-experts argue. Second, when you signal that you are in a hurry and willing to lower the price fast, the buyer takes advantage of that to offer even less.

So that's the answer: Israeli leaders should treat the real estate of the land of Israel like ... real estate. That doesn't mean they should never give up any land at all, but only if the price and terms are real good. Until then, they should signal, I can afford to wait. Come back when you have a serious offer.

...So just set the price high, hang tough, dare to dream you will get an offer that meets your demands and everything will be all right.

Notice to potential buyers: If you don't keep up the mortgage payments, you lose your deposit and we repossess the property.