In 2022, the IDF will focus on deterring Tehran in Syria, preparing for strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites

The Israel Defense Forces believe it has significantly curtailed Iran’s ability to move weapons and equipment through Syria through its air strikes over the past year, and plans to continue doing so in 2022. The plan is there, The Times of Israel has learned.

The military hopes that the attacks will also lead to a rift between Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Tehran.

Also, amid ongoing talks in Vienna between Tehran and world powers on a return to a 2015 agreement to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions, the military continues with its preparations for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Increasing. relief.

While Israeli officials continue to increasingly attempt what they refer to as a “credible military threat” against Iran’s program, and despite occasional bellicose rhetoric from Israeli politicians and IDF officials, this is not entirely clear. Whether Israel would really do such a strike. Even if Iran was on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon: such an attack would prompt a massive retaliation by Iran directly and its proxies in the region, potentially giving Israel a massive disastrous Will plunge into multi-front warfare.

The decision to proceed will ultimately depend on a variety of factors, ranging from the degree of US support for such an operation to the level of preparedness of Israeli air defenses and bomb shelters – and, perhaps most critically, the extent to which the IDF believes they will. that its attack would actually set back Iran’s nuclear program. Under certain circumstances, the military believes that the cost of such an operation may outweigh its benefits to Israel’s national security.

In addition to preparing to counter larger, regional threats, the IDF plans to devote considerable resources to countering Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the coming year, despite the current ceasefire with the terrorist group following the May 11-day conflict. expects; And to fight terrorist activity in the West Bank, which has recently seen a significant increase in violence, according to IDF data, in both Palestinian attacks against Israelis and Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians.

While last year has so far matched the record low of 2020 for the number of Israelis killed in terror attacks from the West Bank, with three victims as of Tuesday, it is the largest number of people in Israel killed by the Gaza attacks. offset by. Patti, 13 were killed (12 of them civilians) in fighting in May, and in August a border police officer was shot dead during a riot at a Gaza security fence.

Some of the victims of the Gaza rocket fire: Top row (L) Omar Tabib (R) Ido Awigal; 2nd row (L) Liya Yom-tov (R) Soumya Santosh; 3rd row (L) Nadine Avvad (R) Khalil Avvad; 4th row (r) Nela Gurevich (l). Ramat Gan after the rocket strike (Oren ZIV/AFP)

Overall, the IDF sees a positive trajectory for Israel’s security in the coming year. The army believes that most of the country’s enemies are not deterred from starting a large-scale conflict against Israel. Jerusalem’s growing ties with countries in the Middle East, from new public allies such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to more established partners such as Jordan and Egypt, give Israel greater potential to operate in a wider field. And, after years without one, the country’s newly passed budget gives the IDF the resources needed to negotiate long-term agreements with defense contractors in the U.S. and at home to ensure the military has the weapons and systems it needs. He needs it for years to come.

supply chain disruption

According to military estimates, Iran has been unable to move its weapons systems through the region – either by air, sea or land – about 70 percent of the time, thanks to Israeli intervention, and its ability to do so remains the same. limited to the rest of the time. As a result, the number of advanced or tactical weapons systems in Syria is declining, the IDF believes.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told reporters this week as part of a year-end briefing, “The increase in the number of operations over the past year has significantly increased the number of routes our enemies inject weapons on various fronts.” created disturbance.”

Over the past year, the IDF has carried out dozens of airstrikes on targets in Syria using hundreds of bombs, a slight increase in the number of operations from 2020 and almost double compared to 2019.

Most recently, Syria accused Israel of launching a rare attack on Tuesday against the country’s port in Latakia, an area that Israel had avoided attacking until this month due to the presence of Russian forces nearby. This was the second such attack on the port in the past month, indicating that Moscow had signed some of these operations.

The IDF does not believe it will completely halt Iran’s efforts to transfer advanced weapons to its proxies, but it hopes to limit it as much as possible. In addition to its direct attacks on Iranian weapons stockpiles and against Iranian-linked facilities in Syria, the IDF called on Damascus to persuade Iran to allow Iran to operate in the country, to stop Assad, or at least scale. Back, this support. This effort is seen against IDF attacks on Syrian air defense and bases of Syrian military units collaborating with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

More than a decade after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Assad currently controls about two-thirds of the country, with the rest either Syrian rebels, Kurdish forces, Turkey or the United States (in the case of the Tanf region in eastern Syria). ) is near. ,

As Assad seeks to re-establish his sovereignty over his part of the country, the IDF is expected to begin to oppose Iranian activities to some extent, although it is unlikely to completely expel Iranian-backed militias. who have supported him for the last 10 years. years.

While Israel seeks to pull all Iranian-backed forces out of Syria, it is most concerned about their presence and the presence of Hezbollah troops on the Golan border, and has focused considerable efforts on repelling them, carrying out strikes against their positions. has done. Syrian units that allow them there, as well as publicly exclude the commanders involved.

While Hezbollah forces remain on the border, the IDF believes its operations have deterred the terrorist group from deploying the amount of troops and weapons it had planned.

Preparing for a strike that may never happen

The IDF will continue its preparations for a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities in the coming year, with plans to conduct an exercise in the spring to simulate such an attack and ongoing efforts to obtain the weapons needed for the mission. With.

While the IDF believes it can take some sort of military action against Iran’s nuclear program in the short term, it is likely to have limited effect.

Currently, for example, the IDF has the capability to bomb Iran’s Natanz enrichment site, an easy target because even its underground parts are located close enough to the surface for standard munitions to hit. However, the Fordo site, buried deep underground under a mountain of rock, would be far more difficult to strike without the use of powerful and extremely heavy bunker-buster type bombs, which Israel did not necessarily have the capability to carry.

It would take at least several months and possibly more than a year to develop a more comprehensive strike capability, which would lag Iran’s nuclear program by several years. Although such an attack is meant to have a deterrent effect against future enrichment, even the most widespread strike would delay the nuclear program, because of the technical knowledge and experience that Iranian scientists have already accumulated. will not be lost.

On July 2, 2020, a building claimed by Iran was damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Tehran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

The newly passed national budget, which included a significant increase in defense spending – some of it specifically allocated for such strike preparations – has allowed the military to proceed with these efforts, not only Procurement of weapons necessary for attack but also for strengthening air defense systems which will be crucial in protecting the country from expected retaliation.

“The IDF’s force build-up plan has progressed at a rapid pace over the past year,” Kohavi said this week. At its core are significant improvements in the number and intelligence of identified enemy targets; the completion of deals to significantly increase the number of bombs and interceptor missiles; the progress of plans for a nationwide air defense network; and improvements in communications systems. “

closer to home

Exactly six months after the IDF and Palestinian terror groups fought in an 11-day conflict in the Gaza Strip, the military notes that very few rockets have been fired at Israel since the fighting ended in late May: just five in the last six. Rocket months, compared to 22 fired in the six months following the 2014 Gaza War.

The IDF attributes this peace to two factors: first, the government’s civic policies towards Gaza that have allowed the slowly rebuilding of the troubled, economically depressed enclave; and second, the military’s threats of harsh retaliation for attacks from the Strip, which were demonstrated in the months following the conflict by dropping some 80 tons of bombs on Hamas facilities in response to some rocket and aerial arson attacks.

Rockets from Gaza, at right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, at left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

At the same time, the military found several areas that had been in conflict during the May conflict, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls: notably Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad by firing rockets at Israel’s home front. in preventing. While about 90 percent of rockets headed for civilian areas were intercepted, the large amount of projectile being fired meant that many passed. The IDF says it has improved its ability to detect launch sites and destroy them during combat, but this remains a concern for the military. And to address this issue a special team was created within the IDF General Staff, developing new techniques and strategies to counter the threat.

The West Bank remains a major source of concern for the IDF. The past year saw a significant increase in violence there, with twice the number of shootings and stabbings reported in 2021 compared to the previous year (61 and 18 respectively, as opposed to 31 and nine in 2020.) According to IDF data, there was a nearly 40% increase in the number of documented rock-throwing and 33% more firebombing.

Border police officers target Palestinian rioters during clashes near the West Bank Kalandia checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah on December 15, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The military attributes this increase to the high level of violence seen in the West Bank during Operation Guardian of the Walls, but some of it is also the result of recent unrest. Since the fall, along with the annual olive harvest, the IDF has seen a significant increase in violence by Israeli extremists against Palestinians – and in some cases against Israeli security forces – with an increase in Palestinian violence against Israeli settlers.

The IDF has been criticized for routinely failing to stop Israel’s attacks against Palestinians. Although IDF officials acknowledge that troops can do more on this front, the military generally prefers that the Israel Police lead the effort.