Showing posts with label War with Hamas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War with Hamas. Show all posts

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Iran's Massive Attack on Israel - Where are things headed now?


It is Sunday April 14, 2024, the day after the first ever attack launched against Israel by Iran.  From all reports that we have seen so far, the results are somewhat miraculous.  As you probably know, Iran fired more than 300 different items at Israel including ballistic missiles, unmanned drones and less sophisticated rockets.  And as you probably also know, Israel, with the help of the United States and other allies, seems to have shot down more than 99% of these objects.  If any of these missiles had landed, especially the ballistic missiles equipped with massive, dangerous payloads, Israel could have faced enormous casualties, even with so many of its citizens sheltering in mostly bomb-proof safe rooms.

For one thing, this can only be seen as an incredible accomplishment for the Israeli military and its partners.  We can think back to when Ronald Reagan first envisioned a "Star Wars" type of system that would allow the United States to shoot down incoming Soviet ballistic missiles.  These ideas at the time were dismissed as fantastical.  But here we are, after 25 years of development by Israeli technology companies and their partners - watching Israel shoot down more than 100 ballistic missiles, each carrying a massive payload.  We can only shudder to think what would have happened if several of these missiles had landed - and we still cannot discount the possibility that Iran will try again and again - and again.

Iran has been on a publicity offensive arguing that this was a "retaliatory attack" for the death of a number of Iranian generals - who were stationed at the Iranian embassy in Syria.  But retaliatory?  Seriously? As we know, it was Iran that started this war with Israel on October 7th.  Iran trained and armed Hamas, Hezbollah and its other proxies - including the Houthis in Yemen.  The Iranian/Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th was planned for more than 2 years and included visits and exchanges between Iranian military personnel and Hamas fighters.  Moreover, as soon as the attacks began, Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, which is also armed, trained and funded by the Iranians, began attacking Israel's north. And the Houthis, who have no border with Israel and no real conflict with Israel, also began sending rockets from Yemen to Israel - all, apparently orchestrated by Iran.  So the killing of some Iranian military personnel (who were involved in these anti-Israel operations) was a retaliation by Israel against Iran for what its personnel have been up to - not the other way around.

This was not a "retaliation" - it was  part of a years old strategy by the current extremist Iranian leadership to attack and inflict damage on Israel.  They have threatened to "wipe out" the State of Israel many times - over several years.  And Israel has been warning the world about Iran for many years but no one has been willing to do anything about it.  If these ballistic missiles had contained nuclear warheads, there would be radiation all over the Middle East from the fall out.

Israel cannot afford to be hit by this type of missile barrage and it cannot continue to face the risk of this type of attack whenever Iran decides to launch one.  Unfortunately, a massive and powerful response is required by Israel.  Israel will need to find a way to significantly degrade Iran's missile launching capabilities and hopefully destroy, or at least severely set back the Iranian nuclear program.

Israel is facing tremendous world pressure.  The United States has pledged to assist Israel defensively but has apparently indicated that it will not take part in any attacks on Iran.  Israel will need to work very closely with the United States to ensure that the U.S. will support an appropriate Israeli response.  Even though some ministers in the Israeli government would like to launch an immediate and far-reaching attack, it is crucial that Israel obtain at least tacit support from the Biden administration.

Israeli news stations have reported today that the French and British have urged Israel not to respond.  Really?  I would like to know what the French and British would do if this type of attack were launched against France or Britain.  Or the U.S. for that matter.  If it was the U.S., you can be sure that Iran would have been obliterated by now.  

It is a tricky situation.  World support for Israel has plummeted since October 7th as Israel has continued with its operation in Gaza in response to the massacres carried out by Hamas.  The operation is not over.  Israel has not secured the release of the hostages (more than 130 are still being held hostage though we do not know how many are still alive).  For the sake of its long-term security, Israel will need to defeat Hamas - which will include capturing or killing the Hamas leader, Yehia Sinwar - and many of his fellow Hamas leaders.  The only way to do this will be a major operation in Rafiah - to attack and degrade the remaining Hamas military forces.  These are densely packed areas with many civilians - and many tunnels underneath those civilians.  But, it seems to me, that is the only way that the war with Hamas will conclude.

Israel is very concerned about the hostages and trying to figure out how to get them back - either through negotiation or military operations.  As you may have seen, Hamas has pretty much rejected every offer put forward by Israel (or developed by the U.S. and other parties).  There is no indication that Hamas wants this war to end any time soon.  It seems that the only way to end it will be to defeat Hamas militarily.

As you may also know, the U.S. abstained from a UN security council resolution calling for a cease fire.  Countries around the world, including countries like Canada, have called for an immediate unconditional cease fire - which is tantamount to calling for a Hamas victory.  Not surprisingly, some of those same countries are now calling on Israel not to respond to this massive, unprecedented attack by Iran against Israel. 

It is true that there is a precedent for that.  During the first Gulf War in 1991 - Israel did not retaliate against an ongoing barrage of rockets sent by Iraq.  Israel was not even a party to that war.  But the United States pledge, at the time, was, essentially, "we will take care of this."  Israel, at the time, did not want to be reliant on other countries for its defence.  But it nevertheless agreed to stay out of the war to ensure that the U.S.-built international coalition would hold together.

This is a very different story.  It is Israel that has been attacked - both on October 7th and yesterday.  While the U.S. and some other countries have helped Israel to fend off attacks from the Houthis - and helped yesterday to defend Israel against the Iranian attacks - no one has pledged to take care of the Iranian problem.  While one can imagine that Israel might agree not to retaliate if the U.S., France and Britain were all launching attacks to take out the Iranian nuclear program - that does not seem to be the proposal. Instead, the French and British want to avoid escalation but don't seem to want to deal with the problem.

I don't see how Israel has much of a choice.  While it may delay for a period of time - and continue to focus on Hamas and the hostages - at some point - Israel will need to launch a significant strike against Iran - in the interests of Israel's long term security and deterrence.

For now, as you may have seen, flights were cancelled today to and from Israel.  All schools were closed.  Civilians were warned to remain near a bomb shelter.  The army was placed on the highest levels of readiness on five different fronts - the south (the Houthis), the Gaza border, the Lebanese border, the Syrian border and vis a vis missile and other attacks from Iran.  An all out war with Lebanon has become much more likely and the need to deal with the Iranian nuclear program has become crucial and imperative.

This all comes just a week before Pesach as Jews around the world are getting things ready for this week long holiday of eating matzah and avoiding all forms of hametz.  It is also a time when Jews from around the world travel to Israel to celebrate the holiday - and Israelis leave the country to enjoy a 9-day holiday - counting a day before and a day after the holiday for Israelis.

An attack on Iran now will jeopardize the plans of hundreds of thousands of Israelis - and hundreds of thousands of tourists and others coming to Israel.  It will also widen the war.  But considering the attacks that have just been launched by Iran - what else is Israel waiting for in terms of escalation?

Beyond that, we cannot even say for sure that the Iranians will stop at this one day of attacks - even if Israel does not respond.  Even though they have said so publicly - this may have only been some kind of test - or first strike to assess Israel's defence - or a ruse to lull Israel into complacency - or whatever else.  I am not sure how long Israel can wait around to face more attacks without taking action.

I am in Toronto for a few more days and was glued to Israeli tv news last night watching to see what would happen.  I am not sure that my flight will be going ahead this week - or what will happen.  I would like to say that we are all hoping for "de-escalation" but - sorry - that is simply not what is required right now.  Israel (and indeed, the western world), needs to seriously damage the Iranian war-making capabilities or Israel and its allies will face increasingly serious attacks from this crazy Iranian regime.

It may well be that we are in for an extensive period of uncertainty and war - even years, if not months, but the world has been in that situation in any event ever since Russian invaded the Ukraine.  So while we all hope and pray for peace and a better world - unfortunately, we also need to consider the Biblical text of Kohelet - (Ecclesiastes) - there is a "time of war and a time of peace."  When you have been attacked - that is a time of war.  According to Jewish thought, "turning the other cheek" is not a practical prescription in this situation.  It would only invite more attacks.  Israel has now faced two attacks by murderous, extremist regimes - even though both attacks (and all of the attacks by other proxies since October 7th) have all been coordinated by the same place - Iran.  So there is really only one appropriate, necessary and urgent response.

If I don't get the chance to write again later this week - I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach.  We will continue to hope and pray for the release of the hostages, a victorious end to the war with Hamas and Hezbollah - and a successful response to Iran that causes severe setbacks but does not create a dangerous world war.  Perhaps Israel's targeted actions will help bring about regime change in Iran. After all, what would be a better result during the holiday of Pesach - the "Holiday of Freedom" than helping another people in bondage to unshackle themselves and gain their own freedom.