Ronen Bergman on the Israeli Military
Ronen Bergman is one of Israel's leading investigative journalists. The senior security and intelligence correspondent and analyst for Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and an anchor on a leading Israeli television news program, he is the author of three bestselling books published in Israel. He was awarded a PhD by Cambridge University for his dissertation about the Israeli Mossad.
Question: How strong is the Israel military?Ronen Bergman: There is a quotation in the book of one of the Israeli prominent figures dealing with the Iranian issue. When he says, in a classified form in March of 2007, that his worst nightmare would be an American president picks up the phone and calls Israeli Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, and tells him, “Mister or Mrs. Prime Minister, you want to attack Iran? Be my guest. I would give you moral support. I would prevent UN sanctions against you. I would even give you an aerial corridor via Iraq, but you’re on your own.”
Israel sees this as the worst case scenario, and we do whatever we can to try and avoid it and try to convince the United States that, if needed, the United States would initiate the attack first, that, because Israel doesn’t want to be alone, and second and most important, that because the United States has vast capabilities to execute such an attack and Israel has limited capabilities.
The working group dealing with attacking Iran is discussing only a delay of the project, not a destruction, because, A) we know only what we know and we don’t know whether the Iranians that have been master of disguise before and hidden parts of their program still don’t have any sort of a hidden path somewhere else, not in Natanz or Isfahan, the two known sites, B) the known sites are partly underground and, in any case, heavily guarded with surface to air anti-aircraft missiles, and C) in any case, even if we take all these sites out, we still cannot erase the knowledge and the know how in the minds of Iranian scientists. So, they are talking only about delay.
Israeli intelligence sees four different alternatives for Iranian retaliation the day after a strike. The first launch of, I’m going to give estimations, 70 to 90 surface-to-surface Shahab long range ballistic missiles that can reach Israel. This is not considered as a major threat because they are equipped only with conventional warheads and, in any case, Israel is covered and supposed to be defended by anti-missiles, a missile called the Arrow. So, it’s not deemed as a great threat. Of course it would be deemed as a great damage to that specific someone if the missile falls on his head. But, generally speaking, this is not something that Israelis are very concerned of.
Second option for retaliation would be the bombing of oil tanker, in the Strait of Hormuz, and we saw something like that happening in the middle of the ‘80s. This might cause a direct confrontation between the US and Iran, further rise to oil prices, and crisis with world economy.
Third option, the activation of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, against the Israeli northern border. And we saw what happened with the gloomy war of 2006, when Hezbollah was able to completely paralyze life with thousands and thousands of rockets. And Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy. They do what Iran tells them to do.
And the fourth. And they even declared that, if Iran is attacked, they would immediately attack Israel as a retaliation. And fourth option, which is I think must, the most worrying one, is the activation of sleeper cells that were deployed throughout the world in the last ten years by Iran and Hezbollah in case, needed to launch a strike of suicide terrorism against the American and Israeli targets.
The book “The Secret War with Iran” contains many of the cases of these secrets cells. One of them, of a cell that was deployed as late as 2006 by Imad Mugniyah in New York, collecting information on intelligence or potential targets in case needed to strike after an American and Israeli attack on Iran.
Recorded: Sep 19, 2008
Israel may be strong, but a unilateral attack on Iran would be the "worst case scenario," says Bergman.
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