Israeli Intelligence Report Shows The Limits on Predicting Threats

Article Summary
The latest Israeli military intelligence assessment cites an "unstable regional environment, more tensed and Islamist than before." This indicates the lack of defense forces’ ability to predict potential hostilities against Israel, Ofer Shelah writes. His conclusion: Israel needs a certain reconciliation with Turkey.

The time of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence Directorate's head is precious and so is the time spent on the Military Intelligence Directorate's annual situation assessment. A [media] headline in the vein of "The Middle East is more turbulent, more Islamist and more disaster-prone than ever before" does not do justice with the document and needless to say,there is much more to the IDF's annual situation assessments than [sensational] headlines like these. However, even the published parts of the document presented yesterday [Aug. 27] by Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi [the Military Intelligence Directorate's head] to the IDF [chief of] general staff — a document which serves as the basis for further deliberations and situation assessments — are enough to stimulate some serious thought beyond such trivial headlines.

What Kochavi says is that everything is volatile — not just the possible eruption of war, but also the actual characterization of warfare. The traditional role of the Military Intelligence Directorate — to sound the alarm and alert against aggressive intentions on the part of the enemy — is no longer relevant. As a matter of fact, a situation such as this [where the enemy plans to declare war] never emerged in the past 40 years. The military conflicts of significance in which Israel was involved over that period were, for the most part, the outcome of escalation following a move whose implications no one had foreseen or else, initiated by Israel in response to some threat that was deemed intolerable. In all those cases, isolated, local events evolved into far-reaching situations on a scale far beyond what any of sides had expected.

This is precisely what we may expect in the near future and even further ahead, says the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate. A suspicious convoy of trucks setting out of a Syrian military base where sensitive weapons are stored is liable to kindle a large-scale conflict on one or more fronts. [Israel and the West are worried about the spread of chemical weapons to terror groups such as the Hezbollah, al-Qaeda or World Jihad. In that case, Israel considers between some of its options, to strike the convoys before it gets to its destination. This attack could lead to a major crisis in the whole region.] The familiar scenario, where a certain regime [on the other side of the border] feels threatened and, in reaction, directs the fire toward Israel, is no longer pertinent. Over the years, we heard time and again that [Syrian ruler] Assad, either Assad Sr. or Assad Jr., was about to divert domestic pressures outward, into confrontation with Israel. However, that scenario has been replaced by another one, where there is no regime at all out there, where there is no leverage that Israel could use to achieve a comprehensive and conclusive outcome, where there are instead numerous sources of friction that no one knows where they are bound to lead under any given set of circumstances.

The IDF Military Intelligence Directorate is telling us that we have to take all these factors into account. The matrix of an Israeli [military] operation, whether initiated or launched in response to some specific event, is highly complex and involves multiple variables. The concepts of time and effect are no longer what they used to be, and what's no less important — and bears on the question that is clouding these days any statement on security issues — are the short-term and long-term international repercussions of putting military force into action. Here's a case in point — and for a change, one that does not necessarily concern the explicit word "Iran": They are talking in the IDF nowadays of the growing Turkish involvement in the economic arena in the Gaza Strip. Turkey is streaming to the Gaza Strip considerable funds for humanitarian aid and the establishment of hospitals. The motives behind this generosity are no different than those at the base of the Turkish stance with respect to Syria — namely, the aspiration of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to position his country as the leading power spearheading a Sunni axis, a counterweight vis-à-vis the influence exerted by [the Shiite] Iran.

Ii is quite clear where the Israeli interest lies in this struggle of the giants, between two Islamic non-Arab countries, each seeking to gain power in the pan-Arab world. It is also obvious that for over two years now, the Israeli national interest has been suffering on account of an unwarranted tactical move, taken without due consideration, of stopping a [Turkish-sponsored] flotilla [bound for Gaza, against which Israel launched a military operation on May 31, 2010, in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea, where nine activists were killed], and that it is further undermined by the Israeli failure to make amends. [Israel refuses to apologize for those deaths.]

It's to events of this kind that the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate refers when talking of the unstable environment we are living in and the prospects of a flare-up. And in case you consider it all to be trivial, then the question has to be asked: Why isn't this [supposedly] trivial lesson applied, in this and in other matters?

Found in: turkey, syria, predict, palestine, middle east, key words israel, idf, hostilities, egypt, deterrence ability, deterrence

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