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Iran expert Ronen Bergman: Israel will attack Iran in 2012

By Missing Peace

Last week the European Union finally decided to install an embargo on Iranian oil imports.  The decision immediately led to renewed Iraninan threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and a show of force by the US navy in the Persian Gulf.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision” a step in the right direction”, which means that Israel realizes that much more can be done.

Although deputy oil minister Ahmad Qalebani admitted that the oil sanctions are having some effect, Iran seems not really impressed. The Majlis, the Iranian parliament, just adopted a draft bill which calls for immediate cessation of oil exports to Europe.

Israeli strike

At the same time the discussion about an Israeli strike on Iran returned to the frontpages of Israeli and foreign media outlets. Last Thursday the former chief of staff of the IDF, Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel needed to prepare for a military strike.

During a conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Ashkenazi said the following:

 ” the problem now is that the nuclear program’s clock it ticking faster than ever. Our immediate goal is to slow this clock down”.

Refering to the military option he said: ” There is another clock that is on the table, but it is not ticking at the moment”. 

“I believe Iran would be making a strategic mistake if it blocks the Strait of Hormuz. Another mistake was trying to kill the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant in the US capital. The Iranians are liable to make more mistakes under pressure,” he told the conference.

Ashkenazi ,who has prepared the IDF for a military strike during his tenure as chief of staff, was only one of  many Israeli officials and politicians who openly talked about the increasing possibility of a military strike on Iran, last week.

During the World Economic Forum in Davos,  Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak expressed similar views when he said that ” the Iranians are deliberately drifting into what we call an’ immunity zone’ where practically no surgical operation could block them” . Barak also said that Israel is determined to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear power.

Immunity zone is a term coined by Barak that refers to the point when Iran’s accumulated know-how, raw materials, experience and equipment (as well as the distribution of materials among its underground facilities).

Ronen Bergman

Earlier the New York Times published an analysis written by the Iran expert Ronen Bergman, who is one of the best informed Israeli journalists when it comes to the covert operations against Iran.

Bergman, author of the book “The secret war against Iran”, wrote in his lengthy article that he has come to the conclusion that Israel will launch a military attack against Iran this year.

Here is what he wrote:

In recent weeks, Israelis have obsessively questioned whether Netanyahu and Barak are really planning a strike or if they are just putting up a front to pressure Europe and the U.S. to impose tougher sanctions. I believe that both of these things are true, but as a senior intelligence officer who often participates in meetings with Israel’s top leadership told me, the only individuals who really know their intentions are, of course, Netanyahu and Barak, and recent statements that no decision is imminent must surely be taken into account.

After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012. Perhaps in the small and ever-diminishing window that is left, the United States will choose to intervene after all, but here, from the Israeli perspective, there is not much hope for that. Instead there is that peculiar Israeli mixture of fear — rooted in the sense that Israel is dependent on the tacit support of other nations to survive — and tenacity, the fierce conviction, right or wrong, that only the Israelis can ultimately defend themselves”.

Bergman interviewed minister of Defense Ehud Barak and many other insiders in the Israeli and US military and intelligence establishment.

Most of them have come to the conclusion that sanctions will not stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and that a military strike will become inevitable.  Among those interviewed by Bergman was Matthew Kroenig, who is the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and worked as a special adviser in the Pentagon from July 2010 to July 2011.  This is what Bergman wrote about this interview:

“One of his tasks was defense policy and strategy on Iran. When I spoke with Kroenig last week, he said: “My understanding is that the United States has asked Israel not to attack Iran and to provide Washington with notice if it intends to strike. Israel responded negatively to both requests. It refused to guarantee that it will not attack or to provide prior notice if it does.” Kroenig went on, “My hunch is that Israel would choose to give warning of an hour or two, just enough to maintain good relations between the countries but not quite enough to allow Washington to prevent the attack.” Kroenig said Israel was correct in its timeline of Iran’s nuclear development and that the next year will be critical.”

Ya’alon

Bergman also spoke to Moshe Ya’alon Israel’s minister of strategic affairs.

Ya’alon told him that he was not satisfied with what is happening ( sanction regime). He said that it wasn’t enough and that the military option should be on the table in addition to far more biting sanctions. Ya’alon also revealed that Iran is building up networks in South America that include smugglers in the area of the US Mexican border.  He told Bergman that this could point to Iranian plans to smuggle a nuclear device (dirty bomb?) into ‘the United States.

Too little too late?

It is fair to assume that Bergman did not base his conclusions solely on what Iraeli and American officials told him. In his article he revealed that  he received documents from the Mossad in the past.  This explains his knowledge about the secret Mossad operations he described in his book ” “The Secret war with Iran”.  The question why the Mossad and other Israeli officials give Bergman hirtherto secret information can only be answered by taking in account the Israeli strategy since the publication of the latest  IAEA report about Iran last November.

That strategy is aimed at mobilizing the international community in order to increase awareness of the global impact of an Iranian nuclear weapon. But by now it  seems to become increasingly clear that the current international action against Iran might be too little and too late.

If Barak is right and Iran is indeed about to enter the ‘ immunity zone ‘ within nine months, and the international community sticks to the current sanction regime, Bergman could be right as well.  After all, already in 2008 , in an interview with BBC TV, Ehud Barak predicted that  Israel would ultimately stand alone in the decision to take out the Iranian nuclear threat to its existance.

How this will be done is subject to much speculation. But it is fair to assume that Israel will not do what many expect it to do: launch a conventional airstrike. As has become clear from earlier actions like the initial strike in de Six Day 1967 war and many other Israeli military actions in the past, Israel has always come up military solutions based on ‘out of the box’ thinking.  The Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities last year was another, more recent example of the way Israel  deals with contemporary warfare.