Friday, June 15, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 26: 2007, back to the future?

As we close off this retrospective on the 1967 Six Day War, it is appropriate to look at how the present situation echoes that of forty years ago -- complete with the President of Iran declaring intent to wipe Israel off the map/erase it from the sands of time [or however we wish to translate what he said and obviously means].

Daniel Pipes' June 12th article on Israeli Jets vs. Iranian Nukes is a good -- but disquieting --place to begin:

Barring a "catastrophic development," Middle East Newsline reports, George Bush has decided not to attack Iran. An administration source explains that Washington deems Iran's cooperation "needed for a withdrawal [of U.S. forces] from Iraq."

If correct, this implies the Jewish state stands alone against a regime that threatens to "wipe Israel off the map" and is building the nuclear weapons to do so. Israeli leaders are hinting that their patience is running out; Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz just warned that "diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007."

Can the Israel Defense Forces in fact disrupt Iran's nuclear program? . . . . Whitney Raas and Austin Long studied this problem at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published their impressive analysis, "Osirak Redux? Assessing Israeli Capabilities to Destroy Iranian Nuclear Facilities," in the journal International Security.

Raas and Long focus exclusively on feasibility, not political desirability or strategic ramifications: Were the Israeli national command to decide to damage the Iranian infrastructure, could its forces accomplish this mission? The authors consider five components of a successful strike . . . . Intelligence: To impede the production of fissile material requires incapacitating only three facilities of Iran's nuclear infrastructure . . . . Ordnance: To damage all three facilities with reasonable confidence requires . . . twenty-four 5,000-lb. weapons and twenty-four 2,000-lb. weapons . . . . Platforms . . . Raas-Long calculate that the IDF needs a relatively small strike package of twenty-five F-15Is and twenty-five F-16Is . . . . Routes: Israeli jets can reach their targets via three paths: Turkey to the north, Jordan and Iraq in the middle, or Saudi Arabia to the south. In terms of fuel and cargo, the distances in all three cases are manageable . . . . Defense forces: . . . the Iranian defenders minimally must stop 16 of 50 planes, or one-third of the strike force. The authors consider this attrition rate "considerable" for Natanz and "almost unimaginable" for the other two targets.

In short, there is an existential threat on the table, time is running out, diplomacy without teeth is running its almost predictably futile course, and, again, the Israelis may just have the capacity to decisively intervene.

If they do so, it will not be costless, as the Iranians have already threatened to strike both Israel and the USA if such happens. They have the means to do so in Iraq, and in Lebanon, and in Gaza -- h'mm: they have already been striking against the US and Israel there, so what this really means is a renewal of further, probably more intense attacks. Also, they probably have ability to deliver terrorist strikes around the world, and just might have a few ex-Soviet so-called "tactical" nukes -- big enough to blow the heart out of say Manhattan, New York.

Compounding this, we see where the Syrian proxies of Iran have just plainly had a hand in the assassination of yet another Lebanese politician, even as they want to ward off an investigation into the murder of a Prime Minister. Going yet further, after Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, 1,300 rockets have been launched into Israel, and thanks to last year's kidnappings of Israeli soldiers, we saw campaigns in both Gaza and Lebanon. Just now, the Hamas group, which stridently declares its intent to wipe out Israel, has now seized control of more or less all of Gaza in the ongoing civil war with the only slightly less murderous Fatah.

The only relatively bright spot is the fact that the majority of especially the young people of Iran, having experienced rule by radical Islamists, want to move to a more democratic and liberal system of Government. But of course, they don't have the guns.

So, further war seems predictable -- all but inevitable, and if the Iranians insist on their nuclear programme, it will involve a major Israeli strike against it, probably timed to the point where the centrifuges are assembled and put into action. (I suspect that the Israelis will probably make use as well of volleys of cruise missiles from their Dolphin Class submarines, so the actual strike pattern may not be simply a re-run of Moked and the Osirak strike against the Iraq programme in the early 1980's.)

And yet, if we would but listen to one another and take the legitimate needs of our neighbours seriously, all of this could be averted overnight.

Let us pray for peace, and let us see how we the people of the Caribbean can teach the wider world some of the lessons we have learned over the centuries on how to move on beyond oppression and live with one another in peace and even, I daresay, love of neighbour. END

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