“I warn the reader that this essay requires to be read very seriously and that I am unacquainted with any art which can make the subject clear to those who will not bestow on it their serious attention.”-Jean Jacques-Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762)
More than ever, long-term deterrence of multiple adversaries in the Middle East by Israel remains steeply complicated. Now faced with an expanding disease pandemic superimposed upon all usual or “normal” strategic issues, Israel’s response will require herculean combinations of refined analysis and creative intuition. This task has already become so grievously complex and many-sided that nothing less than unprecedented applications of human intellectual effort can rise adequately to the protracted challenge.
Prima facie, the myriad difficulties of rising to this existential challenge represent a formidable barrier to success and long-term survival. In essence, there exists grave danger that these difficulties could occasion not any purposefully enhanced national commitment or “national will,” but rather incremental resignation or even irremediable despair. It follows that before any necessary strategic policy modifications can be launched by Israeli thinkers and planners, those responsible will, like Lady Macbeth, first have to “screw up their courage to the sticking place.”
As for my own readers, they, too, will have to follow along an overlapping variety of inherently complex arguments, a task, inter alia, requiring them to “read very seriously;” that is, to “bestow on it their serious attention.”
But how to begin? For half a century, I have been thinking and writing about Israel’s nuclear strategy. Arguably, at least to some calculable extent, this has been an incomprehensible and foolhardy academic focus. Israel, after all, has never even meaningfully acknowledged its possession of nuclear weapons, let alone identified any corresponding national nuclear infrastructures, strategies or tactics.
None at all.
So, what exactly has there been left to analyze?
What, precisely, can be examined and usefully reconstituted right now?
There are tangible answers, but they cannot be offered ex nihilo, from an empirical or conceptual vacuum. Accordingly, here is a tentative but still valid reply.
In all world politics, especially in the Middle East, the most enduring truth of what is taking place is often what is not said. During these past several years, it has been relatively easy to extrapolate from various multiple and intersecting open sources that Israel’s nuclear capacity (in its broadest possible outline) represents such an “essential truth,” and that the country’s physical survival is closely intertwined with this “deliberately ambiguous” defense posture. Now, however, looking ahead, a core responsibility for both planners and politicians in Israel must be to more explicitly utilize/optimize their country’s always-evolving nuclear strategy, and to tackle this bold challenge against an ever-changing backdrop of state and sub-state adversaries.
There will be even more substance to consider. This task will require various informed assessments not only of more-or-less decipherable prospects, but also of certain foreseeable “hybrid” enemies (e.g., Iran-Hezbollah; Iran- Hamas). In turn, these hybrids will represent substantially more complex foes; that is, adversaries comprised (in varying conceivable configurations) of both state and sub-state elements. Inevitably, the suitability of Israel’s relevant national nuclear planning will vary, at least in part, according to the particular “mix” involved. To this point, of course, and understandably, little published analysis has ever addressed the effective use of Israeli nuclear deterrence against sub-state and/or “hybridized” adversaries.
Among other things, this once-reasonable inattention will have to be appropriately changed and properly updated.
Israel will require more explicit considerations of nuclear deterrence strategies directed against certain conventional or non-nuclear enemies. Above all, these starkly demanding considerations will represent intellectual obligations; that is, analytic responsibilities that can be met only by more markedly purposeful and science-based theorizing, not by the cleverly shallow rhetorical flourishes of market-centered national politicians. In the United States, unmistakably, we are already witnessing the catastrophic security consequences of a presidential leadership based entirely upon raw “intuition” or “gut feeling.” Left to its own anti-science devices, these consequences, which now include steadily cascading Covid-19 death counts, could alter the very indispensable fabric of American national survival.
Whether in Israel or the United States, national security challenges can never be dealt with capably under the manipulative guidance of any commerce-centered impresarios. Such guidance did not reduce the North Korean nuclear threat to the United States when US President Donald Trump declared after the Singapore Summit that he and his counterpart in Pyongyang had “fallen in love.”
Not a scintilla; not a calculable bit.
Indeed, since that substantively unplanned and unprepared-for summit, North Korea has accelerated and expanded its military nuclear programs.
There is more. By definition, the imperative exploration of Israel’s nuclear strategy cannot be undertaken with a view to ascertaining any precise event probabilities. In science and mathematics, true statements of probability must always be drawn from the discernible frequency of pertinent past events. Clearly, in the matters at hand, there has never been an authentic nuclear war.
It follows that Israeli scholars and political leaders should remain aptly modest about offering any more specific nuclear conflict predictions. Going back to ancient Greek philosophers and playwrights, especially Aristotle (both Poetics and Politics), this will not be a suitable time for any Israeli displays of hubris. Lest they forget, such always-misplaced displays led directly to the near-catastrophe of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (mechdal).
For Israel, perhaps more than for any other imperiled state in world politics, it is vital not to prepare “retrospectively” for the dynamics and weapon-systems of any previous war. Though, for the moment, Israel faces no regional nuclear adversaries, this relatively favorable condition will not last indefinitely. When it does finally come to an end – such an eventual or incremental cessation is pretty much inevitable over time, especially as US President Trump’s policies can only hasten Iranian nuclearization and regional insecurity – Jerusalem/Tel Aviv should be prepared to conceptualize a more future-oriented and fully-systematic strategy of national strategic response.
In turn, whether or not Israel is adequately prepared for such a difficult task will depend, at least in part, on whether adversarial nuclear capacities become evident in tolerable increments or (instead) in certain tangible acts (witting or unwitting) of verifiable enemy disclosure. If the latter, the worst case for Israel would then involve certain actual enemy resorts to nuclear conflict.
What then? In any truly civilized world, it’s a question that should never have to be asked.
To best prepare for any impending nuclear adversary, whether Shiite Iran or a Sunni Arab enemy (Pakistan is already a Sunni non-Arab nuclear power), or both, Israel/IMOD must remain continuously analytic and theory-focused. This means, among other things, factoring into virtually every coherent nuclear threat assessment (a) the expected rationality of enemy decision-makers and (b) the expected intentionality of these decision-makers during any conceivable crisis.
Now, there is also something else of prospectively grave significance. This is the ongoing Corona virus pandemic, a plague so persistent and consequential that it could directly impact an adversarial state’s pertinent rationality and intentions. More exactly, depending upon the actual impact of disease on this enemy’s most senior decision-makers, such a foe could become more or less likely to initiate variable (minor or major) levels of conflict. Reciprocally, Israel’s own senior decision-makers, already anticipating such changeable enemy orientations to war, could experience a heightened inclination to preempt. In law, any such defensive first-strikes could be known formally as “anticipatory self-defense.”
It remains high time for Israeli strategists to be more self-consciously scientific in the sense of producing more aptly comprehensive theoretic assessments. These are now the only appraisals that can capably explore a needed variety of “soft” human factors. Until now, of course, Israel’s defense establishment has been very capably scientific, but primarily in the operational sense of maintaining precise mathematical attention to assorted weapon systems and infrastructures. Just as importantly, however, IDF/MOD will now need to operationalize some less tangible but still scientific orientations to any prospective nuclear conflict.
An appropriate example here would be the creation of multiple decisional “templates” to allow consideration of certain not-easily measurable explanatory factors. Still more precisely, if a basically dichotomous or two-part distinction could be assumed concerning enemy rationality and intentionality, four logically possible categories or scenarios would result. These discrete narrative templates could then lucidly inform Israel’s long-term nuclear security policies and posture.
Again, each template’s examination should take into account, to whatever extent possible, any likely Covid-19 impacts on enemy decision-makers.
To proceed, IDF planners ought to consider the following more-or-less believable narratives, a determined consideration that could significantly enhance already-disciplined orientations to the country’s national defense:
Both Israeli and enemy leaders are presumptively rational (i.e., each set of leaders values national survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences), and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of fully deliberate decision choices by one or both of the relevant decision-makers;
Both sets of leaders are presumptively rational, and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of certain unintended decision choices made by one or both of them;
Either Israeli or enemy leaders, or both, are presumptively irrational, and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of still fully deliberate decisional choices made by one or both; and
Either Israeli or enemy leaders, or both, are presumptively irrational, and any nuclear exchange between these adversaries would be the necessary outcome of unintended decisions made by one or both of them.
In all such complex strategic matters (Clausewitz reminds, in On War, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is still very difficult.”), nothing could prove more practical than good theory. Always, such duly general and comprehensive policy explanations could help guide Jerusalem beyond otherwise vague, ad hoc or simply “seat-of-the-pants” appraisals of adversarial nuclear conflict possibilities.
By definition, any future nuclear crisis between Israel and designable enemy states would be unique or sui generis. This means, among other things, that Israel’s Prime Minister and his principal national security advisors ought never become overly-confident about predicting specific nuclear crisis outcomes or their own expertise in being able to successfully manage any such unprecedented crises. Moreover, as hinted at earlier in this essay, such expertise could be more-or-less affected by any ongoing disease pandemic. After all, Israel’s own decision-makers, like pertinent enemy decision-makers, would be meaningfully vulnerable to all virulent forms of biological “insult.”
There is more. There are no real experts in nuclear conflict situations. This statement includes a now-sitting American president who had earlier placed a far-reaching and wholly baseless faith in North Korea’s Kim Jung Un (“We fell in love”), and ho still reveals no serious intellectual understanding of US nuclear deterrence obligations. None at all.
Other thoughts dawn. Israeli strategic analysts must continuously upgrade any proposed nuclear investigations by identifying the core distinctions between intentional or deliberate nuclear war and between unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war. The tangible risks resulting from these different types of possible nuclear conflict are apt to vary considerably, in part because of certain hard-to-quantify or calculate “pandemic variables.” Moreover, those Israeli analysts who would remain too exclusively focused upon any deliberate nuclear war scenario could sometime too casually underestimate a more authentically serious and even sweeping enemy threat.
In principle, any such underestimations could produce lethal or prospectively existential outcomes for Israel. To make the avoidance of these underestimations sufficiently problematic, nuclear war risks in the Middle East could be created or enhanced via various “spillover effects” from nuclear conflict situations in other regions. Presently, regarding Israel, the most credible “ignition points” for any such creation would be India-Pakistan escalations and/or North Korean aggressions. It goes without saying, of course, that such additionally portentous escalations and/or aggressions could themselves be affected by various Covid-19 considerations
While any North Korea-Middle East nuclear intersections may at first appear far-fetched, literally any crossing of the nuclear threshold on this planet could sometime impact nuclear use in certain other far-flung places.
This does not even take into account historic ties between destabilizing North Korean nuclear technologies and the traditional Arab state enemies of Israel. The most obvious case in point is Syria, and Israel’s remediating preemption (Operation Orchard) undertaken back in September 2007.
There is more. Israel could soon need to respond to expectedly bewildering conditions generated by any US war with Iran. This is the case, moreover, even if Iran were itself to remain entirely non-nuclear. Again, IMOD and the Prime Minister will need to anticipate such conditions in a suitably systematic and dialectical fashion.
Always, international relations represent a system. What happens in any one component of this system can more-or-less frequently impact what happens in another. Sometimes, the cumulative impact of regional or global interactions can also be “synergistic.” In these very dense circumstances, by definition, the calculable “whole” of any relevant interactions will prove to be greater than the simple sum of pertinent “parts.” Here, too, the presence of pandemic factors could represent a relevant and significant “force multiplier.”
In thinking about nuclear strategy, Israeli planners must calculate holistically, broadly, considering the world as a multi-actor totality, one where consequential outcomes will have to be assessed in their most conceivably complex intersections.
Also noteworthy here is a seemingly subtle but still meaningful difference between inadvertent nuclear war and accidental nuclear war. Any accidental nuclear war would have to be inadvertent; conversely, however, there could take place various recognizable forms of inadvertent nuclear war that would not be accidental. The policy-related differences here would not by any means be insignificant.
Most critical, in clarifying this connection, would be potentially serious errors in calculation, whether committed by one or both (or several) sides. The most evident example of any such grievous mistakes would concern more-or-less plausible misjudgments of enemy intent or capacity as might emerge during the course of some particular crisis escalation. Such consequential misjudgments would most likely stem from an expectedly mutual search for strategic advantage taking place during an ongoing competition in nuclear risk-taking.
In orthodox military parlance, this would mean a determinable multi-party search for “escalation dominance.” Accordingly, such a search could be affected by any Covid-19 triggered conditions of chaos.
To achieve a proper or (better still) optimal start in this sort of required theorizing, Israeli analysts would first need to pinpoint and conceptualize the vital similarities and differences between deliberate nuclear war, inadvertent nuclear war, and accidental nuclear war.
Subsequently, undertaking various related investigations of rationality and irrationality within each affected country’s decision-making structure would become necessary. One potential source of an unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war could be a failed strategy of “pretended irrationality.” To wit, a posturing Israeli prime minister who had somehow too “successfully” convinced enemy counterparts of his own irrationality could unwittingly spark an otherwise-avoidable enemy preemption.
At this time, correspondingly, US President Donald Trump has toyed vis-à-vis North Korea with displaying an intermittent or occasional posture of “pretended irrationality,” but to no apparent avail. In part, this tangible lack of success may be due to the president’s earlier public declarations concerning alleged benefits of feigned irrationality.
There is more. An Israeli leadership that had begun to take seriously an enemy leader’s self-declared unpredictability could sometime be frightened into striking first itself. In this diametrically opposite or reciprocal case, Jerusalem would become the preempting party that could then claim legality for its allegedly defensive first-strike. Under authoritative international law, as we have already noted, a permissible preemption could possibly be taken as a proper expression of “anticipatory self-defense.”
Also worth considering amid any such chess-like strategic and legal dialectics is that the first scenario could end not with an enemy preemption, but with Israeli decision-makers deciding to “preempt the preemption.” Here, Israel, sensing the too-great “success” of its own pretended irrationality, might then “foresee” an enemy’s resultant insecurity. They might then decide (correctly or incorrectly) to “strike first before they are struck first themselves.”
One final point warrants concluding emphasis. A future Israeli posture of feigned or pretended irrationality need not be inherently misconceived or inconceivable. Years ago, in precisely this conceptual regard, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan declared: “Israel must be seen (by its enemies) as a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”
Looking ahead, such seemingly “out-of-the-box” Israeli security postures are uncertain and untested, but they are not necessarily mistaken prima facie or beyond any serious consideration. Moreover, the credibility of such potential military postures could be enhanced by considering certain more conspicuous characterizations of a last-resort “Samson Option.” The key point of any such characterizations would be not to prepare for some actual “final battle” (an outcome that could be in no single country’s overall best interests), but rather to better convince a pertinent existential adversary of Israel’s willingness to take certain extraordinary risks to ensure its own survival.
While Israel has yet to exploit this particular modality of strategic thinking, Russia made precisely such a calculation with its Burevestnik missile – a self-declared “vengeance nuclear weapon.” Plainly, Moscow is not hoping to employ such a missile as part of any operational policy, but instead to signal the United States that it is prepared to “go to the mat” with the Americans, even in starkly unpredictable nuclear terms. The Russian “point” here is not to “fight a nuclear war,” but to successfully influence the choices that its American rival will most expectedly make.
Inevitably, this means to best maximize Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Going forward, a major focus of changing Israel’s nuclear strategy will have to be the country’s longstanding posture of deliberate ambiguity or “bomb in the basement.” The Prime Minister surely understands that adequate nuclear deterrence of increasingly formidable enemies could soon require lessrather than more Israeli nuclear secrecy. Accordingly, inter alia, what will soon need to be determined by IDF planners will be the operational extent and subtlety with which Israel should communicate assorted core elements of its nuclear posture; that is, its corollary intentions and capabilities to selected enemy states.
To protect itself against any enemy strikes that could carry utterly intolerable costs, IDF defense planners will need to prepare to exploit every relevant aspect and function of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The success of Israel’s effort here will depend not only upon its particular choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter value”), but also upon the extent to which this key choice is made known in advance to enemy states and (at least sometimes) to these foes’ sub-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be suitably deterred from launching first strike aggressions against Israel, and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following any Israeli preemptions, it may not be enough for them merely to know that Israel has the bomb.
In extremis atomicum, these enemies will also need to believe that Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to first-strike attacksand that they are pointed menacingly at appropriately high-value targets.
The key message here is obvious and straightforward. Removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” could enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrent to the extent that it would enlarge enemy perceptions of secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces. Such a calculated end to deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel’s willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and/or retaliatory attacks.
From the standpoint of successful Israeli nuclear deterrence, IDF planners must generally proceed on the assumption that perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability. In all cases, Israel’s nuclear strategy and forces must remain fully oriented to deterrence, and never toward actual war fighting. Already, with this in mind, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv has likely taken appropriate steps to reject tactical or relatively low-yield “battlefield” nuclear weapons, and, as corollary, corresponding plans for counter-force targeting.
For Israel, without conceivable exception, nuclear weapons can make sense only for deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.
There are various attendant problems of nuclear proliferation amongst enemy states. These new nuclear powers could implement protective measures that would pose additional hazards to Israel. Designed to guard against preemption, either by Israel or by other regional enemies, such measures could involve the attachment of “hair trigger” launch mechanisms to nuclear weapon systems and/or the adoption of “launch on warning” policies, possibly coupled with pre-delegations of launch authority.
This means, most plainly, that Israel could become increasingly endangered by steps taken by its newly-nuclear enemies to prevent an eleventh-hour preemption. Optimally, Israel would do everything possible to prevent such steps, especially because of the expanded risks of accidental or unauthorized attacks against its own armaments and populations. Still, if these steps were somehow to become a fait accompli, Jerusalem might then calculate, and quite correctly, that a preemptive strike would be both legal and operationally cost-effective.
The expected enemy retaliation, however damaging, might appear more tolerable than the expected consequences of enemy first-strikes – strikes likely occasioned by the failure of “anti-preemption” protocols.
There is also the related matter of conventional deterrence. In some circumstances, enemy states contemplating a conventional attack upon Israel might be dissuaded only by the threat of a strong conventional retaliation. Hence, inasmuch as a conventional war could quickly escalate into an unconventional war, Israel’s conventional deterrent could sometime prove indispensable in offering protection against chemical/biological/nuclear war as well as conventional war.
Arguably, a persuasive conventional deterrent is a sine qua non of Israel’s security. This is the case irrespective of the persuasiveness of Jerusalem’s nuclear deterrent, and/or the availability of any reasonable preemption options.
Reciprocally, Israel’s conventional and nuclear deterrents are interrelated, even intertwined. For the foreseeable future, any enemy states that would launch an exclusively conventional attack upon Israel would almost surely have to maintain multiple unconventionalweapons capabilities in reserve. Even if Israel could rely upon conventional deterrence as its “first line” of protection, that line would necessarily be augmented by Israeli nuclear deterrence in order to prevent any intra-war escalations initiated by enemy states.
Looking ahead, Israel must prepare to rely upon a distinctly multi-faceted doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In turn, this doctrine will need to be purposefully less ambiguous and more determinedly “synergistic.” Its core focus must embrace prospectively rational and non-rational enemies, and include both national and sub-national foes.
These intersecting requirements are not for the intellectually faint-hearted.
Hence, they are offered here for strategic consideration and refinement to the Few, not to the Many.
Over time, any such prudential reliance should prove agreeably “cost-effective.” In any event, whether directed at nuclear or non-nuclear adversaries (or both), Israel’s nuclear strategy will play an increasingly important role in that country’s national security planning. At some point, Israel and Iran – resembling the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War – could find themselves like “two scorpions in a bottle” or perhaps enclosed like two “scorpions” amid three or four others.
What happens then? Will Israel be ready? A positive answer is possible only if the task is viewed in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv as a preeminently intellectual one, a struggle not just about comparative ordnance or competitive “orders of battle,” but about “mind over mind.” In these times. of course, all relevant matters of mind will have to include various considerations of biology/pathology as well as the more usual military ones.
Fortunately, Israel has always been in recognizably prominent possession of what is most durably important. This largely overlooked factor is intellectual power. Going forward with its imperative strategic tasks, Israel’s senior planners and prime minister may have to more fully appreciate the primacy of such an antecedent or primary power. This would mean, inter alia, looking far beyond the more usual focus on high-technology military solutions, including various altogether unprecedented factors concerning virulent disease pandemic.
Among other things, these biological variables could impact actual processes of crisis decision-making in Jerusalem and/or in certain enemy capitals, impacts with certain still-unknown force-multiplying effects that at some point could also become synergistic.
At that stage, the “whole” injurious impact of the pandemic on pertinent Israeli decision-making would have become more-or-less greater than the simple sum of all relevant “parts.” Immediately, therefore, because it would be impossible to anticipate in detail such a profound impact in all or even most of its plausible disease-based consequences, the optimal course for Israel must be to hew in general to certain strategic postures recognizably averse to excessive threat-making or risk-taking. Going forward, in these expansively uncertain times, Israel’s defense and security decision-makers should consider maximizing their inclinations to more cooperative or collaborative interactions with particular adversarial counterparts. Nonetheless, as long as the country maintains its “ace in the whole” nuclear strategy, which should be for a very long time, Jerusalem must keep up its efforts to ensure a refined and uniformly credible national nuclear strategy. And this strategy should continue to emphasize deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.
Otherwise, “It’s a hard rain gonna fall.”
In Israel, nuclear war must always be viewed only as a terminal disease. This means that any actual use of such weapons, by Israel and/or by its enemies, would necessarily signify an irremediable policy failure. Though assorted threats of nuclear reprisal must still reserve a residual place in Israel’s core defense planning processes – indeed, a place that is both important and indispensable – this perilous “sticking place” must also display very clear and understandable boundaries. In the final analysis, such boundaries should represent the coherent result of certain prior intellectual triumphs achieved by Israel’s policy analysts and decision-makers, victories that today must include a suitable awareness of pertinent “pandemic variables.”
Otherwise, in a literal instant, “hard rain” could drown several thousand years of civilizational progress and entire libraries of a once-sacred poetry.
 Still, there were three prominently recorded incidents in which some explicit reference was made to Israel’s “bomb” by a prime minister, but none went beyond a deliberately vague and general commentary. On December 22, 1995, then Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared to the Israeli press that Israel would be willing “to give up the atom” in exchange for peace. Years later, on December 11, 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uttered a very similar remark. And in just the last year, at the end of 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a pertinent “slip of the tongue,” combining “Israel” and “its nuclear….” in the same public utterance.
 At first hearing, it may sound prima facie erroneous to adapt any nation’s nuclear strategy to assorted non-nuclear adversaries, but it should nonetheless be obvious to Israel – for specific example, in the case of Iran – that even a wholly conventional enemy could (1) sometime threaten existential harms; and (2) these threats might sometime be rationally countered with varying forms and degrees of expressly nuclear deterrence.
 At the same time, we cannot be allowed to forget, that theoretical fruitfulness must be achieved at some more-or-less tangible cost of “dehumanization.” As Goethe reminds us is Urfaust, the original Faust fragment: “All theory, dear friend, is grey, And the golden tree of life is green.” Translated by the author from the German: “Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grun des Lebens goldner Baum.”
 Such needed preparation must extend to multiplying enemy nuclear states, or the dynamic problem of nuclear proliferation. Philosophically, this problem has certain conceptual antecedents in the work of seventeenth-century English scholar, Thomas Hobbes. Here, instructs the author of Leviathan, although the “state of nations” exists in the condition of a “state of nature,” it is more tolerable than the condition of individuals in that state. This is because, in the case of individual human beings, “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” With nuclear weapons spread, however, there is no longer any reason to assert that the state of nations must be more tolerable. Instead, this spread will bring the state of nations much closer to a true Hobbesian state of nature. Similarly, the classical German philosopher, Samuel Pufendorf, also unable to imagine nuclear weapons and nuclear warfare, still reasoned, like Hobbes, that the state of nations “lacks those inconveniences which are attendant upon a pure state of nature….” And in the same vein, wrote Baruch Spinoza: “A commonwealth can guard itself against being subjugated by another, as a man in the state of nature cannot do.” See: A.G. Wernham, ed., The Political Works, Tractatus Politicus, iii, II (Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 295.
 For earlier published writings by Professor Beres on the Iranian nuclear threat, see: Louis René Beres, “Israel, Force, and International Law: Assessing Anticipatory Self-Defense,” The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol. 13, No. 2., June 1991, pp. 1-14; Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, `Palestine,’ and the Risk of Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XIX, No. 4., Fall 1991, pp, 48-55; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Prospects for Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XXI, No.2., Spring 1993, pp. 52-60; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Tactical and Legal Assessment,” Jerusalem Letter, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel, November 1993, pp. 1-7; Louis René Beres, “North Korea Today, Iran Tomorrow,” Midstream, June/July 1994, pp. 5-7, co-authored with COL. (IDF/res.) Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto (former Chief of Planning, Israel Air Force); Louis René Beres, “The Security and Future of Israel: An Exchange,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXI, No. 5., June/July 1995, pp. 15-23, a debate between Professor Beres and Maj. General (IDF/res.) Shlomo Gazit, a former Chief of IDF Intelligence Branch (Aman) and later, military advisor to Prime Minister Shimon Peres; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Jurisprudential Assessment,” UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Spring 1996, Vol. 1., No. 1, pp. 65-97; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Preemption: Choosing the Least Unattractive Option Under International Law,” Dickinson Journal of International Law, Vol. 14, No. 2., Winter 1996, pp. 187-206; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel: Capabilities and Intentions,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 9., No. 1., Spring 1996, pp. 51-62; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. 44, No. 6., September/October 1998, pp. 8-11; Louis René Beres, “Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options: A Comprehensive Master Plan for the Jewish State in the Third Millennium,” The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel), ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, “Iran’s Growing Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXVI, No. 7, November 2000, pp. 2-4; and Louis René Beres, “Israel and the Bomb,” a Dialogue with Professor Zeev Maoz, International Security (Harvard University), Vol. 29, No.1., Summer 2004, pp. 1-4.
 On deterring a potentially nuclear Iran, see: Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?” The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain (USAF/ret.) served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).
 It can also underscore Sun-Tzu’s oft-cited suggestion to “embrace the unorthodox.” For a specific application of Sun-Tzu to Israel’s prospective calculations, see: Louis René Beres, “Lessons for Israel from Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Facing Iranian Nuclearization with Sun-Tzu,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, posted October 24, 2013.
 The origins of anticipatory self-defense in customary law lie in The Caroline, a case that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain militarily defensive actions. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require an antecedent attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984)(noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925)(1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916)(1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law, 32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).
 This does not mean trying to account for absolutely every pertinent explanatory variable. Clarification can be found at “Occam’s Razor,” or the “principle of parsimony.” In essence, it stipulates a preference for the simplest explanation still consistent with scientific method. Regarding current concerns for Israel’s nuclear strategy, it suggests, inter alia, that the country’s military planners not seek to identify and examine every seemingly important variable, but rather to “say the most, with the least.” This presents an important and often neglected cautionary idea, because all too often, strategists and planners mistakenly attempt to be too inclusive, unwittingly distracting themselves from forging more efficient and “parsimonious” theory.
 For early assessments of the expected consequences of nuclear war fighting, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed., Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
 This reminder references the largely unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning intra-Israel (IDF/MOD) strategic uncertainties; on Israeli and Iranian under-estimations or over-estimations of relative power position; and on the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between theories of deterrence, and enemy intent “as it actually is.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, “Uber das Leben und den Charakter von Scharnhorst,” Historisch-politische Zeitschrift, 1 (1832); cited in Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper No. 52, October, 1996, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington, D.C. p. 9.
 Such appraisals will also need to take account of a possible chaos in world politics, a condition classically foreseen by Thomas Hobbes, and one made far more likely by ongoing disease pandemic. Although composed in the seventeenth century, Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers a prospectively illuminating vision of chaos, a view that goes far beyond “ordinary” conditions of “mere” anarchy. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:” during chaos, a condition which Hobbes identifies as a “time of War,” it is a time “…where every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the time of writing, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings – because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons.
 See, by this writer at Israel Defense: Louis René Beres, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/38613
 See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/33558
 For early scholarly examinations of preemption and anticipatory self-defense, by this author, with particular reference to Israel, see: Louis René Beres, “Preserving the Third Temple: Israel’s Right of Anticipatory Self-Defense Under International Law,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 26, No. 1, April 1993, pp. 111- 148; Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, Preemption and Anticipatory Self-Defense,” Houston Journal of International Law, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 1991, pp. 259 – 280; and Louis René Beres, “Striking `First’: Israel’s Post Gulf War Options Under International Law,” Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal Vol. 14, Nov. 1991, pp. 1 – 24.
 The Israeli analytic “cast” must always be linked to expressly dialectical thought processes. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerged as the preferred form of early “scientific” investigation. Plato describes the dialectician as one who knows how to ask and then to answer questions. In fashioning a usable strategic theory, Israeli planners will first need to better understand this core expectation – even before they proceed to the usual compilations of facts, figures, orders of battle, and regional balances of power.
 In a well-known passage in Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, the early philosopher of science says that the medieval scholastics were like spiders, weaving webs out of their own heads, without any consideration of surrounding facts. These webs were admirable on account of their workmanship and fineness of thread, but they were nonetheless lacking in any true explanatory substance. (I, iv., 5). Presently, in explaining and advancing Israel’s nuclear strategy, it is important to construct theory upon suitably fact-based foundations, not on the perilously diaphanous constructions of modern-day scholastics.
 See by this writer (USMA West Point/Pentagon): Louis René Beres, https://mwi.usma.edu/israel-samson-option-interconnected-world/
 Similarly, Israeli preparations for nuclear war fighting could be conceived not as distinct alternatives to nuclear deterrence, but as essential and even integral components of nuclear deterrence. Some years ago, Colin Gray, reasoning about U.S.-Soviet nuclear relations, argued that a vital connection exists between “likely net prowess in war and the quality of pre-war deterrent effect.” (See: Colin Gray, National Style in Strategy: The American Example,” INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, 6, No. 2, fall 1981, p. 35.) Elsewhere, in a published debate with this writer, Gray said essentially the same thing: “Fortunately, there is every reason to believe that probable high proficiency in war-waging yields optimum deterrent effect.” (See Gray, “Presidential Directive 59: Flawed But Useful,” PARAMETERS, 11, No. 1, March 1981, p. 34. Gray was responding directly to Louis René Beres, “Presidential Directive 59: A Critical Assessment,” PARAMETERS, March 1981, pp. 19 – 28.) .
 See earlier, by this writer: Louis René Beres, Looking Ahead: Revising Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity in the Middle East, Herzliya Conference Policy Paper, Herzliya Conference, March 11-14, 2013 (Herzliya, Israel). See also: Louis René Beres and Admiral (USN/ret.) Leon (Bud) Edney, “Facing a Nuclear Iran, Israel Must Re-Think Its Nuclear Ambiguity,” U.S. News & World Report, February 11, 2013, 3 pp; and Professor Louis René Beres and Admiral Leon (Bud) Edney, “Reconsidering Israel’s Nuclear Posture,” The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2013.
 Punishment of aggression is a longstanding and authoritative expectation of international criminal law. The underlying legal principle of Nullum Crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” has its discernible origins in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728 – 1686 B.C.E.); the Laws of Eshnunna (c. 2000 B.C.E.); the even earlier Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 B.C.E.) and the law of exact retaliation, or Lex Talionis, presented in three separate passages of the Torah.
 The expected security benefits to Israel of any considered reductions in “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” must remain more-or-less dependent upon Clausewitzian “friction.” Here, this classic term of operational military planning references the always-unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning intra-Israel (IDF/MOD) strategic uncertainties, Israeli and adversarial underestimations or overestimations of relative power position, and the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between abstract theories of deterrence, and actual enemy intentions.
 More generally, the expressly legal problem of reprisal as a permissible rationale for the use of force by states is identified in the U.N. Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States (1970)(https://cil.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/formidable/18/1970-Declaration-on-Principles-of-International-Law-Concerning-Friendly-Relations.pdf) . A possible prohibition of reprisals is also deducible from the broad regulation of force expressed in the UN Charter at Article 2(4); the obligation to settle disputes peacefully at Article 2(3); and the general limiting of permissible force by states (codified and customary) to necessary self-defense.
 In the words of Israel’s Strategic Future, the Final Report of Project Daniel (Israel, 2004): “The primary point of Israel’s nuclear forces must always be deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.” See also: Louis René Beres, “Facing Iran’s Ongoing Nuclearization: A Retrospective on Project Daniel,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 22, Issue 3, June 2009, pp 491-514; and Louis René Beres, “Israel’s Uncertain Strategic Future,” Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College, Vol. XXXVII, No.1., Spring 2007, pp. 37-54.
 See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, “Facing Myriad Enemies: Core Elements of Israeli Nuclear Deterrence,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Fall/Winter 2013, Vol. XX, Issue 1., pp. 17-30.
 The idea of biological war may take on a whole new urgency in view of the current Covid-19 pandemic. More precisely, this extraordinary disease outbreak remains of unproven national origin, and could influence various countries either to move more assertively toward biological weapons preparation or away from any such production. At this point, the correct expectation must remain highly subjective and analytically problematic.
 Already, non-nuclear Iran may rank ahead of Israel in overall or cumulative military capacity. According to an article in The Jerusalem Post (August 12, 2019),Israel ranks behind regional enemy Iran for the second year in a row, despite international pressure and sanctions against the Islamic republic. Global Firepower states that Israel has 170,000 active personnel in all branches of the armed forces, with a further 445,000 people in reserve, meaning a total of 7.3% of Israel’s population are somehow involved a military role. Compared to Iran, which similarly has around 873,000 people on active duty and in reserve, but only 1.1% of the population is involved in the armed forces.
 It is worth noting here that Israel’s nuclear strategy could have certain meaningful implications for U.S. national security. On these generally ignored connections, see Louis René Beres and (General/USA/ret.) Barry McCaffrey, ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY AND AMERICA’S NATIONAL SECURITY, Tel-Aviv University and Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, Tel-Aviv, December 2016: https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf
 See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, “Like Two Scorpions in a Bottle: Could Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist in the Middle East,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 8., No.1., 2014, pp. 23-32.
War to End or War to Follow?
“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1st deadline”. These were the recent words of US president Joe Biden in his address to the impending US withdrawal of Afghanistan. Whilst his opinion paints a ghastly picture for the forthcoming months, the negotiations run rampant to strike the common ground. However, with continued attacks being launched by the Taliban followed by incessant threats to the US regime to withdraw its troops by the agreed deadline, a hard stance seems legitimate both from the US front and the NATO: both facing a quandary that could either end the decades’ long warfare or fuel insurgency for decades to come.
The US invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks in 2001. Although the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003 followed a similar suit, the stint lasted only 26 days in a massive scale drive to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction; allegedly in tandem with the looming threat posed to the United States by the World Trade Centre debacle. However, the invasion of Afghanistan proved to be one of the costliest wars; both in terms of artillery and military men.
Cited as one of the rarest areas of agreement between President Biden and his predecessor, Mr. Donald Trump, both favoured the ‘Bring an end to the endless war’ slogan. Before leaving the office, Mr. Trump signed a waiver to ordain the Pentagon to level down the US troops in Afghanistan to 2500 troops, bypassing the reservations of the congress to retain the level at 4000 troops. President Biden, despite being prudent of the hasty withdrawal, rejoiced the idea to bring the soldiers back. In line with his narrative, the US recently proclaimed to withdraw the remaining combat forces from Iraq whilst retaining only the training forces in the country. The 3rd round of talks between Washington and Iraq culminated with the joint statement: “Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF [Iraq Security Forces], the parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks”.
It is evident that the US wants to enact the plan to bring back the troops, however, Afghanistan poses a paradox in comparison to Iraq. While alleged Iran-backed militants continue to lock horns with both the ISF and the US troops, the US has consolidated a stronger hold evidenced by the recent rebuttal via airstrikes against the Iran-backed militants in Syria. The US holds the premise that Iran seeks economic relief and thereby has no incentive to disrupt the peace but to maintain it. Similarly, the US wants to make a compromise with Iran via renegotiating the JCPOA accord, with a possibility of stretching the ambit to include Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program and the regional proxy wars purportedly financed by Iran, before a hard-line administration takes over the Iranian parliament later this year. So, with a fledgling Iraqi military and expanding prospects of negotiation with Iran, the US could safely pull out the troops whilst still maintaining pressure and presence in the guise of militaristic training in Iraq.
Afghanistan paints a graver reality in contrast. Despite rounds and rounds of negotiations over months, the continued violations of the agreement by the Taliban are making it riskier to draw out the troops. While the US wants to maintain its presence in the country, the wavering Ghani-administration adds oil to fire. A war that has claimed more than 2500 US soldiers and millions of civilians could face an impasse as the 3-week timeslot narrows over the decision-makers. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, has repeatedly claimed that the Taliban have not fully lived up to the commitments they made in the February 2020 agreement: “Violence levels are too high for a durable political settlement to be made”.
The Biden administration, CIA, and NATO face a dilemma to decide the mechanism of withdrawal before the clock ticks through. As the terror groups propagate in the neighbouring Middle East, an unplanned withdrawal could drive the entire region into jeopardy. This might be the primal concern of president Biden and the Pentagon. The flailing ISIS could find haven in the political fiasco the unravels after the US completely withdraws from the country, leaving the Afghani government at the whims of the insurgents. However, expecting a complete withdrawal is just naivety. The US is known to covertly operate hundreds of secret bases in cahoots with NATO throughout the infringed nations. While it’s supposedly claimed that the Taliban are privy to the location of the bases in Afghanistan, nothing definitive could be added in edgewise to the argument.
An alternative, and quite a plausible notion at present, could be an outright refusal to withdraw the troops before the Taliban strictly adhere to their side of the deal. The resulting warfare would subsume the past 2 decades of mayhem. The deal would most likely completely crumble and perish. The evidence is scattered over the last three months. In March, the attack on the Afghan security checkpoint in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz left 6 soldiers dead. An attack a few days ago in the province of Herat left 9 Afghan police personnel dead when the Taliban militants targeted two police checkpoints. The recent blow came when the Taliban attacked the NATO airbase in Kandahar: a base frequented by 100s of US troops. The brazen attitude and timing of the attacks could not send a clearer message of warning to follow the deadline.
President Biden faces a choice now. While the cards are clustered and the consequences are muddled, the foremost decision hangs: How to go about the negotiations? Whilst made abundantly clear that the troops might not withdraw completely from Afghanistan, he confidently patched his perspective by adding:“Can’t picture the US troops still being in Afghanistan next year”. So, while the agreement stands to make a safe withdrawal, the deadline of May 1st poses a challenge if the exceeding violence alludes to any clue. With mounting pressure from the republicans and a synonymous example of withdrawal in Iraq, President Biden should ideally emphasize on withdrawal of the troops, even if not entirely. This would allow the Biden administration to elongate the negotiations to quench violence instead of retreating without question. However, execution is the key. Deviating from the agreement forged by Mr. Donald Trump or taking an aggressive stance could easily incite the chaos further: making the Afghan war translate into Biden’s war for decades to follow.
Dual Use Technology Imports Aiding Pakistan’s Covert Nuclear Programme
A recent threat assessment report by the Norwegian security agencies reportedly highlighted the unhindered exploitation of dual use technology by Pakistan. Norwegian authorities have determined Pakistan to be among the countries posing greatest threat to them. With this report, Norway became the latest country to raise alarm about the ‘Pak’ practice of bypassing all international safeguards in gaining latest nuclear technology on the pretext of using it for education and health.
However, Norway is not the only country to realise the immense risk stemming from transferring critical technologies to Pakistan. Its assessment follows several other countries’ public acknowledgement of the nuclear threat posedby Pakistan. Czech Republic in its report titled “Annual Report of the Security Information Service for 2019” also drew global attention towards Pakistan misleading the world in procuring internationally controlled items and technologies to aid its nuclear programme.
The evidence of Pakistan’s covert nuclear programmes go well beyond these reports. In 2019,the US Department of Justice indicted five persons associated with a Pakistan based front company for operating a network that exported US origin goods to Pakistan. The indictment identified 38 separate exports involving 29 different companies from around the country between September 2014 and October 2019. The network used to conceal the true destinations of the goods in Pakistan by showing front companies as the supposed purchasers and end users. However, US Justice Department statement disclosed that the goods were ultimately exported to Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission without export licenses. Both AERO and PAEC are on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List, which imposes export license requirements for organizations whose activities are found to be contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests.
Similarly, German authorities disclosed in 2020 that Pakistan had sought technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) “in order to retain a serious deterrent potential against ‘arch enemy’ India”. The agency provided a detailed account of Pakistan’s efforts to steal information and material about nuclear weapons.
However, to fulfill its destructive agenda, Pakistan does not shy away from using the name of its poor public and students. Its government has repeatedly claimed that it seeks the dual use technologies for social and economic upliftment of the country by utilizing the technology in its health and education sectors.
But, these baseless arguments no longer seem to cut the ice with western countries. Meanwhile, on their part, Pak officials have complained against the latest Norwegian report on grounds that other countries may deny access to technology to Pak students for their advanced studies and Pakistani researchers would be refused admission to International institutes and universities. However, the Norwegian authorities have maintained their stance as based on independent assessment of the issue, including confidential inputs.
Several instances of Pakistan having gained access to dual technology in the garb of peaceful purposes have come to light in the recent years. And the risk continues considering Pakistan’s terror background and its history of stealing technologies from different parts of the world. It is the unsavory reputation of Pakistan as a troublemaker that has gone global and the country is viewed with suspicion even when humanitarian considerations come to fore.
Given the poor governance standards and history of failure of civil institutions in Pakistan, these observations provide a justification for apprehensions of the western countries. It remains to be seen whether these disclosures lead to sanctions or new export controls against Pakistan or the country again succeeds in misleading the world by playing victim’s card.
Kickbacks in India’s defence purchases
Prime minister Narendra Modi of India boasts his government of being corruption- free. But, his claim has become questionable in the light of recent audit of Rafale purchase in France.
India had ordered 36 of these fighter aircraft from France in September 2016. The 7.8 billion government-to-government deal for 36 fighter jets was signed in 2016. The Indian Air Force has already raised its first squadron of the Rafale jets at Ambala and is due to raise the second one at Hasimara in West Bengal.
India expects to receive more than 50 percent of these fighters by April-end. The first batch of five Rafale jets had arrived in India on July 28 and was officially inducted on September 10 by the government.
In a startling disclosure, the French Anti-Corruption Agency, Agence Française Anticorruption
has announced that their inspectors have discovered an unexplained irregularity during their scheduled audit of Dassault. According to details, “the manufacturer of French combat jet Rafale agreed to pay one million euro to a middleman in India just after the signing of the Indo-French contract in 2016, an investigation by the French publication Mediapart has revealed. An amount of 508,925 euro was allegedly paid under “gifts to clients” head in the 2017 accounts of the Dassault group ( Dassault paid 1 million euro as ‘gift’ to Indian middleman in Rafale deal: French report India Today Apr 5, 2021). Dassault tried to justify “the larger than usual gift” with a proforma invoice from an Indian company called Defsys Solutions. The invoice suggested that Defsys was paid 50 per cent of an order worth 1,017,850 for manufacturing of 50 dummy models of the Rafale jets. Each dummy, according to the AFA report, was quoted at a hefty price of 20,357. The Dassault group failed to provide any documentary evidence to audit about the existence of those models. Also, it could also not explain why the expenditure was listed as a “gift to clients” in their accounts.
Shady background of Defsys
Defsys is one of the subcontractors of Dassault in India. It has been linked with notorious businessman Sushen Gupta. Sushen Gupta. He was arrested and later granted bail for his role in another major defence scam in India, the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper case.
The Enforcement Directorate charged Sushen Gupta for allegedly devising a money-laundering scheme for the payouts during the purchase of the helicopters.
Rampant corruption in India
Corruption in defence deals is a norm rather than an exception in India. They did not spare even aluminum caskets used to bring back dead bodies from the Kargil heights (“coffin scam”). Investigations into shady deals linger on until the main characters or middleman is dead. Bofors is a case in point.
Why investigation of defence deals since independence recommended
India’s Tehelka Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr. Justice S N Phukan had suggested that a sitting Supreme Court Judge should examine all defence files since independence.
Concerned about rampant corruption in defence purchases allegedly involving Army personnel, he desired that the proposed Supreme Court Judge should by assisted by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central bureau of Investigation.
He stressed that unless the existing system of defence procurement was made more transparent through corrective measures, defence deals would continue to be murky. He had submitted his report to then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, but to no avail. The Commission had examined 15 defence deals including the AJT, Sukhoi, Barak missiles, T-90 tanks, tank navigation systems, simulators, hand-held thermal. imagers, Karl Gustav rocket and Kandla-Panipat pipeline. The irregularities in the scrutinised defence deals compelled the Commission to suggest de novo scrutiny of all defence purchases since independence.
The courts have absolved Rajiv Gandhi of involvement in the BOFORS scam. However, a considerable section of Indian people still believes that ‘Mr. Clean’ was not really so clean. The BJP exploited Rajiv’s acquittal as an election issue. Kuldip Nayyar, in his article “The gun that misfired” (Dawn February 14, 2004) laments, “There was practically no discussion on Bofors-guns kickbacks in the 13th Lok Sabha which has been dissolved for early elections. Once Rajiv Gandhi died the main target – the non-Congress parties lost interest in the scam”.
According to analysts, the mechanisms of public accountability in India have collapsed. Corruption has become a serious socio-political malady as politicians, bureaucracy and Armed Forces act in tandem to receive kickbacks. The anti-corruption cases, filed in courts, drag on for years without any results. To quote a few case: (a) There was no conviction in Bofors-gun case (Rs 64 crore), because of lethargic investigation (the case was filed on January 22, 1990 and charge sheet served on October 22, 1999. Among the accused were Rajiv Gandhi, S K Bhatnagar, W N Chaddha, Octavio, and Ardbo. The key players in the scam died before the court’s decision). (b) No recoveries could be made in the HDW submarine case (Rs 32.5 crore). The CBI later recommended closure of this case. (c) Corruption in recruitment of Armed Forces.
Legal cover for middlemen
Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar had alleged (October 2003): “The CVC had submitted its defence deals report on March 31, 2001. Yet a year later, the government has not conducted the mandatory departmental inquiry to fix responsibility”. Shankar explained that the CVC had examined 75 cases apart from specific allegations made by former MP Jayant Malhoutra and Rear Admiral Suhas V Purohit Vittal. Malhoutra’s allegations were about middlemen in defence deals. After his report, the ministry lifted the ban on agents in November 2001 to regularise the middlemen. Purohit, in his petition in the Delhi HC on a promotion case, had alleged unnecessary spare parts were bought from a cartel of suppliers instead of manufacturers, at outrageous prices and at times worth more than the original equipment.
Past cases forgotten to continue business as usual
There were ear-rending shrieks about the Taj-heritage corridor case, Purulia-arms-drop case and stamp-paper cases. Indian Express dated November 11, 2003 reported that the stamp-paper co-accused assistant Sub-Inspector of Police drew a salary of Rs 9,000, but his assets valued over Rs 100 crore. He built six plush hotels during his association for 6 years with the main accused Abdul Karim Telgi. The ASI was arrested on June 13 and charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Investigations by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing the stamp scam had found that the ASI Kamath accepted Rs 72 lakh from the scam kingpin, Abdul Karim Telgi, on behalf of IGP Sridhar Vagal.
The problem is that the modus operandi of corruption ensures that it is invisible and unaccounted for. There are widespread complaints that the politicians exercise underhand influence on bureaucracy to mint money. For instance, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner complained to Indian Prime Minister (November 8, 2003) that at least “six cabinet ministers, handling key infrastructure ministries, are harassing chiefs of public sector undertakings for ‘personal favours’, and in some cases even for pay-offs”.
For example, one PSU (Public Sector Udertaking) chief is said to have complained that he was asked to get Rs 20 crore delivered to his minister’s party office and when he refused, he was “denied” an extension. Indian Express dated February 19, 2004 reported, under reportage titled “Figuring India” that ‘Rajiv Pratap Rudy is only one in a long line of ministers who have misused the funds and facilities of Public Sector Undertakings”. The newspaper appended the following bird’s-eye view of the funds (available for corruption) at the PSUs command: Rs 3, 24,632 crore total investment in PSUs, Rs 36,432 crore profits, 12,714 crore profits of monopolies in petroleum, Rs 5,613 CRORE profits of monopolies in power Rs 7,612 crore, profits of monopolies in telecom Rs 10,388 crore, Rs 61,000 crore invested in PSUs in 1991-1998, Rs 19,000 crore returns during 1991-1998.”
Corruption as proportion of gross Domestic Product
Professor Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari claim in their book Corruption in India: The DNA and RNA that public officials in India may be cornering as much as ₹921 billion (US$13 billion), or 5 percent of the GDP through corruption.
India 86th most corrupt (Transparency International corruption ranking Jan 29, 2021)
India’s ranking on the Corruption Perception Index– 2020 is 86. The index released annually by Transparency International ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero signifies the highest level of corruption and 100 is very clean.
In India, anti-corruption focuses on big ticket graft. But it is petty corruption that hurts common people more. Both need to be weeded out. A former World Bank president Robert Zoellick once said, “Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre, and destroys trust.”
According to Transparency International, CPI-2020 shows that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle Covid-19 and other crises. “Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage,” Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International said. “The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption,” she added.
Click Wikipedia to know that Narendra Modi’s “Net worth” is “₹ 2.85 Crore” (June 2020). This figure defies his humble financial background. He has a penchant for hobnobbing with “crony capitalism”. It appears he is worth a lot more. Those who make illicit money have a knack to hide it.
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