The Yom Kippur War, 1973

On Yom Kippur as well as repentance we should think of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Israel came closest to being destroyed.  The Israel Defense Ministry has released archives that reveal the drama of that time, including the incredible intelligence blunder of the Head of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen. Eli Zeira, who completely ignored signs of an impending Egyptian attack, and the fears of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that “Israel will not be able to defend itself.”  Zeira and the Head of the Southern Command Maj-Gen. Shmuel Gonen were relieved of their commands.

Gen. Ariel Sharon was called back from retirement and given command of an Armored Division under Gen. Bar-Lev, who did not trust him.  He was ordered not to attack but to await further orders, but he ignored that and immediately attacked the Egyptian forces and cut a way through towards the southern end of the Suez Canal, where with incredible foresight in 1967 he had built a ramp from which to construct a bridge over to the Egyptian side of the Canal.  He had a mobile bridge following in the wake of his tank attack. Unfortunately they blundered into an Egyptian armored division waiting in reserve and at the battle of the Chinese Farm defeated them.  They went on against incredible difficulties (and against orders) to bring up the bridge and construct the crossing and he raced his tanks over to the other side and not only destroyed the Egyptian missile defenses against the IDF, but also prevented all supplies getting to the main Egyptian Army.  He had encircled the Egyptian 3rd Army and in effect he had won the war.  So his daring insubordination paid off.

More Israelis died in that war (ca. 3,000) due to the lack of foresight of the Generals and the intelligence echelon than in any other war.  But, despite it being on Yom Kippur and the element of surprise, Israel scored a stunning victory that paved the way for the Israel-Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1979.  The Israeli Defense Ministry learned several hard lessons from this war, that in effect made the IDF even more capable than before.

 

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US Withdraws from Syria

Pres. Trump has fulfilled his campaign promise to withdraw US troops from Syria when ISIS is defeated.  Some might argue that ISIS still has troops and supporters on the ground, but the fact is that the Caliphate that they established in the Syria-Iraq region is no more.  So Pres. Trump has acted and US forces are currently withdrawing from the region.  Pres. Erdogan of Turkey has his forces on the Turkish-Syrian border waiting to cross into Syria to establish a so-called safe zone.  In what way it will be safe is unclear, but what is clear is that Turkey wants to expel the Kurdish forces that were US allies out of this zone.  This will cause a war with the Kurds, that unfortunately the Kurds cannot win.  This is seen as a betrayal by the US.

So the losers in this withdrawal are the US that will lose all leverage in the region, and the Kurds.  The winners will be the Turks, the Iranian and the Russians, who will now have a free hand in the eastern region of Syria being vacated by the US. And the Israelis will also gain. Why the Israelis? Because the vacuum created by the US withdrawal will leave the Sunni Arab States without the power of the US to support them in their on-going conflict with Iran.  This will make them even more dependent on Israel, and so the likelihood that they will sign some kind of  truce or ceasefire agreement with Israel is greatly increased.  This is the least Israel can demand of them for agreeing to an alliance against Iran.

Although the US has started to withdraw from eastern Syria, Pres. Trump has warned Turkey not to carry our any massacres of Kurds in its invasion of northern Syria.  He has warned Erdogan that he will carry our economic war against Turkey if he ignores this warning.  Pres. Assad of Syria has also offered the Kurds, who after all are Syrian citizens, to support them against the invasion of Syria by the foreign Turks.  Also involved are the Russians and the Iranians.  What a mix, maybe Trump is clever to get out of that mess, he has enough troubles of his own. On the other hand it bodes ill for all allies of the USA, who now realize again after the Obama era that they can no longer rely on US support.  Israel and the Arabs must be prepared to go it alone.

 

The Greatest Transformation in History

How is it that the Jewish people went from being the greatest victims in history to becoming the most victorious military force in the 20th century in just three years?  The Holocaust of WWII was the greatest example of ethnic cleansing in history.  It is indeed a strange enigma that the Jews went from the depths of genocide in 1945 to the heights of victory and success in 1948.  And to show that it wasn’t a fluke, the IDF victories of 1956 (the Suez campaign), 1967 (The Six Day War), 1973 (the Yom Kippur War) and 1982 (the First Lebanon War) followed, usually against great odds.  What was the secret of this amazing transformation from victim to victor?  I think there are three main reasons:

  1. Zionist secular culture: It is important to recognize that the Jewish settlement in the Holy Land began as far back as 1880, and that most of those settling in and establishing the State of Israel were non-religious Jews.  They had grown up in and adopted European secular culture, and as such they were far more culturally advanced and able to handle the increasingly technical side of arms and warfare compared to their adversaries.  They were pragmatic and had experienced the violent rejectionism of the Arabs for many years, including massacres of Jews in 1921, 1929 and 1936, and recognized the need to acquire arms and to prepare for combat.
  2.  Jewish innovation and culture: The secular culture of Jews in Europe had produced Einstein, Haber, Fermi, and so on, and in fact had dominated science and technology far beyond their numbers.  Some of these individuals moved to Palestine and constituted a core of innovative minds that developed an arms industry, improved the technology (the Uzi) and then went on to develop nuclear weapons, computers, drones, anti-missile missiles, cyber security and much, much more.
  3. The dominant form of warfare: I am reading an excellent book entitled “Armies of Sand” by Kenneth Pollack, that is an exhaustive evaluation of the poor performance of Arab armies in war (more about this book later).  One of his points is that in every age there is a dominant form of warfare, that varies from century to century.  For example, the Greeks and Romans used the phalanx, Genghis Khan used mobile horsemen, the British used the long bow and pike, then guns were developed and trench warfare resulted.  From an essentially static clash war changed when the Germans used tanks and introduced lighting warfare (blitzkreig).  The essence of warfare changed from quantity of soldiers, to quality of those who could master the technology.  The Jewish mind and capability was able to adapt to the fluid circumstances of highly mobile warfare, while the Arab culture was apparently not (this is his conclusion, which I agree with).  The time was right for the Jews to become adept at the current dominant form of warfare.

While there are many more factors, such as economics, quality of weapons, even politics (such as when ceasefires are agreed) these three factors seem to be the main ones that determined the resurrection of the Jewish nation from the depths of despair to the heights of victory.

 

Israel’s Ally – Russia?

There are two countries fighting with the Assad regime that are responsible for its victory in Syria, namely Iran and Russia.  Now that Assad again controls about two thirds of Syria, differences have appeared in the interests of these two countries.  Both have their own interests in Syria, but neither want to jeopardize Assad’s resurgence by an outright clash.  In order to prevent Iran taking over Syria the Russians are content to sit back and let Israel and others attack Iran’s expansion program in Syria. This reverses the usual adage, in this case the enemy of my friend is my friend.

Israel, also in return, has not opposed Putin’s drive to expand his influence in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean.  Although the US used to be the main power in the Middle East, both the Administrations of Obama and Trump have been retracting US forces from the region and the Sunni Arabs States and Israel have come to realize that there is a power vacuum created that both Russia and Iran seek to fill.  But while Iran represents an existential threat to the survival of Israel and Saudi Arabia and the other Arab States, Russia does not.  So the choice is easy.  Fight Iran, but tolerate Russia.

Russia also gains significantly from conflict in the Middle East, since it pushes up the price of oil, and Russia is one of the major non-Middle East suppliers of oil in the world, and most of its import income comes from sales of oil.  So Russia gains in both ways, it entrenches its position in Syria if Israel attacks Iran and it gains from the increase in the price of oil if Iran attacks Saudi Arabia. Not a bad deal.

Iran Crisis

Iran is in economic crisis due to the extreme sanctions that the US has placed on it. Yet at the UN Pres Rouhani of Iran was defiant, he refused to meet with Pres. Trump and  refused to be seen together with him and would not even pick up the phone when Trump called him.  But, make no mistake, there has to be a cost for the devastating and accurate attack that Iran carried out against the Saudi oil fields.

The Iranians have tried to pretend that the attack came from the Houthi rebels in Yemen, one of their proxies.  But, there is no way the Houthis have the capability to produce the sophisticated weapons that carried out this attack.  If the Iranians admit to the attack then they make themselves the target for a counter-attack, but everyone knows they did it. 

This attack has roused certain countries from their slumbers, especially the Europeans.  From trying to return to the JCPOA, Germany, France and the UK all criticized Iran for this attack.  And the Sunni Arab countries, including the Saudis, have come out into the open and have joined with Israel in organizing an anti-Iran meeting at the UN.  Now all Iran’s allies are considering what to do.

Pres. Trump in his Rosh Hashanah message stated that he does not want to go to war with Iran and would rather negotiate, but if once again Rouhani turns him down as he did, even Trump may get the message.  There is only one way of dealing with Iran, since their Shia religion predicts an all-out war with their enemies, and that is to destroy its dangerous and fanatical regime.

A recent article in the J’sam Post (Sept 26) described the new missile that has been developed by Israel called the Rampage.  It is a supersonic stand-off missile, meaning that it can be fired from as far as 150 km away by Israel’s fastest fighter jets.  They would probably first destroy the airfields and ports of Iran and then go on to destroy its defensive facilities.  At some point in the future it seems this will be inevitable.

   

A Saudi-US Response?

Seen close up, the damage done to the oil refining facility in Saudi Arabia looks immense and very accurate.  In fact not only drones were used but also cruise missiles.  The Saudis have shown the remains of several of these and it is clear they were made in Iran.  Although the exact origin of the attack is unknown, it is clear that the attack came from the north and not from the south as the Iranians and the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed.  This attack has cut Saudi oil production in half and has seriously affected the world’s oil supply and caused the largest one day increase in the price of oil in history.  The Saudis have definitely blamed the attack on the Iranians and no-one has come up with any other possible perpetrator. 

What is incredible is that with all eyes focused on Iran, no-one has been able to come up with a clear-cut answer to where the attack originated from, or perhaps they don’t want to because that would require a military response.   What is even more incredible is that with all the billions of dollars spent by Saudi Arabia on their military infrastructure, and the world-wide US military capability, no-one had any defensive means to interdict this attack.  It was not a small attack as anyone can see but a massive attack on the heart of the Saudi oil production capability.  It was an act of war!

Once again the Iranians came out with strong threats that if anyone attacks Iran they will have as major war in their homelands.  So what is the US and its Gulf allies going to do, nothing?  If they respond militarily it will likely lead to an all-out war with Iran, and if they don’t respond not only will it project weakness, but Iran can attack again and not expect there to be any cost to them.  Putting out 50% if Saudi oil production is a great coup for Iran, and they can now sit aback and wait to see if there is any response.  My prediction is that it will not come quickly, but rather the US and its allies will prepare gradually for a massive assault on Iran, but it may take some time.

Meanwhile Pres. Trump has announced the sending of US troops to Saudi Arabia for defensive purposes.  How many and whether this is a cover for a more aggressive response remains to be seen.  But, they need to make sure that Saudi has an effective detection and anti-missile shield.  They could learn a lot from Israel in this respect.

An Act of War

Anyone seeing the huge conflagration caused by 10 drones firing rockets into oil storage tanks at two Saudi oil facilities could not avoid the comparison with the oil fires set by the Iraqi army when they were forced to withdraw from Kuwait.  The attack a few days ago on the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia was an act of war.  Not only did it do tremendous damage, but it wiped out about 5% of the world’s oil supplies and caused the price of oil to rise precipitously.  Luckily, as both the Saudis and the US stated, they have enough in stock not to cause a panic.

The big question is who was behind it?  The obvious answer is Iran.  Although Iran denies this, we know they routinely lie. Also, the claim by the Houthi rebels in Yemen that they sent the 10 drones is not believable, because first they don’t have the capability to send drones over such a long distance, second they don’t possess such weapons and thirdly they are a proxy controlled by the Iranians.  So Iran is behind it for sure, and most likely Iran sent the drones and fired the rockets.  We are waiting for definitive confirmation from Saudi and American sources that they have definite evidence of this.  If so it could trigger a war between the Saudis and their allies (the Gulf States, and the USA) against Iran.

Only a few days ago Pres. Trump was saying that he could meet with Pres. Rouhani, but not only have the Iranians scuttled that possibility, but we are now much closer to the brink of war.  Not only have the Iranians probably done this deed, but they have also stopped another tanker in the Gulf and this after several previous illegal seizures, as well as their support for terrorist activities throughout the Middle East.

Where does Israel fit into this picture.  Israel has been attacking Iranian facilities in Syria for some time, and this has had the tacit support of Pres. Trump and Pres. Putin of Russia.  Today Putin is meeting with Rouhani in Ankara at the invitation of Pres. Erdogan of Turkey, in order to discuss the Syrian situation.  Maybe Rouhani will ask Putin why he doesn’t stop the Israeli attacks.  So far Iran has not tried to do so itself, fearing no doubt a direct confrontation with Israel.  That is why Iran continues to carry out these attacks but denies them.  At some point the reality will catch up with them.


Note: The Israeli election is today, but predictions won’t be available until after 10 pm tonite and actual results some days later.