Dangerous days ahead for Israel with growing Iranian nuclear threat; instability with Syrian civil war

YouTube / 1st video: Iran intent on developing full-scale nuclear capability despite mishaps along the way.
2nd video: A history of Iran in 5 minutes.

 DAYTONA BEACH -- Israel has entered a period of greater threat to its existence as a state than any since 1973, as a combination of Iran’s continued reach for nuclear weapons, the Syrian Civil War and the impact on Egypt of the Arab Spring have shattered the manageable regional situation which Israel had established and dramatically increased the vulnerability of the Jewish state.

Beginning soon after the 1979 revolution which overthrew the Shah, Iran’s core religious leadership, its subordinate political administrations and the mass of its people concluded that their country must have the capacities to manufacture nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile systems to deliver them.

This has become Iran’s principal foreign policy goal.

A decade of negotiations has done nothing to change this nor will it.

Western countries can offer nothing that Iran wants more than a nuclear weapons capacity and Tehran does not believe it likely that the United States and/or Europe, with or without Israel, will launch an attack strong enough to do more than delay the Iranian nuclear program, if that.

The extensive sanctions program has seriously damaged Iran’s economy and created considerable hardship for its people but it has not reduced the drive to produce fissile material.

And the Western powers seem disinclined to impose the one sanction which could produce irresistible impact - the blockade of all imports into Iran of refined petroleum products combined with the destruction of the oil refinery at Khorramshahr.

The sanctions’ economic impact probably did influence the election of relative “moderate” President Hasan Rowhani, but there is no sign that he wants to eliminate or even cut back the Iranian uranium enrichment program nor could he even if he wanted to.

All decisions of this magnitude and especially those concerning the nuclear program are made by the Supreme Jurisprudent, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the ultra-conservative religious Guidance Counsel which advises him. Thus Iran’s position on rapid development of a nuclear weapons capacity will not change no matter how much some Western pundits and foreign policy makers might wish it otherwise.

New rounds of negotiations will simply play into Tehran’s hands as it will give them more time to complete a bomb.

New rounds of negotiations will simply play into Tehran’s hands as it will give them more time to complete a bomb.

Once Iran has detonated a nuclear weapon it will be safe from attack and Israel will have to try to learn to live with an avowed enemy seeking their destruction and armed with atomic bombs.

A nuclear Iran will also precipitate a nuclear arms race among other Islamic states in the region so that, in relatively short order, Israel may find itself the default enemy in an area replete with nuclear-armed Islamic states.

I would not expect Iran to take the risks involved in a direct nuclear attack against Israel, which has its own advanced nuclear arsenal. But I would not be surprised to see small Iranian-made nuclear devices one day made available to terrorist groups like Hezbollah or possibly even Sunni terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, Hamas or al-Nusra.

Any of these might attempt a nuclear attack on Israel, leaving Iran free to deny complicity.

Syrian Instability

YouTube / 1st video: Conservative Glenn Beck shows disturbing footage from warfront in Syria where a rebel leader cuts open chest of dead Syrian soldier, cuts out his heart and liver and eats the organs. Beck warns Democrasts and Republicans could be dragging America into another Middle East War.
2nd video: Russia ships air defense missiles to Syrian government forces, bringing condemnation from the U.S. and a pledge from Syria to launch counter-attacks, if necesaary.

Neither of Syria’s Alawite rulers, Hafez al-Assad and his son and successor Bashar, were ever friends of Israel but they had learned, however reluctantly, to live within the parameters imposed upon them by Israel’s victories in the 1973 war.

They might get away with providing aid to Hezbollah guerillas (which they naturally deny providing) but Israel quite properly destroyed Damascus’ effort at construction of a nuclear reactor, reminding Bashar al-Assad of his limits. In short, the al-Assad’s were maintaining an acceptable degree of stability along the Israel/Syria frontier, especially the strategic Golan Heights.

This allowed Israel a welcome degree of predictability along much of its northern border.

The Syrian Civil War has done away with that stability and predictability and left Israel facing differing potential postwar outcomes, all of them bad.

Assuming, as I do, that no workable negotiated solution can be reached in Syria, then Bashar al-Assad will either win and retain power or lose and be replaced.

If Bashar wins it will be due in large part to the arms which Iran has supplied via Iraq and the Hezbollah manpower which Iran has directed to move from Lebanon into Syria to fight alongside Syrian government troops against the Sunni rebels.

This would accentuate even further the Alawite/Sunni split in Syria and leave the Alawites (a tangential offshoot of Shia Islam) even more dependent upon Shia Iran - eventually a nuclear-armed Iran - and its Shia terrorist clients Hezbollah.

The extension of Iran’s influence through Shia-majority Iraq and into Syria could not be more contrary to Israel’s interests. Should the rebels win, Syria is likely to be ruled by some coalition of Sunni rebel groups, several of which are known to be associated with al-Qaeda or other terrorist structures.

It may be that the identity of Syria’s post-Assad rulers would only become clear following additional conflict, but it is a safe bet that Syria’s new rulers, whoever they turn out to be, will not be well-disposed toward Israel and could pose a greatly heightened terrorist threat.

Whichever way the Syrian struggle turns out, the threat to Israel along its frontier with that country will become more acute.

Whichever way the Syrian struggle turns out, the threat to Israel along its frontier with that country will become more acute.

A less reliable Egypt

These dangerous trends in Iran and Syria have been made more problematic for Israel by events in Egypt.

Egypt’s adherence, however imperfectly, to the Camp David Accords has removed the most powerful of the Arab states from the military equation, freeing Israel from the threat of a two front war.

In light of Israel’s demonstrated military superiority this freed them from any traditional conflict with Arab armies.

The famous fence along the frontier with the Palestinians, along with hyper-alert Israeli security, has delivered satisfactory protection against suicide bombers and a resumption of the Palestinian Intifada.

In terms of border violence, this leaves only the occasional exchange of fire and follow-on incursion against Hamas in the Gaza Strip or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

While by no means acceptable, these have proven at least manageable. But now Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s post-Arab Spring President and longtime Muslim Brotherhood official, has cooled the relationship with Israel. And, concerned at the regional ambitions of soon-to-be-nuclear Shia Iran, Sunni Egypt has broken diplomatic relations with Syria, and announced that Egyptians so inclined may go to Syria and fight with the rebels against the government forces, despite Egyptian law to the contrary.

Finally, senior Egyptian Sunni clerics have declared jihad against the al-Assad regime.

The Egyptian decision to involve itself in the Syrian imbroglio, coming days after President Obama’s announcement of US provision of arms aid to the rebels which provided useful cover for Cairo break with Syria, is evidence that the Syrian civil conflict is becoming further internationalized.

This new indirect role is a dramatic turn by the Egyptian government, which in 1991 was so conservative as to commit two divisions to the Western side in the First Gulf War against Iraq. It is a 180-degree shift from Egypt’s policy of some 50-odd years ago when, for a brief period, Egypt and Syria came together in what was called the United Arab Republic.

From the perspective of Israel’s planners, they must now begin to consider a worst-case scenario in which they might again be engaged militarily on two fronts at once.

From the perspective of Israel’s planners, they must now begin to consider a worst-case scenario in which they might again be engaged militarily on two fronts at once.

Were things to move in that direction - and to date they have not - prudent advance preparations would require Israel to devote much more of its treasure, its people and its economic activity to its military.

It would probably also require higher aid levels from the United States but whether increases in assistance were to be forthcoming or not, such military growth would impose a significant drag on the overall Israeli economy.

The risks to Israel are growing apace. In the past that nation has always depended with confidence on the full support of the United States in any crisis. But under the Obama Administration the degree and type of support which Washington would be willing to afford to Israel are by no means assured.  

Stanley Escudero
June 19, 2013

FAST FACTS: Syrian Civil War

Syrian Civil War Snapshot / Wikipedia / Headline SurferThe Syrian civil war is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Syrian Ba'ath Party government and those seeking to oust it. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, with popular demonstrations that grew nationwide by April 2011. These demonstrations were part of the wider Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was deployed to quell the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country.
After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion. Opposition forces, mainly composed of defected soldiers and civilian volunteers, became increasingly armed and organized as they unified into larger groups. However, the rebels remained fractured, without organized leadership. The Syrian government characterizes the insurgency as an uprising of "armed terrorist groups and foreign mercenaries". The conflict has no clear fronts, with clashes taking place in many towns and cities across the country. The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. 
Late 2012 marked growing influence of the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra within the opposition forces, while Hezbollah entered the war in support of the Syrian army. The regime is further upheld by support from Russia and Iran. Qatar was an early funder of weapons for the opposition forces. In mid-2012, full-scaled urban battle began in Damascus, followed by the even more deadly battle of Aleppo. On July 15, 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross assessed the Syrian conflict as a "non-international armed conflict" (the ICRC's legal term for civil war), thus applying international humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions to Syria. The war degenerated into a stalemate in early 2013, with both sides making limited advances in different places.
According to the UN, the conflict was becoming "overtly sectarian in nature," though both the opposition forces and the Syrian government deny that sectarianism plays any key role in the conflict. In May 2013, the United Nations released an estimate that the war's death toll had exceeded 80,000. By June, this figure was updated to 92,900–100,000. According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country. To escape the violence, as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries. 
-- Source of photo and text: Wikipedia

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The Guidepost By Stanley Escudero
Stanley Escudero is a retired career diplomat, businessman & native Floridian, who lives in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, with his wife, Jaye. He served as chairman of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee in 2011-2012. Escudero was appointed to the Daytona State College Board of Trustees in 2015, By Gov. Rick Scott. Escudero, writer of the 'The Guidepost' politcal column since 2010, is a member of the inaugural Class of 2017 Headline Surfer Hall of Fame. All news content copyright-protected intellectual property of NSB News LLC, which may not be duplicated or re-published in whole or in part without advance approval of the publisher. Headline Surfer® is published by award-winning journalist Henry Frederick.