John Bolton: Iran's plan to destroy Israel is hiding in plain sight
Category: News & PoliticsVia: vic-eldred • 2 months ago • 9 comments
By: The Telegraph
Jerusalem and its allies should be considering how Iran and its surrogates will respond to Israeli retaliation against Hamas in Gaza. Alongside Hezbollah, the major unknown currently is whether possibly Syria or even Iran itself will intervene in a much bigger way.
Over the years, Russia and Iran have supplied Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas with missiles and drones. Hezbollah's arsenal is enormously larger than that of Hamas, amounting to tens of thousands, perhaps 150,000 missiles, compared with Hamas's arsenal in the single-digit thousands. Moreover, long experience in cross-border terrorism and military conflict against Israel and other foes of Iran makes Hezbollah particularly dangerous.
Simultaneously, growing criticism of the Jewish state will increase among its fair-weather friends. Iran and some or all of its puppets will use asymmetric warfare against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), including sophisticated and extensive propaganda and influence operations in the West, accompanied by "lawfare", a systematic effort purportedly based on international law intended to delegitimise Jerusalem's campaign against Hamas and other adversaries.
How Iran, Syria and Hezbollah act militarily depends on whether the Hamas attack was a one-off, or if a deeper strategy is in play. Perhaps it was just conducting a reconnaissance-in-force, probing Israel's defences. Or perhaps Hamas aimed to tie down significant IDF forces in Gaza so that Hezbollah could attack with far greater force from Lebanon and Syria.
Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria are key elements of Iran's "ring of fire" strategy to isolate and pressure Israel and its Arab friends, as are Yemen's Houthi rebels and the Shia militia groups which Iran is even now forging into an Iraqi version of Hezbollah. The Biden administration shows no sign that it knows how Iran intends to implement this strategy, or over what period.
Unfortunately for Israel, Iran and its terrorist satellites can launch concerted military campaigns at times of their choosing. Or they could follow a salami-slicing programme of terrorist pressure on Israel for an extended period. Iran may be seeking thereby to strain Israel's already divisive domestic politics, and hope Jerusalem's international support erodes due to short attention spans and the press of other affairs, including the Ukraine war.
Critical to Iran's global strategy of wearying Israel's Western support is to heighten criticism of Israel for exercising its right to self-defence. Widespread demonstrations last Friday at the behest of Hamas showed that anti-Israel propaganda was already pre-positioned.
Meanwhile, within three days of the Hamas assault, the lawfare barrage began, unsurprisingly launched by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, asserting that conflict in Gaza falls under ICC jurisdiction. This shows how farcical and illegitimate the ICC itself is, recognising as it does an imaginary "state" of Palestine that even the feckless UN doesn't include as a member, despite decades of Palestinian efforts to gain entry.
Simultaneously, Josep Borrell, the EU representative of foreign affairs, claimed Israel's blockade of Gaza violated international law, as though combatants had an obligation to care for civilians in enemy-controlled territory. This is roughly equivalent to saying that, in the Second World War, Britain and America had an obligation to allow food and other supplies to reach Germany.
Anti-Israeli criticism and second-guessing will surely intensify as Israel pushes into Gaza. And just in case anyone forgot, Hamas alone has ruled Gaza since 2007, when Israel withdrew. If Gaza has been misruled and neglected, Israel is hardly to blame. Ask Gaza's Arab neighbours.
Tellingly, just days later, Russia's foreign ministry criticised Israeli air strikes on Syrian airports as violations of its sovereignty and international law. Such an official statement marks a dramatic reversal of longstanding Russian practice of ignoring Israeli bombing raids against Iranian convoys delivering missiles and other military supplies to Hezbollah or Syrian forces.
Previously, Moscow insisted only that Jerusalem take steps to deconflict from Russia's Syria-based air and ground forces, to avoid casualties and potential hostilities between the two of them. Suddenly to express concern about Syrian "sovereignty", which barely exists in much of the country without Iranian or Russian support, suggests that Damascus and perhaps Moscow are preparing to enter any conflict directly against Jerusalem.
We do not know with certainty what is coming next, but we do know already that the Hamas invasion was well-planned and probably long in preparation with Iran, Hezbollah and others. On Saturday, Iran's foreign minister threatened Israel directly, saying Hezbollah was preparing "a huge earthquake" against Israel if it attacked Gaza. Israel has already accused Iran of directing recent Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon. All the pieces are there: Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and possibly Russia.
Does anyone still say Iran is not directly involved? Israel's allies must prepare for a potentially extended military and propaganda effort to divide the Jewish state internally and isolate it from even its strongest allies. The time is now.
John Bolton is a former US national security adviser