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Generals like fighting time and again their last successful battle. Not because of their vanity - though this is an important factor – but because in such a way it is easy to justify the preparatory expenses. The IDF likes to portray itself as different. This was very evident when Ehud Barak - the current Israeli Minister of Defense - was its head. He dramatically announced he’ll change the IDF into a “small and smart” army. When he left office, the IDF was slightly larger.
During the Six-Day War Israel destroyed the Egyptian and Syrian air forces. Ever since the Israeli air force portrays itself as the key component of the IDF, enjoying generous funding and American technologies. In 1982, Israel attacked Lebanon; the IDF destroyed the Syrian air force. The Israeli leadership proudly announced victory. Years later, Israel silently retreated, utterly defeated. The Israeli air force fought again the 1967 war in 2006. This time it was lead by an air force officer who committed the same error as in 1982. All signs show the IDF will continue this policy until humanity would celebrate its final error.
Massive military structures are being phased out. More and more conflicts look as guerrilla wars with a lot of limited events spread over long periods of time and large geographical areas. Armies have difficulties facing this and the IDF is no exception. What type of conflicts can we expect in the Middle East?
Air strikes would be secondary events providing support for other forces. Fighters and drones can’t win wars. Being Holy Land one of the most densely populated areas of the planet (if arriving from Palestine, China looks empty) makes the movement of entire armies through its area almost impossible. Thus, there is little doubt naval battles would increased in importance in the Middle East.
The signs are all over. Based in Haifa, the Israeli Navy owns three diesel-electric, Dolphin-class submarines; these are known as “Dolphin,” “Leviathan” (whale) and “Tkuma” (revival), they form a unit known as Squadron 7. Two additional Dolphin-class submarines are scheduled to join the fleet. During the last year, this fleet reached the news, when one of the submarines crossed the Suez Canal in its way to the Red Sea. It means Israel threats the Gulf and that Egypt actively supports this policy, since the canal is controlled by the last. In parallel, on February 17, 2011, Egypt didn’t allow two Iranian ships to cross the Suez Canal in their way to Syria. Since every ship crossing the canal must get the approval from Egypt's foreign and defense ministries, this was a good test for Egypt’s true allegiances. Two days later the ban was lifted, and Iran gained a presence at the Mediterranean Sea after a long while.
If these weren’t clear enough, recent changes in the Middle East’s energy resources map shows us what can become a future igniting force behind a violent conflict. For years it was thought Israel didn’t have any significant energy resources. Heavy, solid carbohydrates covere rocky areas of the Negev; they are a reminder of ancient oil reserves that flowed throw the porous underground towards Saudi Arabia. Small amounts of uranium exist in the same area. Sun is widely available and used as a source of energy. That was almost all, until natural gas resources were recently found.
Since 2009 four major fields of natural gas have been found between Israel and Lebanon, in the Mediterranean Sea. Their names are Leviathan, Tamar, Sarah and Myra. Worldwide, they form one of the largest gas reserves found in the last decade. As such, they are not free of controversies. Both Israel and Lebanon claim ownership, the last having addresses already UN authorities on the topic. Israel unilaterally changed the contracts it previously signed with the American exploration teams in order to get larger royalties. Violence is in the air.
This would be a largely asymmetric conflict. Israel has military forces – ships - in the area and assets – the drilling platforms – while Lebanon has nothing and can’t even approach the area. At first sight Lebanon is in disadvantage. It looks as a win-lose situation for Israel.
Such an assessment would have been true if judging the situation as per past wars. Yet, things change. In 2006, Hezbollah’s missiles reached Haifa. Nowadays it is better equipped. This means Lebanon can bomb the gas drilling platforms from its mainland. It doesn’t need to be very accurate, such to create a significant disruption in the drilling operation.
Who will win? The Israeli navy would be of little use. Its air force would be able to destroy Lebanese infrastructure but not to stop the bombings from Lebanon. Northern Israel would be the target of the Lebanese retaliation. The danger of other local powers getting involved would be real. Innocents would die. Inevitably, both sides will lose. Who will win? The question is valid; no one would otherwise begin a war. The answer – as always – is those financing the event, regardless their side.
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