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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Applying lessons learned from Iraq to Iran

Moshe Arens, who was Israel's Defense Minister during the 1991 Gulf War (sometimes called the First Gulf War), talks about some of the lessons learned from the Israeli strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 and from the First Gulf War.

Here's a summary:
* The Iranians learned a great deal from the destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor by the Israel Air Force in 1981. The Osirak reactor was the key element in the Iraqi nuclear program: a single target which, when it was destroyed, set that program back very substantially. The Iranians saw this and they dispersed their nuclear program. Much of it is deep underground. There is no single target which, if destroyed, would substantially set back the Iranian nuclear program

* When I came to Washington as Israel's ambassador in 1982, the atmosphere was one of hostility and there was talk of imposing sanctions against Israel as a reaction to its unilateral action against the Osirak reactor. Yet after a few years the view in Washington changed completely. It is difficult to envision the Americans undertaking Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf in 1991 if the Iraqi nuclear program had continued beyond 1981 and had not been so seriously set back by the Israeli action.

* Some say that while the missiles Israel faces are relatively cheap weapons, we are launching a very expensive missile interceptor system against it, which does not seem very wise at first sight. However, the damage that might be caused by the incoming missile may far exceed the cost of the anti-missile system.

* Israel's missile interceptor system poses a dilemma to anybody who decides to launch missiles against Israel, especially a missile that has a nuclear warhead. The dilemma is that the missile may very well be intercepted and thus expose the launching of a nuclear missile, even if it didn't reach its target, which could bring about the response that could be expected for committing this deed.

* At the start of the Gulf War, the Americans said they expected that within 48 hours the U.S. Air Force would eliminate the missile launch capability of the Iraqis. If they did not succeed, Israel would be free to take whatever action it considered appropriate. Although there was intensive aerial activity directed at hitting the Scud launchers, not a single Scud launcher was hit or immobilized during the Gulf War. Furthermore, the U.S.-made Patriot missiles in Israel did not succeed in intercepting a single Scud missile.
The thing I found most surprising about this article is the fact that not one Iraqi missile was shot down by a Patriot missile. I was still living in the US during that war (we made aliya - immigrated to Israel - a few months later) and was under the impression that the Patriots had shot down some missiles.

I also found this paragraph in the main article a bit disconcerting:
Some people like to think that Israel has nothing to worry about because of the sizable Muslim population in the area and that the Iranians would not dare to cause massive destruction in an area where many Muslims might get injured or killed. However, as Prof. Bernard Lewis has said on a number of occasions, this kind of immunity is imaginary because radical Muslims are convinced that God knows how to tell the difference between Jews and Muslims.
Living in Jerusalem, I thought it less likely that Ahmadinejad would shoot at us than at other parts of the country.

One the other hand, if radical Islam claims that their god knows the difference between Jews and Muslims, how can they explain the high number of 'Israeli Arabs' killed by Hezbullah rockets during the Second Lebanon War? (I don't have the exact number but I remember that it was disproportionate). Hmmm.

Read the whole thing.


At 8:19 PM, Blogger Y.K. said...

At the time there were inaccurate press reports that the Patriots managed to shoot down a few Scuds. IIRC, it turned out later what happened was that the Patriots managed to cause some Scuds to break up, but the broken up missile pieces still continued in a ballistic course to Israel. Arguably, the pieces were more deadly than the original missile (as they were more spread up, and these Scuds were inaccurate anyway).

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

I remember seeing some documentary about coordination with the tribal leaders after the AQinIraq guys had grossed them out with their actions. One of the Iraqi tribal leaders said something like... now we know how to stop this type of insurgency and maybe we can help in Afghanistan. I wonder if they are helping (e.g., advising, interfacing with Afgh. tribal leaders, etc.).

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

should the necessity for an attack on Iran arise, the priority has to be put on destroying the missile arsenal in the first days, Iranian, Lebanese and Gaza. Only after a sucessful and complete destruction, proceeding demolition of the nuclear program can follow.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Hutzpan said...

One the other hand, if radical Islam claims that their god knows the difference between Jews and Muslims, how can they explain the high number of 'Israeli Arabs' killed by Hezbullah rockets during the Second Lebanon War? (I don't have the exact number but I remember that it was disproportionate). Hmmm.

I guess they don't actually mind killing fellow Muslims, because they're convinced that the Muslims go straight into Paradise. So they actually will be doing a mitzva (or whatever it's called in Islam)

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Captain.H said...

Applying another lesson...

I remember reading a quote from a Holocaust survivor, now living in Israel. When asked what he thought was the number one lesson from the Holocaust, he said, "When somebody says he intends to kill you, believe him."

At 11:37 PM, Blogger Captain.H said...

The Patriot missiles used in the First Gulf War were the PAC-1, or first generation, rushed to the Middle East while still in beta testing, so to speak.

The Patriots of today are the third generation. the PAC-3s. They have been developed into truly formidable anti-missile missiles. The Wiki article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_missile is very informative.


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