[Freemanlist2] Hezbollah deterred but determined to build-up strength] Maj. Gen.(res.) Amos Gilad: "Iran is still our Most Substantial Defense Challenge" - Amir Rapaport

BERNARD bernards at sbcglobal.net
Thu Mar 10 19:01:55 CST 2016

We wish the IDF would eliminate the 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel from Lebanon. We are not interest in massive retaliation after they are fired, making life in Israel very difficult. Pre-emption is always the best policy.
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From: imra at imra.org.il
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2016 4:50 PM
To: imra at imra.org.il
Subject: [Hezbollah deterred but determined to build-up strength] Maj. Gen.(res.) Amos Gilad: "Iran is still our Most Substantial Defense Challenge"

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:  Following a long Israeli tradition, Maj. Gen. 
(res.) Amos Gilad insists that the reason Hezboilah isn’t launching its 
100,000 rockets today towards Israel is Israeli deterrence rather than 
simply Hezbollah patience.]
"Hezbollah does not attack us, first and foremost because of Israeli 
deterrence, but also because they are immersed in a bloody war in Syria, 
where they have already lost hundreds of their men. On the other hand, they 
are determined to press on with the build-up of their strength opposite 
us.... Never before have 100,000 rockets been aimed at Israel – and the 
Iranians are working constantly to improve the accuracy of those rockets
"Iran is still our Most Substantial Defense Challenge"
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, Director of Policy and Political-Military 
Affairs at IMOD, in a fascinating interview – the developments in the Middle 
East in 2015, the religious war that has reached Europe, the possibility 
that Mahmoud Abbas may bow out and a regional forecast for 2016
Amir Rapaport | 10/03/2016

Six months after the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the 
superpowers, the Iranian issue has not been stricken off the agenda of the 
Israeli defense establishment. On the contrary: Iran will continue to be the 
primary challenge in 2016, too, says Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad in an 
exclusive interview to Israel Defense.

"The first challenge is monitoring the Iranian threat," lists Gilad. "The 
potential for the realization of a nuclear threat still exists in Iran, 
while at the same time the agreement provides the Iranians with more 
resources for building up a threatening military strength in Lebanon. If it 
were up to them, they would have built a layout opposite Israel that is 
similar to the layout of Hezbollah, on the Golan Heights as well.

"Iran's military industry manufactures an extensive range of missiles, and 
today they are a nuclear threshold country which, in their view, has been 
granted legitimacy. They want to implement the vision of a Persian-Shi'ite 
empire, while threatening the Arab countries, particularly Sunni Saudi 
Arabia. As far as they are concerned, the nuclear agreement is tactical, and 
the strategic path is what really matters: to consolidate the empire and 
disseminate its principles."

The interview with Gilad was conducted at his office on the 14th floor of 
the defense establishment building at the Kirya compound in Tel-Aviv, where 
the offices of the Minister of Defense and the IDF Chief of Staff are 
located as well. Maj. Gen. Gilad was appointed as the first Director of 
Policy and Political-Military Affairs in IMOD's history more than a decade 
ago, following a long career in the IDF, at the peak of which he had served 
as head of the Analysis Division at the IDF Intelligence Directorate and as 
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). 
Consequently, his perspective regarding the exciting occurrences of 2015 is 
unique and relies on many years of experience.

As the year 2015 draws to a close, Israel enjoys relative tranquility along 
the borders, despite the surge of terrorist attacks staged by Palestinians. 
Does this tranquility stem from the fact that the potential enemies of 
Israel, like Hezbollah, ISIS and al-Qaeda, are busy fighting one another? Is 
Israel's security situation improving or getting worse?

"In the Middle East there are always bad news and good news," replies 
General Gilad. "Along the northern border, the entity facing us is stronger 
than the State of Lebanon, which I call 'Hezballostan'. This entity has more 
than 100,000 rockets and continues to build up its potential even at sea, 
including the Russian-made shore-to-sea missile 'Yakhont' which is capable 
of engaging various marine and ground targets including our offshore gas 
drilling rigs.

"Hezbollah does not attack us, first and foremost because of Israeli 
deterrence, but also because they are immersed in a bloody war in Syria, 
where they have already lost hundreds of their men. On the other hand, they 
are determined to press on with the build-up of their strength opposite us.

"Generally speaking, Lebanon is an amazing country, where they have a 
constitution but not a state. In fact, the President of Lebanon no longer 
functions, and if a president is appointed – he will be a puppet in the 
hands of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah himself is connected 
by his umbilical cord to the Iranians, so 'Hezballostan' is actually an 
affiliate of Tehran. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the superpowers 
does not include any reference to the terrorism and missile threats, so 
these threats will intensify.

"Looking through a broader perspective, there are naturally historic layers 
to everything that takes place around Israel, like the Shi'ite-Sunni 
religious war that has been going on for hundreds of years. That may weaken 
the motivation to attack us, but we must not ignore the primary threat 
facing us: Iran in combination with 'Hezballostan'.

"Iran's record proves that it always strives to violate agreements. 
International sanctions have not changed their ideology. It is a very 
violent regime that deals with terrorism. This is what we face and prepare 

So, looking retrospectively at the last six months, does the Israeli defense 
establishment still believe that the agreement with Iran was a mistake?

"At this time we have to address the future instead of grading the past. As 
far as Israel is concerned, the agreement will enable Iran to obtain more 
resources. They entered the negotiations when the sanctions threatened their 
economy, and were willing to back down tactically, as long as they could 
maintain a strategic capability, and that is why you see them operating in 
the Yemen as well.

"The Iranians are also active in Syria, but they do not tend to sacrifice 
Iranians. They prefer to have the people of Hezbollah and other elements pay 
the price.

"The shining path, as far as the Iranians are concerned, is very clear: to 
grow stronger and build up terrorism and military capabilities. Never before 
have 100,000 rockets been aimed at Israel – and the Iranians are working 
constantly to improve the accuracy of those rockets. We must never be 
complacent – not even for a moment, even if the build-up of the threat to 
its fullest potential will take many years.

"Israel specified as a red line the prevention of the development of 
strategic military capabilities aimed against it. This is the principle. As 
far as its implementation is concerned – we do not refer to reports as to 
whether it is being implemented and if so – in what way and how 

You have categorically associated Hezbollah with Iran…

"Absolutely, as the person who actually manages Hezbollah is Qasem 
Soleimani, an Iranian. You find him all over the Middle East, advancing the 
affairs of the Iranian-Shi'ite Empire. As far as nuclear power is 
concerned – one day they will build the infrastructure. They will do 
anything to return to clandestine activity. The world may have rallied 
against them but as a result of the agreement they benefit from the lifting 
of the economic strangulation. As far as the war against ISIS, in which the 
Iranians participate, is concerned – the Iranians are even conceived as 
partners of sorts, but we should make no mistake about them.

"It is my recommendation to regard Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary 
Guards as a one-piece entity. It is, in fact, an Iranian system that may be 
found in South America, Afghanistan and many other places."

Let's move on to Syria. Is there any chance that 2016 will be the last year 
of the civil war over there?

"No," replies Amos Gilad emphatically, and adds: "Today, there is no such 
thing as 'Syria' anymore. A human tragedy of the first magnitude took place 
over there. Hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, glorious 
cities possessing a magnificent historic background destroyed to the ground. 
President Bashar al Assad currently controls only one quarter of Syria, and 
is totally dependent on Iran and Hezbollah. Right now, the way out of the 
war is political – as indicated in the Vienna conference. A part of the 
world says that if Assad is removed, an arrangement will be possible, but 
the truth is there is not much demand for the position of President of 
Syria. No prompt, decisive developments should be expected over there. 
Everything is complicated. Syria is a mass of boiling lava with a sectarian 

Let's speak a little about the Islamic State organization – ISIS. Today, 
they are conceived as the number one threat worldwide, especially following 
the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015…

"ISIS succeeded in uniting the entire world in the realization that it must 
be eliminated, but from this point onward, the road and the war against it 
are still very long.

"ISIS is not just a local threat – it is an idea that joins Muslim 
communities in Europe together. In comparison, al-Qaeda suddenly seems like 
a moderate organization, although it is just as merciless and brutal as 
ISIS. ISIS is the offspring of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Initially, it was the Iraqi 
affiliate of al-Qaeda, and then the organization evolved into an economic 
and military entity that aspires to dominate the entire world. Organizations 
from around the world that join ISIS provide it with monetary support and 
help recruit volunteers. They do not have any military depth, but the 
organization spreads and expands through the social media. ISIS is a 

Why have they moved on to stage attacks in the heart of Europe?

"That was hardly surprising. If you take an organization with a radical 
ideology that advocates the elimination of the crusaders and the Jews, which 
succeeded in attracting to Syria thousands of Europeans carrying authentic 
passports, including highly intelligent individuals who were fascinated by 
the violence and prowess, then this will be possible. These people receive 
military training and are brainwashed against the magnificent democratic 
countries from which they had come. No wonder, then, that they will be 
involved in terrorist attacks later on."

Will the trend of exporting the war outside the boundaries of the Middle 
East continue?

"Certainly, and at the same time I expect that the Europeans will change 
their approach to counterterrorism, while restricting civil liberties to a 
certain extent. Eventually, the world realizes that the basic Israeli 
approach according to which democracy is maintained while effective 
counterterrorism tools are being developed is the right approach. In such a 
war, sometimes there is no other choice but taking controversial measures. 
The USA, for example, employs drones on a massive scale to attack terrorist 
elements. One must bear in mind the fact that the people they attack despise 
democracy, and should be handled using the appropriate tools."

Is it possible to hit ISIS by attacking its economic infrastructure, like 
destroying the oil fields and attacking oil tankers in northern Iraq?

"This will not subdue them, but it will definitely be a serious blow. I am 
convinced that following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Europeans will 
significantly improve their intelligence and counterterrorism layouts, as 
the USA did pursuant to the attacks of September 11, 2001. This does not 
guarantee victory, but the chances of handling the threat will improve. Look 
what has happened pursuant to the murderous attack in Paris: the French 
employed all of their intelligence resources and very quickly reached the 
individual who was responsible for the attack."

Did this intelligence feat also stem from the cooperation between France and 

"I like the fact that in such cases Israel maintains a low profile. I do not 
wish to go into it. Normally, Israel cooperates in the field of intelligence 
with organizations in the west, but I do not think it would be right to talk 
about it."

Does ISIS threaten the stability of the Kingdom of Jordan? Does this concern 

"The regime in Jordan is stable and it deals with very dramatic challenges. 
It should be said to their credit, that after the Jordanian pilot had been 
murdered by ISIS under shocking circumstances, King Abdullah of Jordan 
demonstrated phenomenal leadership. He immediately returned to Jordan from 
the USA, met with the (pilot's) family and established a Jordanian identity.

"At the same time, we should note that in the past, Jordan had bordered to 
the north with the Syrian state, which no longer exists. To the east of 
Jordan there's Iraq – where ISIS dominates huge territories. ISIS is 
attempting to infiltrate from that area, for the time being on a limited 

"Jordan already deals with a million and a half Syrian refugees and half a 
million Iraqi refugees, and this country is not one of the richest countries 
in the world. So they have concerns. We should be concerned, too, but you 
cannot help being impressed by their capabilities – not just the military 

Was 2015 a year that improved stability in Egypt?

"Under the leadership of General el-Sisi, the current President of Egypt, 
Egypt is stable although it faces numerous challenges – economic, military 
and social."

You say that despite the blow sustained by the regime pursuant to the 
bombing of the Russian aircraft over the Sinai, and despite the never-ending 
war of the Egyptian Army against ISIS in the Sinai?

"Egypt is the true leader of the Arab world. It faces inherent challenges. 
The Muslim Brotherhood, which ascended to power a few years ago, was very 
close to changing the entire Middle East, but the current president, 
el-Sisi, who was commander in chief of the Egyptian Army, decided to march 
Egypt to a better future on the basis of a regime that attempts to improve 
the basic elements over which Egypt is built.

"The peace agreement with Israel is also important to Egypt. Look how it 
lasted, even while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power. This peace agreement 
has security aspects, and the assistance they receive from the USA depends 
on it."

What is the state of Hamas, which is involved in a dual confrontation 
opposite Egypt and opposite Israel?

"Hamas is an inseparable part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. It 
cooperates with ISIS in the Sinai while at the same time it fights ISIS 
elements in the Gaza Strip. This may sound illogical, but it is true, 
because Hamas regards ISIS as an entity that may help it smuggle weapons 
from the Sinai. The Egyptians, for their part, regard Hamas as an enemy, and 
justly so. They are constructing an obstacle system along the border between 
the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and the scope of smuggling into the Strip has 
decreased. The Egyptians are doing it in line with their own interests.

"The result: it has become difficult for Hamas to smuggle weapons into the 
Gaza Strip. It is difficult for them to attack Israel, because Israel had 
delivered a serious blow to them, but they are determined to maintain the 
capability of attacking Israel, and they do everything they can to 
manufacture weapons and rockets. As they do not have the support of any 
element – they are doing their best to re-establish their connections with 
Iran, so that the Iranians may provide them with assistance (in their 
confrontation) against Israel.

"Today, Hamas regards the interior of Israel and the Judea and Samaria 
territories as the most appropriate space for staging murderous terrorist 
attacks. The only reason why they do not do it is the fact that they are 
unable to. The intelligence superiority of Israel, spearheaded by ISA and 
the IDF Intelligence Directorate, is significant. It is a refined system, 
and Hamas is currently unable to execute the plans that were intended to 
shock Israel."

Is Hamas preparing for the next round of fighting that would follow 
Operation Protective Edge of the summer of 2014?

"Unequivocally, yes. The role they play in the current surge of terrorism is 
insane incitement that converts very young people into knife-bearers whose 
duty is to attack and kill in an inflamed atmosphere. But they would have 
liked to see Israel sinking into a mire of blood and fire with many hundreds 
of deaths. If they could have executed a major suicide attack – they would 
have done so."

Does the security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority continue 
despite the current surge of terrorist attacks?

"The Palestinian system is split between the Judea and Samaria district and 
the Gaza Strip. Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), despite all of his attempts and 
efforts, has thus far failed to dominate the Gaza Strip and Hamas, on the 
other hand, has failed to dominate the Judea and Samaria district.

"There is incitement against Israel in the Judea and Samaria, but the 
Palestinian security system continues to confront Hamas. Abu Mazen may be 
considering retirement and is in a contrarian mood, and this could be 
translated into things that would affect security.

"If we analyze all of the statements and behavior patterns of Abu Mazen, we 
will see him, in 2016, drifting into a confrontation against us, in the 
political and security fields. The potential for this development is there. 
We take this possibility into consideration and regard it very seriously."

Saudi Arabia has experienced a smooth transition of power following the 
death of the King, but on the other hand – it has embarked on an arms race 
opposite the Iranians…

"That is correct. The Saudis are building up a substantial, state-of-the-art 
air force. The Persian Gulf is currently the scene of significant 
empowerment through acquisitions from the USA and other countries. The 
Iranians are threatening them and the economic situation could have an 
adverse effect on them because of the drop in oil prices, but something in 
the internal mechanisms of the Gulf States maintains stability over there. 
In general, it is amazing that no Arab kingdom has been undermined in the 
last few years, despite the turbulence experienced by the Arab countries 
where the type of regime is different."

Is the Cold War between the USA and Russia returning to the Middle East 
against the background of the civil war in Syria?

"Russia is not fighting the USA," says Amos Gilad. "Both countries fight the 
same enemy: ISIS. This is definitely true after the Russians made a formal 
declaration to the effect that their passenger aircraft had been bombed out 
of the sky over the Sinai by the Islamic State organization."

Nevertheless, if you analyze the Russian tactics, are they entering a kind 
of vacuum left by the USA, which is reducing the extent of its involvement 
in the Middle East?

"The Middle East has a strange characteristic – you can never leave it. The 
Russians entered Syria in order to prevent the capture of Damascus by ISIS. 
That was their consideration."

What are our relations with Russia like?

"We have a coordination liaison with the Russians regarding all of the 
aerial activities. I do not think that an incident such as the shooting down 
of the Russian aircraft by the Turks is likely to take place between us and 
the Russians. The Prime Minister finalized the coordination outline and 
Israel declared freedom of operation and the red lines in its war against 
terrorism, while Putin declared that he is committed to the security of 
Israel. We are definitely not pleased by the fact that the Russians supply 
state-of-the-art weapon systems to Iran and Syria, which end up in the hands 
of Hezbollah as well, but we conduct talks with them on an almost unlimited 
level. The dialog with the Russians is very sincere, candid and covers every 
possible subject."

When will the Iranians take delivery of the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft 
defense system they had acquired from Russia?

"The Russians signed the agreement with Iran as far back as ten years ago, 
and had it reaffirmed immediately following the signing of the nuclear 
agreement. The system in question is the S-300 PMU – the most advanced 
version short of the S-400, which the Russians do not export. Are we pleased 
about that? Certainly not. The nuclear agreement had Putin release the 
brakes and resume Russia's arms deals with Tehran. As to the question of 
when they are going to take delivery of the system, well, this is a purely 
technical matter, which could take weeks or months."

Have the relations between Israel and Turkey improved in the last year?

"The economic relations between the countries are reasonable. The 
defense/security relations with Turkey, which used to be a magnificent ally, 
have been stricken off over the last few years. These relations contained a 
negative aspect of provocation, as in the case of the Mavi Marmara flotilla 
in May 2010, but that has faded owing to various reasons. Today, there is no 
aspect of provocation against Israel."

And no hostility?

"First of all, we have diplomatic relations at the lowest level. 
Exterminating terrorism is the interest of the entire free world, including 
Turkey. The Turks are entering this process gradually but more and more 
intensively. At the same time, opposite Turkey we should conduct ourselves 
cautiously, consistently and with sensitivity."

Has Qatar reconsidered its support for Hamas, as it was reflected during 
Operation Protective Edge and in their hosting of Hamas leader Khaled 
Mashal? Are they not concerned about losing their opportunity to host the 
FIFA World Cup games in 2022 against this background?

"Even if Qatar has reconsidered, they are still hosting Khaled Mashal. Qatar 
is a very rich country, deeply-rooted in the West. I do not see any danger 
of Qatar losing their opportunity to host the games. They deny their support 
for terrorism, and everyone accepts that denial."

What are the points you would have paid particular attention to in 2016?

"There are many challenges. After Iran, the second challenge, quite 
naturally, involves such hostile elements as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Every single 
day, we must check and determine whether they are working against you.

"Additionally, there is the disconcerting phenomenon of ISIS attacking the 
Syrian Army, and the Syrian Army responding by attacking civilians using 
chemical weapons such as artillery shells, barrels and so forth. Syria had 
been forced to give up its massive chemical weapon arsenal. They had 1300 
tons of chemical weapons, but as it sometimes happens in the Middle East, 
they kept some of those quantities and developed new weapon types. They have 
no qualms about attacking Syrian civilians using these weapons. The world 
has grown indifferent to it. Let's not go into details, but ISIS uses 
chemical weapons, too. This is highly dangerous. We must remain alert all 
the time.

"Naturally, the military rocket threat from Lebanon necessitates 
state-of-the-art intelligence as well as appropriate preparedness and 
deployment. We have complex relations with the Arab countries and they must 
be maintained.

"2016 will also be a highly important year for our excellent strategic 
relations with the USA: after the Prime Minister's visit to Washington in 
November 2015, the Americans are engaging in a dialog with us regarding the 
security needs of Israel. Our friendship with them is irreplaceable, and 
does not pertain only to resources. It is a profound friendship that stems 
from a wall-to-wall consensus in the US Congress. The over-all outcome of 
those relations is an extensive aid and assistance suit.

"The dialog will continue through the first quarter of 2016. The (Israeli) 
Minister of Defense had a very successful visit to the USA that encompassed 
numerous issues. In 2016, these things will be further consolidated. We have 
intelligence and security cooperation with the entire free world vis-à-vis 
all of the challenges. Israel maintains a relatively tranquil lifestyle, 
despite all of the severe phenomena around us."
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Since 1992 providing news and analysis on the Middle East with a focus on Arab-Israeli relations

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