The rockets’ red glare

Israel last night

Different time, different place, different rockets.

Last night, Iran attacked Israel with over 300 killer drones and missiles, both cruise and ballistic. Israeli air defences, assisted by the US Air Force and RAF, intercepted all the drones and cruise missiles outside Israel’s air space. A few of the ballistic missiles got through, and a full account of the casualties is forthcoming.

For once the attack didn’t catch the Israelis unawares. They knew it was coming as retaliation for their own drone strike on Iran’s diplomatic mission in Syria on 1 April, which claimed the lives of several Iranian officers, including two top generals. Forewarned is forearmed and all that, but such old maxims may not still apply as fully as they did at the time the line in the title above was written.

This was the first time that Iran attacked Israel directly, rather than through proxies. Since the scale of the attack far exceeded the magnitude of the raid that had provoked it, an Israeli counterstrike is coming. Unless of course the Israeli High Command became Quakers overnight.

That counterstrike will call for a counter-counterstrike and so forth. I suppose that’s what they call escalation. The Latin root of this word means ‘staircase’, but neither last night nor 1 April was its first step. Iran has been waging war on Israel for years, using Hamas and Hezbollah to do its fighting.

Probably only US pressure has so far stopped Israel from retaliating against Iranian targets. Such tethers have now been removed or at least loosened, and one hopes the Israelis will take out Iran’s nuclear facilities along with other military targets.

According to Mohammad Bagheri, the Iranian Chief of Staff, “Operation Honest Promise was completed successfully from last night to this morning and achieved all its objectives.” [Note to myself: Find out whether that’s his surname or nickname, and how to pronounce it without offending anyone.]

Since he didn’t specify what those objectives had been, it’s hard to judge the veracity of that statement. I’m afraid that the real aim wasn’t so much hitting particular targets as sounding the gong for a major war in the Middle East.

The other day I watched an interview with a retired Israeli general, Itzhak Brik. The interview was in Hebrew, and the only English word I could make out was ‘bullshit’, which Gen. Brik repeated several times and in high tones. The subtitles made it clear that he was referring to Israel’s lackadaisical attitude to her armed forces and their preparedness for combat.

If anyone has any doubts that Israel is a full-fledged Western country, the good general dispels them in no uncertain terms. Apparently, Israel has been as irresponsible as the NATO countries.

According to Gen. Brik, the government has let numerous military triumphs go to its head. Convinced that the IDF is by far the strongest army in the Middle East, Israel has been blithely negligent during every interbellum period, including the one about to come to an end.

That’s why, for example, the Arab states managed to catch the IDF sleeping in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and it took heavy casualties for the Israelis to hang on. In that war, Gen. Brik commanded a tank battalion, and only seven out of his 200 soldiers survived the war.

In the past several years, Israel has cut four full divisions, which would be a huge reduction for any country and especially one as small as Israel. The equipment of the remaining forces has been downgraded so much, said the general, that he wasn’t sure Israel could survive a full-scale confrontation even with Hezbollah, never mind Iran. And Israel’s intelligence has lost much of its erstwhile vigilance, which is why it failed to anticipate the murderous Hamas attack on 7 October.

Now, retired generals are notoriously pessimistic about their countries’ defences. Yet even with that proviso, the interview sounded ominous. One has to hope that Israel hasn’t lost her ability to rally quickly not only her troops but her entire nation – and that Israel’s allies don’t get cold feet, as they have been known to do on occasion.

President Biden has reiterated America’s “ironclad” commitment to the defence of Israel, which may or may not be a reliable assurance in view of the US seemingly going back on a similar vow to help the Ukraine.

Iran also has a powerful ally, Russia. The full scale of that touching friendship between two evil regimes hasn’t yet been divulged. Traditionally, it has been Russia supplying Iran with weaponry, including some of the doomsday variety. Lately, Iran has been repaying her debts by sending thousands of drones to Russia, which then level Ukrainian cities.

The media widely suspect, and Western intelligence services probably know for sure, that the Russians have been helping Iran to create a nuclear capability. Some reports suggest the country is only weeks away from acquiring her first nuclear warheads; others insist Iran already has them.

Evil is on the march throughout the world, and the situation is fraught with global dangers. Gen. Brik says Israel has failed to learn the lessons of past conflicts, but no country ever does. The West in particular has had many blood-soaked lessons in the advisability of pre-empting evil by early strikes – and has slept through all of them.

I just hope that Gen. Brik is unduly alarmist and, in this respect at least, Israel isn’t like all other Western countries. We’ll find out in the next few days, but meanwhile let’s pray for Israel, our only staunch ally in the region.  

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