By B. Raman
The stepped-up PSYWAR by Israel against Iran on the question of the possibility of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities indicates an underlying lack of confidence in Israel’s military and intelligence circles over the chances of success of any military strike against Iran.
One does not see in Israel of today the kind of confidence that it had in 1981 that it would be able to succeed with a clandestine air strike against Iraq’s OSIRAK nuclear reactor then under construction with French assistance and manage the consequences.
The Mossad — the Israeli external intelligence agency — of today is not the Mossad of 1981. There has been a decline in its professionalism despite the success of some of its recent sabotage operations against Iran’s nuclear establishment. The public opposition by some of the retired senior intelligence officers such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet, the security agency, to any military action against Iran reflects the lack of confidence about the success of a military strike against Iran amongst officers who retired only recently and hence must be up-to-date in their knowledge of the Israeli capabilities against Iran.
There are conflicting reports about the stand of serving officers. While some reports say that the serving officers are confident that Israel can successfully carry out a military strike against Iran, other indicators are that even some serving officers share the misgivings of the retired officers.It is believed that the statements against a military strike issued by these retired officers reflects not only their lack of confidence in the success of a military strike, but also of some of the serving officers who had worked under them when they headed the agencies.
Unless there is an assessment backed by a majority of the serving military and intelligence officers that a military strike will be successful in neutralising Iran’s retaliatory capability and nuclear facilities, those in the political leadership in favour of immediate action headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may find it difficult to go ahead with a military strike.
The unusual high-octane PSYWAR mounted by Israeli leaders talking and threatening from roof-top regarding the likelihood of a military strike reflects not Israeli confidence in its ability to carry out a successful strike, but the persisting misgivings in the national security decision-making circles as to whether a strike would be successful.
Israeli national security and intelligence culture forbids public airing of military plans and debates before an imminent military action. The fact that such a public airing is being done now by the Government as part of its PSYWAR and that retired senior intelligence officers no longer feel bound by their culture of discretion and self-restraint are indicators of a lack of confidence in the political and professional circles regarding the chances of success of a military strike.
There would have been little opposition to a military strike if there was total confidence that it would succeed. The lack of unanimity of support for a strike is an indicator of the lack of such total confidence.
Israel of today is not the Israel of 1981. It no longer has the confidence that it can prevail in having its national security will and interests enforced. Iran is counting on this in going ahead with its nuclear plans, but it will be committing a serious mistake if it underestimates Israel’s penchant to take risks and act if its leaders and people feel that their national survival is at stake.