The Gulf War 20 Years Later -the first war where ballistic missiles fell on Israeli cities
The Iraqi scud missiles that fell on Israel were the first major ballistic threat to the defense system of the State of Israel. 20 years later, the ballistic threat on Israel is even greater. The IAF is now equipped with several systems designed to address the ballistic missile threat as part of the defense of the State of Israel.
Six months after the Gulf War ended, Maj. Gen. Avihu Ben-Nun, former Commander of the IAF, revealed in an interview details about the war, it’s consequences, and the efforts of Arab countries to arm themselves with missiles.
“Even if peace talks would have intensified, and with the conditions of the ceasefire, we would have had to continue to maintain our military forces, especially the IAF. The IAF is the main force that can, at the end of the day, bring maximum deterrence which is the base of the Arab states’ acceptance of us and to start the peace talks that can make a peace agreement possible”. Such explained Maj. Gen. Ben-Nun 6 months after the Gulf War.
How does the massive Syrian arming since the Gulf War settle with their recent statements towards peace?
“There’s no connection between the peace process and their military purchases. The fact remains that Egypt also has rearmed since signing a peace agreement with us. The whole world is talking about peace in the new world order, but in practice we see that almost every country around us is rearming with military equipment from all of their sources. The only one to keep the status quo in terms of armament is Jordan, which suffers severe financial problems. The Syrians used the results of the Gulf War in order to make new deals, especially in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Syria isn’t satisfied and is looking for new markets in the USA and Western Europe.
The Syrians put an emphasis on the acquisition of aerial weapons as part of the lessons from the Gulf War. Soon they’re set to increase their number of MiG-29 and Sukhoi 24 that they have in their fleet. They are especially interested in aerial platforms, precise weapons, and surface-to-surface missiles from China and North Korea. Some of these transactions are implemented in the field and some of them will be implemented in the coming year and there’s not doubt that the massive armament also requires us to prepare appropriately. Israel has the most difficult shortage of resources and despite all of the efficiency and improvements that we have managed, there is still not enough resources budgeted to allow us to respond to these events. We try to find other ways to streamline and save resources, but there is a limit to savings as well. We’ve reached the threshold from which we can’t go down any further”.
Is Iraq, after the Gulf War, still a potential threat to the State of Israel?
“Of course. We must never forget that Iraq, although badly defeated in the war, still has a powerful military. This includes their air force, which remains large in numbers. The Iraqi army includes today dozens of divisions and an air force that has 380 combat planes. The Iraqi helicopters were almost not damaged at all in the war and they are a considerable force at 550”.
Does the IDF use intelligence missions in order to keep track of the capabilities of the Iraqi military?
“The State of Israel coordinates major efforts in this field. You must keep in mind that gaining intelligence information is the base for planning for war and preventing surprises. As such, there’s no doubt that the entire world and Israel will continue to monitor Iraq”.
What’s the condition of the Iraqi surface-to-surface missile system today?
“We don’t have any exact information, because the Iraqis hide a significant portion of the missiles. The Iraqis are big artists when it comes to camouflage, concealment, and deception. We know more or less the number of launchers that were destroyed, but we don’t know exactly how many there were before the war and therefore it’s hard to know how many remain. I still believe that the Iraqis have several rocket launchers that are still usable. As it appears now, their abilities in the field of surface to surface missiles are not large, but they can restore their abilities easily if the international situation will allow them to do so”.
Arab countries spend a considerable amount of money on the purchasing of surface-to-surface missiles. Is this a real threat or a policy of deterrence?
“In my opinion, the Syrians are experienced enough to understand that war between Syria and Israel would not be like the Gulf War, where we were smart enough not to be dragged into it. Damascus is not Baghdad”.
What responses does Israel have to the equipping by enemy countries of surface-to-surface missiles?
“You can deal with a weapons system on a number of levels. First, in deterrence. Secondly, in early warning systems Israeli is making significant efforts. We must prepare for the firing of rockets also with regards to our ability to absorb them on the home front.
The fields of operations are more than the field of eliminating the batteries of the enemy. In this field, it is very important to have intelligence on the location. The operational field is also an active area of defense. The Patriot missile and Arrow project, if it succeeds, may provide the necessary defenses”.
Is there international cooperation between the Americans and us on the lessons of the Gulf War?
“There’s a response in principle from the Americans that they want to partner with us and share with us the lessons. We haven’t received yet all of the answers to the questions, but there is a process moving in the right direction. I believe that at the end of the day we will have the data to allow us to learn from the appropriate lessons of the war”.