Friday, August 10, 2012

More Rumors Of War: "We Must Prepare For Conflict On Multiple Fronts"

We Must Prepare

Israel must prepare for the possibility of a conflict on multiple fronts, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Thursday evening.

Gantz referenced Sunday’s attack on southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula as an additional concern to the already alarming Syrian civil war and Iranian nuclear threat.

The chief of staff, who was speaking at an event celebrating reserve soldiers, also hinted at possible cuts in the defense budget that would potentially limit funds for reservists’ training and war fighting equipment, vowing to oppose such steps.

The IDF structure of command in the Golan changed this week, with Colonel Oren Cohen replacing Colonel Mounir Amar as head of the Hermon Brigade.

“In these days when a bloody civil war is happening just meters from here, we are changing the commandof the Hermon Brigade, which is responsible for defending the eyes of the country,” said Brigadier-General Tamir Hyman, speaking at a ceremony in which Cohen tookcommand.

“We are in a historic period. We do not know how the day after the fall of the Assad regime will look,” he said. “We must be prepared for the worst.”

Colonel Cohen was a commander in the Golani Brigade during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. During the operation he was badly wounded in a shell strike. He underwent a grueling rehabilitation process, after which he returned to the IDF and continued moving his way up the ranks.

Stout refutation of reported disagreements over the military option against Iran’s nuclear program between the US and Israel, and himself and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, took up most of a long radio interview given by Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday, Aug. 9. He explained that US and Israeli intelligence essentially see eye to eye on this matter and so do he and the prime minister.

Barak referred to the new US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran as confirming that both capitals understand that not much time is left for making decision on whether or not to go on the offensive against Iran’s nuclear facilities and when, because, he said, “a nuclear Iran is taking shape right before our eyes.”

Defense Minister Barak's key remark was this: "I am aware of an American intelligence finding (not the new National Intelligence Estimate) that brings American intelligence assessments [of the current state of the Iranian nuclear program] very close to ours. This makes the Iranian question [i.e., the issue of the Iranian nuclear program and a possible military operation against it] extremely urgent," he said without further explanation.

The administration was made aware that notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s objections, Israel would soon go into action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Barak stressed that he and the prime minister are in total harmony on this issue. "What we (the prime minister and I, and the Americans) understand is that there is not much time left for deciding [about an attack on Iran]"

The price of allowing Iran to attain a nuclear weapon will be much greater than the cost of an attack. It is already happening, said the Israeli minister. "And we must take into account the dangers and the very steep price in human life and in resources, if Iran goes nuclear. First, we must consider the outcome of first Saudi Arabia, then Turkey, and then the New Egypt becoming nuclear powers in their turn.”

A surge of violence in Egypt's Sinai desert this week is heightening Israeli concerns about what officials and analysts describe as the growing presence of al-Qaeda-linked jihadis along the Jewish state's borders.

“I think we’re finally starting to wake up and understand that the instability, in Syria even more than in Egypt, is allowing jihadi groups to come in,” said David Bukay, a professor of Middle East studies at Israel’s Haifa University. “People have to understand that the alternative to Bashar al-Assad is al-Qaeda,” he said.

In Syria, the violence has yet to extend to the Golan Heights, the mountainous border region that Israel has occupied since capturing it from Syria in 1967. But the combination of a weakening central authority and the potential for chemical weapons to fall into the hands of jihadi groups has prompted grim assessments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak advocate an attack of Iran's nuclear facilities in the upcoming fall, Yedioth Ahronoth's senior commentators Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer reported Friday.

The report stated that Netanyahu and Barak believe that setting back Iran's nuclear project is worth the risk – while defense officials believe the opposite to be true. The report also referred to Netanyahu's certainty that US President Barack Obama will not stop Iran's nuclear development on time.

Barnea and Shiffer referred to the fact that advisors from both the PM's office and the White House are aware of the possibility that an Israeli action just before the elections might cause an embarrassment to Obama's administration and advance his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

"In America, many, including government officials, are convinced that the military action that Netanyahu and Barack are promoting is set to cause one thing – force America into a war with Iran against its will. Israel will need the Americans' help", Barnea and Shiffer wrote.

For Georgia's EU envoy, they show the Union should heed Georgia's warnings that Russia is still a threat.

"The current Russian government is ... becoming more and more disdainful of the EU's opinion and openly shedding any pretence of respect for international law. They are [becoming] even more dangerous to neighbours like us," Samadashvili told this website.

She noted that Russia is to hold a military exercise - Kavkaz 2012, to take place in North Ossetia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian region - during Georgian elections in October.

"The statement made by Putin taken in the current context - its ongoing occupation [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia], the military exercise, its continuous attempts to destabilise our country - is a thinly veiled threat, an encouragement for those who committed ethnic cleansing against Georgian citizens," she said.

This is the third of a three-part story on Israelis infiltrating Syria to help refugees. If you have not done so already, we suggest first readingExclusive: Israelis infiltrate Syria to provide clandestine aid - Part I andLove Your Enemy: Israelis infiltrate Syria to provide aid - Part II

Nevertheless, Israel continues to provide help to the needy. In a phone interview with this Israel Today, Kara stressed that the Israeli government works tightly with various voluntary entities, encouraging them to take action.

“We are willing to open doors to those seeking professional treatment, or, alternatively, fly medical aid to the victims of the Assad massacres”, he said, while agreeing that the Syrian authorities would never allow such assistance.


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