by Stephen Bryen
It is glaringly obvious that the US military played no role, or only a minor role, in the recently concocted Iran deal. The absence of any senior military officials in Geneva illustrates better than anything else that the deal is an entirely political one which is designed to mainly be window dressing on a restart of relations with the Iranian regime. For this pleasure the United States and its allies in Europe are contributing massive amounts of high technology and releasing money so Iran can buy products from them. Ironically, the fact is that Iran will probably spend the bulk of the money on armaments, mostly from Russia, China and North Korea, and on underwriting the costs of its nuclear and missile programs.
The absence of the Pentagon from the negotiations is not, of course, lost on America’s allies in the Middle East. Because the deal is political and has no solid national security component, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the smaller Persian Gulf states have reason for alarm. And the United States, aware fully that the agreement is wallpaper on a trade and political deal, has sent its Defense Secretary off to the area to offer weapons du jour to them as some form of compensation.
Clearly no one in the region can afford not to be prepared against a formidable ambitious Iran equipped with nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
That is why Israel is beefing up its ballistic missile defense systems. The newest of these in the last stage of development is called David’s Sling. It will compliment the existing Arrow and Iron Dome systems already deployed.
“David’s Sling is designed to intercept medium-range ballistic weapons, especially highly accurate missiles and large rockets such as Hezbollah’s M-600,” according to the left wing Israeli paper, Haaretz. A number of US companies led by Raytheon and ATK are working with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems on this new system, which will replace the aging Hawk and Patriot systems deployed in Israel.
But as the experts know fully well, there is no 100% missile defense system. The excellent Iron Dome, for example, did not defeat all of the missiles fired by Hamas onto Israeli territory; it did however focus on the missiles most likely to hit civilian and defense targets. Similarly, David’s Sling is optimized so it can distinguish between real threats and dummy warheads, something important in reducing the threat profile to something more manageable. But with atomic weapons on Iranian missiles, even an off target rocket threatens this small and vulnerable country.
So it can be expected that Israel will significantly upgrade its early warning capability and its offensive nuclear strike capacity. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is nearly defense-less against an Iranian threat. Will it rely on the US for protection? Or even secretly on Israel? Or will the Saudis try and accommodate the Iranians, if any real accomodation is possible. One cost for Saudi Arabia will be halting support for Sunni rebels and pulling out of Yemen. The Iranians will also demand political changes in Egypt as the price of any deal. Because the Saudi dream is closely linked to its leadership of Sunni muslims, this will be a serious blow to their political ambitions and could imperil the regime at home.
Israel will bolster its first strike capability by adding satellite capability to detect any preparations for an attack on Israel and by building its nuclear strike ability. Because the new Stealth F-35 is questionable as a nuclear weapons platform, it is likely Israel will embark on a modernization program for its F-15’s by working to minimize radar profiles and improve its counter measure systems, especially to counter Russian supplied S-300 air defenses. One can imagine the role of the F-35 will be to take out the S-300 while the F-15’s take out the Iranian missile site with tactical nuclear weapons.
There is little doubt Iran has been working with North Korea on both its nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. This include missiles and other means, perhaps mini submarines. The North Koreans have developed mini submarines which are hard to detect and, on suicide missions, could try and enter Israeli harbors. In addition, Iran is putting some of its nuclear assets off shore: they have three sites in Syria plus the work done in North Korea, which probably includes weapons testing. US intelligence is half blind when it comes to North Korea, but there is no doubt the Iran-Syria-North Korea linkage is very deep. In 2004 there was a massive train explosion in Ryongchŏn North Korea. The North Koreans said it was an accident and it was at first thought the explosion was designed to occur when a train carrying the North Korean dictator was passing by. But later and credible reports consider the explosion an Israeli Mossad operation designed to take out Syrian nuclear scientists on board. Iranian scientists may also have been among them.
Unfortunately none of these subjects nor their implications were part of the Iran negotiations. Whether the Pentagon raised any objections to the deal, or tried to take part in the process, remains unknown. While the Pentagon’s budgets are being slashed and troop strength reduced, the Pentagon has not shown much courage about anything. Even so, had the Pentagon participated the lousy deal we have would never have been agreed, and Iran would not have been cut loose with billions of dollars to pursue its nuclear program.