"The Nature of War in the Future and Intelligence Challenges"
Iran was and remains dangerous and we must continue the international pressure with full force to dissuade Iran from its nuclear tendencies.
Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies on "The Nature of War in the Future and Intelligence Challenges"
[Translated from Hebrew]
In most countries around the world, the subject of this Conference, "The Nature of War in the Future and Intelligence Challenges" would be, at most, an academic brainstorming session, without any practical consequences. In the unique reality in Israel, this discussion takes on concrete and very real significance.
There were times when everything was much simpler. The military conflicts were conducted with very clear concepts and rules of space and time, doctrines of fighting and weapons which were not subject to quick or revolutionary changes which take form at the rate of a geometric progression. Our "big" wars were conducted between armies on defined battlefields, while the IDF strove to move the fighting into enemy territory and obtain a speedy resolution through action and fire. Between these wars, we had to deal with terrorist attacks, which also were conducted in a fairly fixed pattern, and with almost no real connection between these events and the "real" wars between countries.
This has all passed, and during the past several years we – in the State of Israel and in other Western democratic states – faced an infinitely more complicated and complex reality, the roots of which are ideological and technological. The struggle against terror has become more dominant, while "regular" war is still in the background as an existing, albeit latent, threat. This change stems, on the one hand from the rise of violent radical Islam which challenges Western culture; and on the other hand, the technological revolution which provides easier access than in the past to the means of warfare, and available possibilities to broadly distribute information, to transportation and to communication between continents more quickly and easily, and to recruit the masses.
The result of this is that the vast majority of terrorist activity over the past few years is carried out by terror organizations with extremist Islamic ideologies. This problem, of course, is not exclusively an Israeli one, but rather a worldwide one. However, this has a very fundamental influence on the character of the conflict in our region, the changing nature of confrontations in the present and war in the future – which we hope will not happen – and on the intelligence challenges which the State of Israel faces.
The most significant change we have already felt over the past few years is that the focus of war has ceased to be on the frontlines. There is no more meaning to the division between frontline and home front: the last war and any war which will ensue, if Heaven forbid one should ensue in the near future – will be conducted on the home front more than on the frontlines. This obligates changing all our patterns of thinking, preparedness and dividing of resources.
This is a subject which even today disturbs us, and will continue to remain at the center of our attention for some time to come. Primarily: how should we invest our limited resources – in defending the home front or by creating a decisive force on the frontlines?
My thoughts on this are clear: there is no substitute for the capability to subdue the enemy swiftly, and therefore the bulk of our resources must be invested in creating such a decisive force.
During the Second Lebanon War and in the ongoing fighting against Hamas and Jihad terror, the State of Israel has done and continues to conduct an asymmetrical conflict, in which it takes upon itself – for moral and political considerations – many limitations in using force and in focusing on targets for striking at the enemy. Our democratic way of life, the "rules of the game" which are anchored in law and the world view of the free nations among which the State of Israel counts itself, adhere to the paradigm which exists in conflict with, if not in contradiction to security needs. An apartment building from which Fajr missiles are fired, a school or mosque which serves as a base for terror activity, pose a difficult dilemma.
This is how a situation is created in which terror organizations exert their full – if limited – strength with the intention of causing maximal and indiscriminate damage to our civilian home front, while the IDF operates at a fraction of its strength and meticulously selects specific goals.
This is especially bothersome given the precarious reality in the south of the country, and particularly the unceasing threat to the communities of the Gaza envelope and Sderot. We will have to act in this regard on a course which obligates, in the appropriate dose, the right timing and without exaggeration, as is acceptable in these parts, without empty rhetoric and without creating unrealistic expectations. The reality is complex and difficult, but the subject is at the top of our concerns. We will fulfill our duty with the appropriate caution and not slacken until the threat of Kassams and mortars to the residents of Sderot and the surrounding communities is completely removed.
I must point out that the IDF, under the leadership of the Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, has for many months been in the fundamental and dignified process of upgrading its systems and strengthening its operational capabilities both in the regular army and in the reserves. The people of Israel can be proud of their army and its commanders.
The subject which is preoccupying so many of us, especially recently, is the nature of the Iranian threat, its scope and its power.
At the beginning of the month, as you know, the National Intelligence Council of the United States published its updated estimation of Iran’s intentions and capabilities in the nuclear field. I attribute great importance to the declaration by the President of the United States, George Bush, that nothing has changed; Iran was and remains dangerous and we must continue the international pressure with full force to dissuade Iran from its nuclear tendencies. I trust and am confident that the United States will continue to lead the international campaign to stop the development of a nuclear Iran.
The State of Israel is not the main flag-bearer against the caprices of the regime in Tehran, which conspires against any attempt at reconciliation and peace-making between Israel and its neighbors, and threatens the stability of the Middle East. This is not only an Israeli problem, but rather a worldwide problem. The solution can be found in the combination of efforts on the part of the United States and Russia, China and the European countries, to exert effective pressure on Iran.
The publication of the American NIE report generated an exaggerated debate. Some of us even interpreted the report as an American retreat from its support of Israel. This is groundless.
The United States led the global campaign against Iran and mobilized its full international strength to set in motion the adoption by the UN Security Council of two resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran, since America was convinced that Iran constitutes a real threat to peace in the region and to vital American interests. This has not changed. Not because I say so – the Americans say so, the British, the Germans and the French say so as well.
Iran continues its activities to enrich uranium, and even according to the NIE report, it is likely to accumulate sufficient amounts to create nuclear weapons by 2010. Iran continues its activities to attain two vital components to create nuclear weapons: the development of a sophisticated electrical system and ballistic missiles, while at the same time producing enriched uranium. There is no disagreement regarding these facts, and therefore there is no reason to change the assessments Israel has made the entire time regarding the danger involved in the continuation of these activities.
International pressure on Iran has been very effective, even according to the NIE report, and it should be continued and even increased. Therefore, Israel supports the tightening of the economic sanctions on Iran and its continued isolation until it fulfills the recommendations of the Security Council and suspends all activities to enrich uranium.
Israel will work with the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to expose Iran’s military capabilities; we will continue our diplomatic relations with the United States of America and with diplomatic officials from other, friendly countries – in order to strengthen the conclusion that we cannot slacken our close surveillance of Iran’s activities.
The overall responsibility for preventing the nuclearization of Iran lies with the international community, headed by the United States, Russia, France, England, Germany and China, and they declare that they will continue in their efforts ceaselessly. The State of Israel, which Iran has declared its intention to destroy, cannot relax in this effort. We do not need an intelligence report to know of the intentions of the regime in Tehran. These intentions are overt, professed and heard publicly again and again.
A country rich in oil and gas does not need to enrich uranium for civilian needs in order to produce alternative energy. A country which does not have the infrastructure to create nuclear energy for civilian purposes does not need to act with frenzied haste to create enriched uranium – unless it wants to develop nuclear weapons.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I primarily referred to dangers, threats and military and security constraints with which the State of Israel must deal. They appropriate a great deal of our physical resources and mental energies – but dealing with them is critical to our future. Therefore, none of this reduces the effort I intend to invest in trying to create a path of dialogue and negotiation with our neighbors.
At Annapolis, we initiated an effort I hope will mature into ongoing and serious dialogue. However, we wish to make peace not just with the Palestinians. All neighboring Arab states, including Syria, are targets for efforts I hope will lead to negotiations and peace accords. This is a complex process which obligates extreme caution, but there is no substitute for it, and I have no intention of giving up on it.