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Iran and Two Years Later

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: 'Israel Is Not Deterred From Activity When Its Vital Interests Are At Stake!'

IsraCast: 'Although Israel May Not Be First Country To Introduce Nuclear Weapons Into Middle East, Neither Will It Allow Any Other Country Be The First To Do So'

Home Front Command: 'We Have Learned Lessons Of Second Lebanon War - We're Ready To Cope With Hezbollah Missile Attack'

On July 12th 2006, Hezbollah launched a deadly cross border raid from south Lebanon ambushing an IDF motorized patrol, killing several soldiers and abducting two others, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Simultaneously, Iran's proxy, the Hezbollah forces inside south Lebanon launched a massive rocket attack on towns and villages in northern Israel. It was an attack that triggered the Second Lebanon War. IsraCast analyzes the strategic situation two years later amid the Iranian nuclear threat that may soon face the Jewish state.

IDF Brig, Gen. (res.) Reuven Benkler (Photo: Tomer Yaffe)

'For the moment', Israel reconciled to international diplomacy confronting Iranian nuclear threat

Two years after the Second Lebanon War, Israel is poised to cope with a series of threats on various fronts. Defense Minister Ehud Barak listed Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran while saying that potentially agreements might be possible with the Palestinians and Syria. As for the Iranian nuclear treat, Barak told a Labor party meeting in Tel Aviv: 'At the moment, the focus is on the international sanctions and intensive diplomatic activity and those channels have to be exhausted'. This summed up Israel's official position after last month's major Israel Air Force exercise and warnings from several influential Israeli experts, who warned that Israel might have mo option but to go it alone against Iran.

Hezbollah Terrorists

On the other hand, Anthony Cordesman, a highly touted strategic analyst from Washington came to Israel revealing that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, has just told IDF Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi that Israel does not have an American ' green light ' to launch an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Barak appears to have put all of this into perspective in his low-key comments which he is likely to repeat during his upcoming trip to Washington. It boils down to this - Israel has still not given up on the diplomatic campaign to halt Iran although, this now looks as dodgy as ever. Russia's cooperation is crucial but Moscow and Washington are now on a collision course over Moscow's opposition to the stationing of a U.S. missile defense system in the Czech Republic. Having said this, Barak's appeared to stress 'at the moment' and that this could change after the 'international sanctions and the intensive diplomatic activity' may have run its course without results. And the Defense Minister seemed to be clarifying: 'Israel is the strongest country in the region and has proved in the past that it is not deterred from activity when its vital interests were at stake'.

The implication could be that Israel would act with or without Washington's 'green light'. There are two precedents - the first was Israel's bombing of Saddam Husein's nuclear reactor in 1981 without America's permission and which even resulted in temporary U.S. sanctions against the Jewish state. But by the time the Iraqi dictator had invaded Kuwait in 1990, America was thanking Israel for preventing Saddam Husein from getting the bomb. When Syria bombed the North Korean construction of the nuclear reactor in Syria last September, Jerusalem apprised Washington which apparently did give the green light. Bush administration officials were so eager to catch North Korea red-handed that they even leaked secret Israeli data. Now Iran, precedent # 3 is looming on the horizon and a possible divergence between Jerusalem and Washington on when Iran will pass the nuclear point of no return. Israel is talking about late next year or early in 2010.

The Iranian Missile Range

After apparently casting aside its own National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had suspended weaponization work on the bomb in 2003, official Washington now regards Tehran as hard at work on its nuclear project. The Iranian launching of new longer range ballistic missiles this week adds credence to this view. But aside from intelligence differences that may crop up between the U.S. and Israel, what about Barrack Obama's pledge to launch 'intensive diplomacy' with the Iranians if he enters the White House in January. Until his new administration would settle in, it would be well into 2009 - and as analyst Menashe Amir has pointed out 'the Iranians are masters of diplomatic deception'. After stonewalling the Europeans and the rest of the world for years, what chance would a new, inexperienced president have in reining in the Iranians before they did pass the nuclear point of no return?

This is all part of the decision-making that a new Israeli leadership in Jerusalem will have to confront. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert looks more and more to be on his way out as he wallows through charges of political corruption. He will be replaced possibly by the Kadima's Tzipi Livni or Shaul Mofaz. In that case, Defense Minister Ehud Barak would stay on as defense minister in the new-old coalition.

Israel will not allow any other Middle East country to be the first in introducing nuclear weapons

What is the bottom line? Israel's official position has been that it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East - Barak's comments and other recent Israeli manifestations indicate that neither will Israel agree to any other country being the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area. This apparently precludes an American 'green light'.

David Essing

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