Like the ebb and flow of the oceansâ€™ tides, the field of foreign intelligence is an ever-changing one. Last month, two little known events occurred in Israel, both of which reflect the new realities of international terrorism. The first was the initial shipment of eight F-16I long-range strategic jet fighters from the U.S. and the second were the recommendations from a secret intelligence report known as â€œProject Daniel.â€
The significance of these two intertwined matters will become apparent momentarily.
In April, Iraqi terrorists emanating from Syria attempted to detonate a massive chemical weapon in Amman Jordan, the effects of which would have resulted in an estimated 80,000 deaths. Plan B was to enter Israel and detonate it in a major Israeli city. Both plans failed, but the attempt to detonate a chemical weapon of mass destruction in or near Israel riveted the attention of Israelâ€™s intelligence service.
In addition, it is known that Syria has accumulated massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons stored at three locations throughout the country, and, as if that wasnâ€™t enough of a threat, the Iranian mullahs have made it clear since July 2001 that the moment Iran achieves nuclear capacity, it intends to arm its Shahib-5 strategic missiles with nuclear warheads and â€œeliminate the Zionist entityâ€ once and for all.
In short, Israelâ€™s army, exceptional as it is, was never designed to defeat an existential threat from sources thousands of miles away. As Pakistan, China, North Korea and Libya have been busily providing weapons of mass destruction to the terrorist franchises of the world; Israel (which has always lived under the sword of Damocles) has redefined its threat levels and reassessed its responses to them.
As a result, in September 2003, Israelâ€™s foreign intelligence agency (Mossad) retired from the business of espionage and converted itself into a body devoted to special operations. Many Mossad overseas stations are being shut down or re-staffed according to these new guidelines.
Mossad now aspires to match its past excellence as a gatherer of intelligence by providing equally first-rate special operations (OPs) units, whose broad mission is now to secure and protect Israelâ€™s vital interests around the world and to preserve the Jewish state against existential perils, which are currently defined as Iranâ€™s potential nuclear weapons and major al Qaeda chemical or biological attacks.
Should an al Qaeda team be discovered training in the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia for a dirty bomb attack on Tel Aviv, for example, the new guidelines provide that Mossad will immediately dispatch a special operations team to undertake a conventional preemptive strike at this faraway base. A similar team is being developed to deal with Iranâ€™s secret nuclear weapons facilities (that are dispersed throughout the country) and its long-range missile systems.
A new Report has been submitted to the Israeli government based upon the well-founded premise that Israel exists â€œin the lionâ€™s den,â€ and must protect itself from destruction. The Report, appropriately named â€œProject Danielâ€ has an Armageddon-quality to it. It suggests that to deter an overwhelmingly destructive enemy â€œfirst strikeâ€ on its population centers, Israel must seek and achieve a visible â€œsecond strikeâ€ capability by targeting the capital cities of its enemies. It also suggests that â€œnuclear bomb yields would be at a level sufficient to fully compromise the aggressor’s viability as a functioning stateâ€ and the response would be â€œat a level sufficient to force an enemy to cease all nuclear/biological/chemical exchanges with Israel.”
In other words, any such attack that threatens the existence of the State would be met with an overwhelming and equally destructive response. In effect, Project Daniel is a restatement the Balance of Terror concept that prevented the â€œCold Warâ€ with the former Soviet Union from becoming a â€œHot Warâ€ in the post World War II era. During the entire length the Cold War, nuclear weapons were threatened but never used by the two superpowers against one another, as both understood the consequences of a nuclear exchange. Project Daniel is designed to make Israelâ€™s enemies aware of the consequences of such actions.
Although the Israeli-developed Arrow anti-missile defense system far exceeds the capability of the Patriot system, Israel recognizes the reality that if only one incoming enemy missile carrying a nuclear, chemical or biological warhead was to penetrate Israelâ€™s missile shield, the country (barely the size of New Jersey) would be annihilated.
Thus, Project Daniel recommends an Israeli version of the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strike. The report stresses the need for instant tactical and strategic intelligence and the development of new technologies including ballistic missile defense, early-warning satellites and deep-strike forces. It particularly emphasizes the use off recoverable and non-recoverable stealth combat unmanned air vehicles to suppress enemy air defenses, the use of electronic warfare, intelligence gathering and rapid, targeted air and ground strikes far from home.
All of which leads to the comments referred to at the start of this column. If Iran, despite its shallow denials, continues to pursue its offensive nuclear weapons program, and if Syria continues to maintain its strategic alliance with Iran and to threaten Israel with chemical and biological weapons, air traffic controllers in Iran and Syria had best take a crash course in conversational Hebrew for unlike the West, Israelis truly believe that their enemies mean what they are saying.