Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Forecast for the next decade

Yedioth Ahronoth


Forecast for the next decade

Ron Ben-Yishai foresees nuclear Iran, northern war, but also a stronger, more advanced IDF
Ron Ben-Yishai 05.08.08

First, a personal comment: Everyone knows that since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, prophecy is given to fools, and that 10 years in the Middle East are more or less equal to eternity. Yet when I was asked to write my own forecast for Israel’s 60th Independence Day I couldn’t fight the temptation. Yet as opposed to a prophecy, an assessment for the next decade is a challenge that forces one to ask: Does the current security and diplomatic activity have a chance to improve our situation in the future, and is there a chance that in 10 years we will see peace prevail? Therefore, despite the risk that I will be proven wrong, I will attempt to answer.

My forecast is based on the assumption that current trends in the world and in the Middle East will continue in the next decade and may even intensify. We should also recall that 10 years are, more or less, the time required to develop new weapon systems. The Israeli experience also proves that every 10 years on average we face war or a major military campaign. Therefore, below I detail the main developments that in my estimate will take place within the next decade:

  • Radical militant Islam will attempt to take over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan, and Iraq – but it will start the process of fading away. We are not only talking about global Jihad, but also local Jihad movements. The main reason for this is their failure to produce, over time, new operational and political success stories. The West, Russia, and China, as well as the secular Muslim regimes, will cooperate and learn to “contain” the radical Islamic groups. Meanwhile, the masses will be disappointed by the extremist groups’ inability to provide their basic needs and improve their quality of life.

  • The United States will continue to maintain its military and civilian presence in Iraq and operate militarily against Iranian targets that assist Iraqi terror. NATO forces will continue to operate alongside American units and civilian aid groups in Afghanistan. In both regions, the extent of Western forces and aid will be smaller compared to the current situation.

  • Rising food prices and natural disasters, which will become more frequent because of global warming, will increase the dependence of Muslim and Arab states on wealthy Western countries that boast highly developed agriculture and the ability to offer aid of all kinds in order to cope with natural disasters. This is also true with regards to the Muslim oil exporters, which will have to spend more money on food, desalination, and basic necessities – and less money on arms.

  • Iran will acquire military nuclear capabilities and will also possess various strategic launching means. The international community and Israel will not be able to prevent it. As a result, more Mideastern countries will launch their own nuclear activity.

  • Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Egypt will accumulate thousands of missiles and rockets that will be accurate, long-ranged, and fitted with larger warheads than in the past. In addition, they will possess modern anti-tank rockets and will significantly improve, through Russian equipment and independent development, their aerial defense systems. All of the above will boost their ability to sow destruction in Israel’s territory, and make it more difficult for our ground forces and Air Force to operate in their territory.

  • In the next 10 years, we will see several more wide-scale clashes between Israel and the Palestinians and possibly with Syria and Hizbullah as well. After these clashes and as a result of them, we will secure partial diplomatic agreements with the Palestinians, as well as with Syria and Lebanon, with active international backing and participation.But those will still not be full peace treaties.

  • The administrations of the next two American presidents will continue to support Israel diplomatically and militarily, and will attempt to advance peace agreements, more or less in line with the current format.

  • In light of the above, I estimate that Israeli governments will continue to adhere to Ben-Gurion’s security doctrine, that is: Avoid war as much as possible via deterrence and diplomatic maneuvers; build and maintain intelligence deterrence power that would enable us to thwart war and prepare for it in advance; and if war is forces upon us, or if Israel initiates war in order to thwart a clear and tangible threat to destroy us – the IDF will win it by defeating the enemy in its own territory; Israel will build its defense force while utilizing its human and technological advantage and with American assistance; on the diplomatic front, Israel will work to advance peace treaties in stages, in a way that preserves Washington’s support and the international legitimacy for our existence and for our defense efforts.

  • The implementation of the above principles will likely lead to the maturation of several processes in the next decade:

  • A multilayered system for intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, and rockets of all types and sizes will be deployed in Israel (this system will also include laser-based systems.) The home front will undergo an intensive process of fortification and preparation for non-conventional attacks. In Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beer Sheba, and Dimona we will be in the process of constructing huge public bomb shelterspublic will undergo drills that will simulate evacuations and long-term stay in bomb shelters. (some of them will have dual purposes such as a subway for example.) The

  • Israel will possess a long strategic arm that would be able to provide an offensive response not only to the Iranian nuclear threat but also to conventional and non-conventional threats posed by other countries in the region. This strategic arm, which will enjoy high survivability, will have four capabilities: Long-distance warning premised on independent intelligence capabilities as well as the global American alert system; the ability to intercept and destroy various types of missiles and rockets on enemy territory or in early stages of launching, via unmanned aircraft; the ability to deliver a long-range “preventative strike” or “advanced strike” on enemy territory; the ability to deliver both a short-range and long-range “second strike” in case Israel is attacked. These strategic arm capabilities, most of which have been published in the foreign media, will be significantly upgraded when Israel acquires from the US one or two squadrons of stealth-type JSF F-35 fighter jets and when the Navy receives the two new submarines being built for it in Germany.

  • The IDF’s ground forces will maintain their current format and scope, with the possible addition of one or two divisions. However, they will be boosted by highly advanced weapons and protective means, which will provide the forces with currently non-existent maneuvering and survivability capabilities in a battlefield replete with anti-tank weapons. The emphasis will be placed on quick movements that would enjoy uninterrupted and tight support and cover from the air in terms of firepower, intelligence, and logistics. The combat divisions will also possess their own heavy and accurate weapons as well as independent logistic abilities.

  • The Navy will possess five Dolphin submarines and possibly another missile frigate,protection of our shores against terror infiltration and the prevention of arms smuggling to Gaza will be increasingly based on unmanned vessels to be operated in every sector by mother ships or from the shore. which will be part of its strategic arm. On the other hand, the

  • The overall trend in the IDF would be to boost to the maximum the utilization of advanced military technologies and unmanned platforms across the military. In 10 years, a significant part of our combat soldiers – in the sea, air, and land – will apparently be the operators of unmanned systems.

As to our northern front, and I hope I am proven wrong here, we will likely see another war.

Part 2 of Ron Ben Yishai’s analysis to be published Thursday evening


Forecast for the next decade

Part 2: Ron Ben-Yishai says Palestinians won’t have a state, but Iran will possess nukes
Ron Ben-Yishai

Ron Ben-Yishai continues his analysis of what lays ahead for Israel in the next decade:

  • As to our northern front, and I hope I am proven wrong here, we will likely see another war. I am daring to assume that this confrontation, should it take place, will end with a clear Israeli victory. That is: After about two weeks of aerial and ground combat, the missile and rocket attacks from Syria and Lebanon will end or be limited to several dozen short-range rockets a day. Syria and Lebanon will plead for a Security Council ceasefire.

  • Israel will suffer significant destruction of property, but the number of casualties among civilians would be relatively small. In Syria and Lebanon, on the other hand, the extent of devastation and casualties would be unprecedented in the history of Mideastern wars. Iran will issue threats and may send a symbolic force to Syria, but it will not be involved in the fighting.

  • Following the war and as a result of it, diplomatic negotiations will be launched that will see Israel agree to partial withdrawal on the Golan Heights as well as the demilitarization an the area that extends up to the Sea of Galilee. Syria will in turn agree to lease the rest of the Golan to Israel for a period of 99 years, and would also accept internationally monitored security arrangements and phased normalization of ties.

  • In Lebanon, Hizbullah will continue to be the dominant force – yet as a result of the war, Iranian support for the organization will weaken and it would be forced to compromise and share power with other sects in the country. Meanwhile, its appetite for yet another confrontation with Israel will grow smaller.

  • It is reasonable to assume that even in 10 years we will not see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The talks will continue and may even lead to a “shelf agreement,” yet it’s doubtful whether it will be implemented. The Palestinian people’s political maturation process, which would enable them to assume responsibility for themselves and for the security of their neighbors, will continue, but it will not be reaching the required critical mass. This apparently won’t happen until the radical Islamic wave will fade.

  • It is also doubtful whether Israel will see the emergence of a government with the political power required to dismantle the settlements and outputs located beyond the large settlement blocs. Therefore, we will likely witness, in the next 10 years, more than one wide-scale IDF operation in Gaza, as well as yet another Intifada or two in the West Bank. The result would be reinforcement of Gaza as a separate entity. It would be jointly managed by a multinational force and a Palestinian coalition that would also include Hamas.

  • Israel will construct a “smart” wall around the Strip that will prevent direct fire and the digging of tunnels. This wall will feature crossings for goods and people, yet most supplies and movement into and out of the Strip – including goods, fuel, and electricity – will come via Egypt. The Rafah Crossing will become the main crossing. Meanwhile, the airport that Israel built years ago will serve as the Strip’s airport. A seaport will be under construction as well as a large desalination plant.

  • In the West Bank we will likely see a new political force rise up on the ruins of the old and corrupt Fatah. Mahmoud Abbas will step down, as will other members of the “Tunisia generation. The new political movement will be headed by a collective leadership that will be based on Arafat’s Fatah young guard (either with or without Barghouti.) This group, most of whose members spent time in Israeli prisons, will be better equipped to engage in dialogue and agree on a compromise with Israel. After the third Intifada will die down, Israel will dismantle several isolated outposts and settlementshand over more territory to the Palestinian Authority. and

  • Along the borderlines with the Palestinians, Egyptians, and in the north we will see a fence or wall that will feature advanced technological means, thereby requiring less troops. In the West Bank, the Shin Bet and IDF will continue to engage in anti-terror activity in its current format, but they will have more technological means at their disposal. The major change will be the absence of roadblocks within the West Bank, thereby allowing for free Palestinian movement. Orderly and well-equipped border crossings – between the West Bank and Israel and between the West Bank and Jordan – will enable controlled, secure, and relatively quick movement.

  • As noted, I estimate that Iran will possess military nuclear capabilities in 10 years. Tehran will not admit to this, but hint at it. The United States and Israel will not be putting the military option into practice. However, the international community will tighten the sanctions and economic siege on Iran based on the assumption that skyrocketing food prices and ecological disasters will increase the Ayatollah regime’s dependency on developed countries, and mostly on the world’s leading food producer – the United States.

It is very possible that in 10 years, and maybe even before that, we will see the opening of negotiations between Tehran and the West in line with the North Korean model. The Ayatollahs will bargain with the West on a “nukes in exchange for grain” deal.

At the end of the negotiations, Iran will agree to reveal and dismantle its military nuclear capabilities and subject them to monitoring in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and ongoing supply of food and other aid. Another reasonable possibility is that due to the food crisis pressure and other domestic problems, the Ayatollah regime will collapse, and the Jews shall rejoice, God willing.


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