The Mideast: Get Ready To Duck!
by Eric Margolis: Oh
No! Not Another Osama!
is stumbling into one of its most dangerous crisis in decades. Iím
just back from the region Ė and as an old Mideast hand, I am very
is always tense, but right now a series of separate conflicts are
rapidly beginning to intersect. We see the Mideast, North Africa
and the Sahara buffeted by revolutions and counter-revolutions.
Old colonial powers France and Britain, and the US, are trying to
reassert their domination in the region. The jihadists are back.
In a brazen
act of war, Israel launched airstrikes on Syria last Wednesday in
a clear attempt to worsen the crisis in that war-torn nation and
challenge Syriaís ally, Iran. Israelís forces are on high alert
and may invade Syria, whose strategic Golan Heights were seized
and annexed by Israel. Will more Syrian land follow?
Goaded by Israel,
Iran thundered "any attack on Syria is an attack on Iran."
An Iranian general warned Tel Aviv might come under attack. Hot
air, as they say in Farsi. Separated from ally Syria by Iraq, Iranís
not very mobile ground forces would be unable to intervene in Syria
in any substantial way. Israelís air force would devastate any Iranian
columns advancing in open terrain.
air force is barely operational after decades of crushing embargos
by the United States and its allies. Tehranís dilapidated warplanes
are far more menacing to their pilots than their enemies. Iranís
passenger airliners are flying coffins thanks to the US embargo
of new aircraft and spare parts.
The only way
Iran could strike at Israel is by firing medium-ranged Shahab-III
missiles and a small number of Sajjil-2 solid propellant missiles.
Both are inaccurate. Their 750-1,000 kg conventional warheads would
only do limited damage Ė unless they made a lucky hit on Israelís
heavily defended Dimona nuclear reactor.
that a major Iranian non-nuclear strike would only cause a few hundred
casualties. Israel is fast deploying a multi-layer anti-missile
system: the Arrow-III, which has shown high hit probability in tests
against missile warheads. The low level Iron Dome system, which
had an 80% hit probability against rockets fired from Gaza, and
the new, highly accurate Davidís Sling high altitude system, and
more systems in the pipeline, give Israelís the worldís most advanced
and accurate anti-missile system that could be relied on to knock
down a majority of incoming missiles from far-away Iran.
Israel would quickly counter-attack once its powerful radars (and
a US-manned X-band radar based in Israel that can scan Iran) spot
missiles being launched by Tehran. Israel has its own arsenal of
accurate medium-ranged missiles, armed drones, its powerful air
force, and satellites watching Iran.
How would Israel
know that an incoming Iranian missile was conventionally armed and
not carrying a nuclear warhead? Rather than gamble, Israel would
probably hit Iran with its own nuclear arsenal, including nuclear-tipped
cruise missiles fired by Israeli submarines lurking in the Red Sea
and Indian Ocean.
Iran is not
believed to have nuclear warheads Ė but how can Israel really be
sure since it successfully concealed its own nuclear program from
the United States.
Egypt threatens to turn into another Syria. The chief of staff of
Egyptís armed forces just warned his strife-torn nation is on the
"brink of collapse." Conservative Arab nations, the US
and Britain are fuelling a counter-revolution by Mubarakist forces
and Christians. Egyptís economy has all but collapsed, igniting
violent social unrest. A coup may be imminent.
is teetering on the brink of national collapse. The Assad government
has no popularity beyond its Alawi base, but half of Syrians donít
want to live in an Islamic state and fear what will happen to them
if insurgent forces seize power. Syriaís economy has almost ceased
to function. This bloody civil war threatens to turn Syria into
a larger version of the ghastly 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war that
Russia is growling
in the background. Syria, recall, is as close to Russiaís southern
border as northern Mexico is to Texas. Washington is underestimating
Russiaís growing anger. Israel is still determined to push the US
into war against Iran. The Turks canít decide whether to be neutrals
or reborn Ottomans. Caution: danger ahead.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2013 Eric Margolis
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