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Prospects of India’s BMD Program and Strategic Implications for South Asia

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Strategic stability in South Asia has stayed delicate due to plethora of variables. Three fundamental threats to strategic stability in South Asia have been discerned as arms race, crisis instability and escalation risk between two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan.[i] Security pandits have articulated that the increasing security dilemmas among India and Pakistan show a sterling test to South Asia’s strategic stability and to the deterrence symmetry. Induction of advanced conventional and non-conventional weapons with modern capabilities for instance, precision guided missiles with high level of readiness, sophisticated hypersonic and supersonic missiles, and ballistic missile defense system which can wreak havoc on rival’s countervalue and counterforce targets, is an eternal destabilizing threat for the region. India is struggling to acquire adequate Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system since 1990s. The Nuclear Agreement in 2005 between India and the US, was eager achievement for New Delhi to obtain its augmented desires of nuclear arrangement. The United States permitted New Delhi to use nuclear related material for the sake of peaceful purposes, India did defy not only to use material for nuclear triad (missiles, aircrafts, submarines) but also gradually operationalized the defense missile system to ameliorate its strategic position in the region. The India’s Ministry of Defense stated that New Delhi has excessively achieved its supreme milestone in building strategic capabilities to intensify security against incoming missiles of rival state.[ii]

However, Pakistan has worked on the development of dual-use of missiles, soothing offensive and defensive moods, which inadvertantly exposed Indian vulnerabilities to pre-emption and retaliation of Islamabad. Therefore, suitable convergence of nuclearization conjoined with ballistic and cruise missiles have favored Pakistan’s deterrence potential and credibility, which has compelled its rival state India to ensure the consideration of balance of terror in the region and distend its strategy in the purview of environment.[iii]

Meanwhile, New Delhi’s continuous arms struggles, in particular, advancements of its defense capabilities are deliberately making uneasiness for Pakistan. Therefore, the South Asian nuclear states are moving towards an unending arms race, which will categorically undermine the deterrence and stability of the region.

India’s Ballistic Missile Defense System

Since 2006, India has conducted ten tests of ballistic missile defense (BMD), it was successful in seven tests. In 2017, it conducted the test of high altitude interceptor missile with ambition to enhance ‘kill’ capacity in protect with endo and exo atmosphere against enemy’s incoming ballistic missile.[iv] New Delhi officials have stated that this intercepting system would safeguard major cities i.e. Delhi and Mumbai. On contrary, Islamabad officials have declared that development and acquisition of BMD system may give false sense of security to India and this would put the region into abyss of arms race and instability in the region is inevitable.

India’s development of defense shield forces is an effort to acquire more avid BMD system but unfortunately this offensive posture and inductance of sophisticated weapons are threatening strategic stability of South Asia. This adapted posture of India is in contention with Pakistan’s credibility of deterrence scale. Besides this, New Delhi has acquired two-tiered missile defense shield to protect its metropolitan cities. First tier is Prithvi Air Defense (PAD), this can intercept the enemy’s missile at high altitude of 80 km with the range of up to 2000 km. Second tier is Advanced Air Defense (AAD), this can hit enemy’s missile at lower altitude of 30 km. [v]In October 2016, India and Russia had signed an inter-governmental agreement over the supply of S-400 missile system, during the BRICS Summit. After two years, a formal agreement of $5.47 billion deal signed on October 5, 2018. The Asian News International reported on September 9, 2019 that Russia would deliver five S-400 Triumph missile systems to India within 18 to 19 months. The like, Indian news agency reported that delivery of S-400 might not be possible before the end 2021 due to the COVID-19 engagement.[vi]

New Delhi is trying to acquire multi-layered BMD system and enormous shield against China and Pakistan’s incoming missiles to shield its cities,[vii] and hinder foreign forces against pre-empted. India gives alienated arguments to justify its BMD program. One, it would curtail and impact the speedy Chinese military influence, and the other is, in distint sequence of events i.e. peace time, war time, post-incursion, defense program would formidably impact Pakistan’s counter and retaliatory measures. Instead other contentious factors are, for instance, power projection, prestige, geo-strategic, and geo-political ambitions to enlarge its approach in the region. Implausibly, India is going to be one of the five nations with operationalized BMD program.

The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)’s insufficiency in engineering BMD high technology, New Delhi is working together with states like Russia, the US, France and Israel to get support in technology sector related effective missile defense system, according to Indian Politician Ashok Sharma.[viii] Moreover, increasing strategic cooperation and excessive partnership between India and the US gave deceitful opportunity to India to get membership of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)[ix] and Wessenaar Arrangement (WA).[x] Besides this, kind contract to acquire dual use material like space technology, missile related high-tech, and augmented BMD system. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report of 2017, Indian imports of defense sector was ascent by 43% from 2007-2016.[xi] The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 20, 2017, declared that the government of India would spend $250 billion in the next ten years on its military modernization.[xii]

What India Believes?

According to Indian security scholars, BMD program is an appropriate option to protect itself from Pakistan’s retaliatory action and has an efficacy to protect from Pakistan’s ambiguous nuclear posture or the last resort option to use nuclear weapons against India. In other words, belligerent development of BMD program is the ability to attack Islamabad’s counterforce targets with cognition that there would be no risk from Pakistan to retaliate against India—in war time there would be no option of retaliation with Pakistan because Indian BMD will completely obliterate incoming ballistic missiles of the opponent.

Why else Might India’s BMD Program exist? What other purposes might it Serve?

Indian mannerism regarding its contentious perception is that its BMD program could destine to protect countervalue and counterforce targets from any hostile nuclear terrorist attack, there are greater chances of attack from either Pakistan or China.[xiii] Likewise, a research associate at University of Oxford and expert in South Asian nuclear studies, Rajesh Basrur asserted that India’s development and acquisition of defense missile system could reduce aforementioned vulnerabilities with certainity, if not completely banish it.[xiv] On the contrary, Pakistan takes on Indian silly argument with the assertion that its nuclear warheads are in safe hands, its national command and control program is meticulous, powerful and satisfied in standard with international community obligations. It is less confident to ruminate over Pakistan’s nuclear program and its use against New Delhi because warheads are confidential and unsought discovery for terrorists.

Indian strategic pandits argue that development of defense shield forces could help India to lower its offensive warheads and capabilities, the process will lead to encourage arms control mechanism among two nuclear states. As President Reagon estimated that development of American BMD program “could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves.”[xv]

The proponents of New Delhi’s installing of BMD system emphasize that its deployment would motivate the strategic stability in South Asia and would lead to unequivocal non-proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles from South Asia.[xvi] Theoretically, Indian BMD deployment would slow the production of missiles in the region.

Insofar, Pakistan gives paramount argument that Indian BMD system would boost India’s trust in its ability to strike first with the cognition that it would protect itself during war situation.

India’s BMD and Strategic Implications

Hypothetically, Indian BMD program has a defensive inclination, however it is a basic proportion of offensive intending to direct pre-emptive or preventive nuclear strikes without risk of Pakistan’s retaliatory nuclear strikes. It is an endeavor to mark the balance of terror, which is causing deterrence stability among New Delhi and Islamabad. Without a doubt, deterrence stability between the opponent neighbors is essential for enduring the strategic stability in South Asia.

India’s BMD program is to guard against missile strikes from Pakistan, the BMD programs likewise fortify the Indian air defense system. After fruitful development and organization of PAD and AAD, India managed dealt with Russia over S-400 missile system.[xvii] Henceforth, the BMD installing subverts the balance of strategic nuclear deterrence between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. The ramification is that BMD program may give the Indians a false sense of   security;[xviii] encouraging the Indian hawks to overlook the Pakistani ballistic and cruise missile defiances and effectively oppose confidence-building measures or endeavors to persevere through strategic stability in South Asia. India’s BMD program could have the following destabilizing results:

The defensive weapons, especially BMD, could sabotage the feasibility and efficacy of ballistic missiles. The trade off of the offensive strikes dents the validity of the retaliatory strikes, which deter the enemy from hostility. The likelihood of retaining a rival’s retaliatory strike in a crisis situation, which subverts the deterrence ability of a state wanting to dissuade the enemy with its ballistic missile capacity. Nonetheless, the BMD destabilizes the deterrence stability.[xix] The deterrence instability sabotages the strategic stability between the strategic rivals.

Second, the defense missiles deployment is a risk to nuclear deterrent stability involving strategic instability. It is destabilizing in light of the fact that it escalates a nuclear weapons contest among India and Pakistan. Many security scholars persuaded that BMD changes the nuclear order and reshape strategic stability, and can urge Indian leadership to take part in offensive activities or first strike, on the reason that they are safe to Pakistani strategic forces retaliation. That is the reason; the Indian ruling elite threatened to direct surgical strikes to demolish Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ability. On October 5, 2017, the Indian Air Force Chief Marshal, B. S. Dhanoa, had guaranteed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) could focus on Pakistan’s nuclear sites and could extend the surgical operations.[xx] The gravest risk presently is that India and Pakistan will jump into a stand-off that is neither in light of a legitimate concern for New Delhi nor Islamabad.

Third, India’s 2003 ‘nuclear draft depends on a counterforce strategy in India.’[xxi] The BMD arrangement expands the Indian hawkish leadership enticement for counterforce surgical conventional attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities to end the nuclear threat. Advocates of this course accept the Indian missile shield and threat of further heightening by India would dissuade Pakistan from reacting militarily to a limited first strike.[xxii]Perhaps, expanding confidence in the operational steadfast of the Indian BMD system can urge Indian hawks to execute enunciated strategy “jaw for a tooth” to bow-down Pakistani armed forces. Curiously, Islamabad will respond with its supposed tit for tat strategy, if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil.

Fourth and final, there are greater chances of pre-emption from both nuclear weapon states, if India deployed the BMD system. Chances of uncertainty will obviously be increased and commanders from both sides will perceive imminent threat from each other, in such case they will opt the option of launching nuclear missiles.[xxiii] That’s the situation where Thomas Shelling has called it “the reciprocal fear of surprise attack.”[xxiv] This puzzling situation rambles Pakistan to enhance the credibility and efficacy of its ballistic and cruise missiles to fix tit-for-tat against Indian BMD program before India attacks first. Curiously, Islamabad’s advancements of modernization of offensive forces makes Indian defense shield ineffective. Hence, many securitists and analysts have debated vis-à-vis concluded that America has spent billions of dollars to ornate missile sites with modern technology weapons but it still has not shoot down North Korean missiles. On the whole, Indian so-called defense shield encouraging the risks of war anda larger portion of GDP spendings are proposed to spend on defense sector.

Pakistan`s Response to India’s BMD System

The acquisition of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) by New Delhi in South Asian strategic architecture, clearly, intensifies Islamabad’s security dilemma clueless. Pakistan should act as intentional charlatan and must counter Indian BMD with intelligence. For this reason, Pakistan refurbishes its military posture, particularly nuclear posture, if India crosses the defined threshold of Islamabad, it would not hesitate to wipe out Delhi’s military threat.[xxv] Definitely, it is the time for Pakistan’s current policy makers that they neither avoid the economic circumstances nor compromise deterrence credibility. Whereas, the arms race with Delhi is not in favor of Islamabad. Pakistan can only win this race with viable option of ‘refusing’ to run in the race, even so, it cannot disdain the factor of India’s BMD program, but it can modernize its offensive weapons, do dual-use of these missiles, increase the size and speed of weapons, and increase its efficacy to penetrate Indian BMD program.[xxvi]

Although, Islamabad’s ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’ nuclear posture has evidently deterred the state from Delhi’s coercive blackmailing of conventional and non-conventional threats.[xxvii]As Jeffrey Lewis has pointed out, “An enemy who can be deterred will be deterred by the prospect of a counterattack, even if it consists of only a few nuclear weapons. Beyond that minimum threshold, nuclear weapons provide little additional deterrent benefit.”[xxviii]Thus, Pakistan burnishes its offensive missiles with relative engineering to increase its efficacy in penetrating to defy enemy’s BMD system.

Hypothetically, there are three viables options to baffle and penetrate enemy’s BMD program:

First, the Indian BMD shield can be overpowered by a storm of ballistic missiles using the multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) technology to convey multiple conventional and non-conventional warheads. With MIRV the weapons can be propelled to various targets, can likewise be directed to one target to penetrate a missile defense system of the enemy. MIRV capability empowers Pakistan’s strategic forces to take on multiple targets with complacent of precision by a couple of missiles. It can also upset and destroys the radars of Delhi defense system. Military commanders have believed that MIRV is exceptionally viable against the enemy’s ballistic missile defense system.[xxix] On January 24, 2017, Islamabad successfully tested the medium-range, ballistic missile Ababeel, which has the capability to deliver multiple decoys and warheads. The range of Ababeel is almost 2,200 km — it can easily reach to major cities of India — it can storm multiple targets and it would be exceptionally lethal for the India’s defense shield. Michael Krepon and Travis Wheeler appropriately brought up that If New Delhi chooses to retain the expenses of ballistic missile defenses for high-value targets, alongside the radars to track and detect the enemy missiles, these costs will be futile.[xxx]Briefly, Ababeel is a ballistic missile to ‘kill’ India’s BMD shield.

Second, while using fighting aircraft with high speed to strike deeply and launch nuclear attack on enemy country, in that case, enemy’s defense system technologically will not resist the attack.[xxxi] Finally, attacking the enemy state and penetrating its BMD system with supersonic cruise missiles flying at low-altitude is possibly a vibrant option to defy enemy’s BMD system.[xxxii]The like,in December, 2016, Islamabad conducted the successful test of medium-range missile called Babur-2.

Pakistan can additionally improve the adequacy of its missiles by advancing and commissioning decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, warheads with exceptionally low infrared induction and Multiple Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) to storm multiple warheads over incoming targets. Subsequently, Pakistan’s qualitative and quantitative improvement in its nuclearized cruise and ballistic forces have posed a daunting challenge to the Indian BMD program.

Notwithstanding, Pakistan would need to build up a BMD system to ensure its significant cities’ protection, even so, it is not advisable option for Islamabad due to high cost. Altogether, India hopes to go for MIRV advancement and extending the ranges of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and land-based missiles for counterforce targets against enemy. Pakistan have various choices of changing its ballistic missiles into MIRV high-tech when it felt necessary. The prime applicants with Pakistan are the Shaheen-II and Shaheen-III missiles, with the range of 2,000 km and 2,750 km, respectively, these offensive forces can approach any city of India within few minutes. Intensifying tactical and strategic weapons (i.e. Nasr, Ababeel)with upgraded version and validity would credibly enough to penetrate and destroy adversary’s deployed BMD program, no worries, how the devastating BMD system might be.[xxxiii]

Conclusion

To sum up, today indigenous BMD program for Islamabad is neither advisable option nor executable because it will lead to unending arms race – a destabilizing factor for South Asian strategic stability. In this manner, Pakistan’s missile program reveals that its ballistic and cruise missiles are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate. Pakistan is solely dependent upon offensive ballistic and cruise missiles rather than moving towards defense program, yet the proceeding of nuclear deterrence among Pakistan and India guarantees the strategic stability in the region.

Indian induction of defense programs like AAD, PAD and the S-400 missile system to its ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, would be an effort to acquire more avid system but unfortunately this would put the region into abyss of arms race and instability. Admittedly, it is known to the world that New Delhi is trying to acquire multi layered BMD program which is intensifying arms race inevitable in the region. The development and acquisition of defense system may give false sense of security to India. In the exchange of fighting with enemy, Pakistan has dedicated faith that it will take care of incoming missiles of India. Therefore, in a conflict it would be impossible for India to have such a system that can intercept short range missiles flying with low-altitude like Ghaznavi, Nasr, and Babur, insofar, it is a leverage for Pakistan to ensure efficacy over Indian BMD system. It has been the Indian attitude which compelled Islamabad to enter into vertical arms race, and develop cruise and ballistic missiles like Raad and Ababeel equipped with MIRV capability. To counter India’s vulnerability to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the main path is to quantitative and qualitative advancement in Pakistan’s tactical and strategic weapons. It is critical to note that Pakistan isn’t looking for parity with India yet just keeping up the balance of terror to keep up peace and stability in region. This is the Indian offensive posture and inductance of sophisticated weapons which is threatening strategic stability of South Asia.

References


[i] Asma Khalid, ”India’s Balistic Missile Defense System: Strategic Implications,” Modern Diplomacy, Sep. 29, 2018 (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/09/29/indias-ballistic-missile-defense-system-strategic-implications/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[ii] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 188.

[iii]Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for India-Pakistan Strategic Environment,” NDU Journal, 25 (2011): 3.

[iv]Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 187.

[v] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Report: India’s Homemade Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield Ready,” The Diplomat, Jan. 08, 2020 (https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/report-indias-homemade-anti-ballistic), accessed date July 24, 2020. 

[vi] Air Cdre Jamal Hussain, “India’s Acquisition of S-400 Air Defence System: Implications For the PAF,” Strafasia, Feb 13, 2020 (https://strafasia.com/indias-acquisition-of-s-400-air-defence-system-implications-for-the-paf/), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[vii] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 190.

[viii]AshokSharma, India’s Missile Defense Programme: Threat Perceptions and Technological Evolution,Manekshaw Paper15 (New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare Studies, 2009), 15.

[ix] “The Missile Technology Control Regime at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2017 (https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/mtcr), accessed date July 21, 2020.

[x] “What is the Wassenaar Arrangement?” Wassenaar Arrangement, https://www.wassenaar.org/, accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xi] “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2016,” SIPRI Fact Sheet, February, 2017 (https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/Trends-in-international-arms-transfers-2016.pdf), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xii]“Rigid rule trip Modi’s $250 billion plan to modernise India’s defense,” The Economic Tmes, July 13, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/rigid-rules-trip-modis-250-billion-plan-to-modernise-indias-defence/articleshow/60370605.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xiii] Mehtab Ali Bhatti, “Indian BMD and the Prospects for South Asian Strategic Architecture,” STRAFASIA, August 04, 2019 (https://strafasia.com/indian-bmd-and-the-prospects-for-south-asian-strategic-architecture/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi]Manpreet Sethi, “Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored,” Arms Control Association, September, 2010 (https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010-09/nuclear-arms-control-india-relationship-explored), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xvii] Nitin J Ticku, “S-400s A Game-Changer For India; Indigenous Missile Defense Systems Useless: Chinese Expert,” The Eurasian Times, May 07, 2020 (https://eurasiantimes.com/s-400s-a-game-changer-for-india-indigenous-missile-defense-systems-useless-chinese-expert/), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xviii] Hasan Ehtisham, “Indian BMD will offer false sense of security,”  The Express Tribune, Sept. 12, 2017 (https://tribune.com.pk/story/1503613/indian-bmd-will-offer-false-sense-security#:~:text=India%20is%20geographically%20vulnerable%20in,route%20but%20an%20offensive%20strategy.), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xix]“Russia’ssale of S-400 missiles to India may destabilise region: FO,” Dawn, Oct. 20, 2018 (https://www.dawn.com/news/1440164), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xx]Vishnu Som, “We Were Ready to Strike Pak Army Brigades Day After Balakot: Ex- Air Chief BS Dhanoa,” NDTV, Dec. 15, 2019 (https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/bs-dhanoa-ex-indian-air-force-iaf-chief-were-ready-to-strike-pakistan-army-brigades-day-after-balako-2148986), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxi] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,”* p.193.

[xxii] Asma Khalid, “India’s Balistic Missile Defense System: Strategic Implications,”*accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xxiii]Manpreet Sethi, “Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored,” Arms Control Association, September, 2010 (https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010-09/nuclear-arms-control-india-relationship-explored), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xxiv] Schelling, Thomas, “The Reciprocal Fear of Surprise Attack. Santa Monica,”CA: RAND Corporation, 1958 (https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P1342.html), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxv] “Pakistan has Cost-effective soultion to India’s latest ballistic missile defence system: Report,” The Economic Times, Nov. 07, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/pakistan-has-cost-effective-solution-to-indias-latest-ballistic-missile-defence-system-report/articleshow/66535188.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxvi] Mansoor Ahmed, “Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Impact on Stability,” Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, June 30, 2016 (https://carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/30/pakistan-s-tactical-nuclear-weapons-and-their-impact-on-stability-pub-63911), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxvii] Sannia Abdullah, “Pakistan’s Full-Spectrum Deterrence: Trends and Trajectories,” South Asian Voices, Dec. 14, 2018 (https://southasianvoices.org/pakistan-full-spectrum-deterrence-trends-trajectories/), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xxviii] Jeffrey Lewis, “Minimum Deterrence,” Arms Control Wonk, June 30, 2008 (https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/201936/minimum-deterrence/), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxix]“Pakistan has Cost-effective soultion to India’s latest ballistic missile defence system: Report,” The Economic Times, Nov. 07, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/pakistan-has-cost-effective-solution-to-indias-latest-ballistic-missile-defence-system-report/articleshow/66535188.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxx] Michael Krepon, “The Second Coming of MIRVs,” STIMSON, Jan. 26 2017 (https://www.stimson.org/2017/second-coming-mirvs-0/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xxxi] Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Countering Indian Ballistic Missile Defense & strategic stability in South Asia,” 2018 (https://ndu.edu.pk/issra/issra_pub/articles/margalla-paper/Margalla-Papers-2018/02-Countering-Indian-BMD.pdf), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Saba Hanif, “Indian BMD program: Strategic Response of Pakistan,” Modern Diplomacy, April 19, 2020 (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/04/19/indian-bmd-program-strategic-response-of-pakistan/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

Mehtab Ali Bhatti is pursuing degree of strategic studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His major areas of interest include political science, international affairs and security studies.

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Russia in Libya and the Mediterranean

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There are several myths about Soviet/Russian involvement in Libya in particular and the Mediterranean in general. Unfortunately, such “political stories” are firmly rooted in the traditions of the Cold War and the post-Soviet period of geopolitical fog.

The first myth perpetuated in all the analytical efforts is that Gaddafi was a staunch ally to the Kremlin. This misreading of the Colonel has been the reason for many failures in describing the past and the present of Russia’s moves in Libya and beyond. Gaddafi was a dedicated enemy of everything communist, ready to bring the Russian connection into play as a proverbial “stick” in his troubled relations with the Americans. In doing so, he was far from original but rather following in the footsteps of many Middle Eastern politicians who blackmailed the West with the threat of “going Soviet.”

The second myth is that Moscow has historically been trying to convert North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean into the “main proletarian confession.” This particular narrative dates back to the early decades following the 1917 revolution when the imagination of a few idealistic amateurs conceived the “world revolution.” Fortunately for the Soviet Union, this romantic dream died long before World War 2; and unfortunately for the hypothetical West, the attitude remained unchanged.

The third myth is that Russia has no business to be anywhere outside of its borders. In fact, this is an attitude spread by Washington among its allies in Europe through NATO doctrines rather than a myth. The argument typically goes, “We are here because we are good” and “We are good because we say so”, while they should not be here “because they are bad” and “they are bad because we say so.” The keywords here are “because we say so.”

Now, these are the myths. What could be said of the reality?

Myths Turned Historical Reality

At the outset, Russia cast a close look at the Mediterranean during the time of Catherine the Great. At that time, the understanding was clear. If we want to a) secure the Southern border and b) trade with the world with no restrictions, we had to have access to the warm high seas. For that to happen, Moscow had to project power. Those were the days when power projection was the key to trade success. Not that much has changed.

Paul the First went a little further as he tried to establish Russia’s naval base in Malta. An old trick got in his way, though, he was stopped by repeated blows to his head.

However, the idea was quite clear. The Mediterranean and North Africa were definitely worthy of attention. The Soviet leadership was nothing if not excellent students of history, something that soon resulted in particular attention to the area. For the most part, all the Soviet Mideastern discourse could not and should not be taken separate from the Eastern Mediterranean track. Naturally, Libya was ideally positioned for the effort to project political, military and ideological power to the Eastern Mediterranean. Ideology should receive rapt attention as well. It has always been in the offering, still being there albeit under the disguise of “traditional values”. It is worth stressing that this new package for the old adage enjoys undisputed success with the traditionalist elites in North Africa and the Middle East.

The Moscow–Tripoli relations were always anything but smooth. If not for the American posture towards Gaddafi, one might say Moscow would have failed to get inside the Jamahiriya at all. Washington somehow served the cards in favor of the Kremlin, though, and Gaddafi signed a considerable package with Russia in the early 1970s. However, even this package came with a pinch of salt when Russian specialists and advisors were for months not allowed to attend their workplaces in the military units after their arrival to Libya. It was an enigma at the time, but it then became more than clear that Gaddafi kept the door open for a setback in the relations with Moscow if the situation with the West (meaning the U.S.) changed to the positive.

Something like that happened during 2004–2006. By time the Soviet Union was long gone, Gaddafi made loud concessions, and Washington started afresh with Tripoli. Immediately, Gaddafi’s contractual policies shifted in favor of the Western alternatives, like signing tremendous contracts with Italy. That was a clear sign of the times, coupled with the same old “game of options”. When several meetings between Gaddafi and the new Russian leaders took place and a few agreements were signed, this served as source of optimism in the Kremlin. This came at a time when Russia started reassessing its position in the MENA region and was in the process of defining who is who vis à vis Moscow’s newly-found ambitions. The new agreements signed between Moscow and Tripoli were perceived in Russia as a manifestation of the newly-found rapport with the rich North African country. Probably, this period, more than any time else, gave rise to the speculations about the “eternal friendship” between Gaddafi and Russia.

However, the enthusiasm was waning as it became increasingly evident that Gaddafi was more interested in the new acceptance from the United States and that Libya transited from the enfant terrible of global politics to the country welcomed in the diplomatic chambers of Europe and America. Evidently, by the time of the Security Council resolution of 2011 on Libya, Moscow’s political elite became disinterested in Libya as a possible partner, which was the reason why Russia abstained from its right of veto.

Against this backdrop, Russia entered the years 2014–2015, heralding the country’s expanded presence in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Facing Today’s World

It has virtually become an article of faith that Russia has become overly aggressive in its foreign policy from that time on, creating a vacuum around itself and fostering many hostile elements in the West with crippling sanctions from the former “partners” being “displeased” by Russia’s modus operandi. This is one way of looking at the issue. Let’s try to adopt a different approach, one closer to Moscow’s optics.

It all started in Ukraine and with the Crimea. After the 2013 Euromaidan and the ousting of President Yanukovitsh, there was a well-founded apprehension about Sevastopol’s fate and the ill-disguised intentions of the new political elite in Kiev to turn this naval base over to NATO. Anyone with some experience in international politics could deduce this was a huge red line for Russia. With Sevastopol, Russia could lose its ability to operate in the Mediterranean and project its power to the Middle East. This aspect is strangely absent in the Western (and sometimes Eastern) discourse. Or, maybe, this is not that strange.

This fact was exacerbated by the intense anti-Russian campaign in the former Soviet Republics on the Western border. It genuinely hurt Russian feelings. We all remember the unbelievable amount of money Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, invested in these same republics, and this “post-factum animosity” went against all beliefs of the Russian people. This implies reactions among ordinary citizens to whom political elites in Moscow had to really pay attention.

The Yugoslavia crisis also raised another principal issue: when “they” do it, it has to be the struggle for democracy as half of Europe could be bombed amid happy dancing around the “equality campfire;” when “we” do it, they call it transgression, annexation and you name what. Unjust. Definitely unjust. And what would you call denying Russia its right of influence and its freedom of presence in the regions which Moscow considers its areas of interest while hailing the U.S. for doing the same? Discrimination. Definitely, discrimination.

Hence, the go-alone (China is out of account here) trajectory in the Middle East and beyond as well as the genuine belief that “our cause is just and we will prevail.” Actually, this is not so different from the American discourse. The scale of confrontation between the two countries may well come as the result of this similarity.

A lot is said about the “ring of enemies” and the “motherland under siege” narrative, which allegedly mirrors the Kremlin’s international policies and influences its Middle Eastern discourse. This is a dangerous misreading of the situation. This is an American narrative rather than a Kremlin narrative. As any counterproductive policy, it leads to Moscow exploiting this pressure and having a good response from the grassroots level. All attempts at depicting it otherwise are dangerous delusions that result in mistakes when formulating strategies.

As far as the 140 million people living in Russia are concerned, we have to account for a next-to-total support of the Kremlin’s political course. This is what matters to decision-makers. The situation may gradually be changing now, but the inertia is still strong.

A Change of Mind

Now, if we put all this together as the basis for our analytical attempt, we might work out a better understanding of Russia’s foreign policy approach to Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, which is a crucial part of the nation’s Southern track.

As mentioned before, Russia has lost interest in Libya for practical reasons. For some time, the country was considered a Western fiasco; and as such, it was apodictically left for the West to deal with. This is especially true for the period since 2015, when Syria has stolen all the available effort. The Syrian file left a lot of room for speculation. Many “specialists” posited that Russia entered Syria to make itself indispensable as a party to the regional mediation process and, which is much more exotic, to alleviate the Crimea fallout. Perhaps, nothing could be farther from the truth. Reasons for such argumentation are clear as there was a need to project the success of the U.S. sanctions policies and to show to the civilized world that the courageous stance of Washington and its allies against the Russian threat was a success. The result of this narrative was more than misleading. In fact, the Russian political elite, mainly oriented towards domestic reactions (remember the support for the PLO in the 1970s)[1], maintained that Moscow was not at all intimidated by Western activism. Contrary to this original plan, Moscow successfully used the anti-Russian campaign to its own ends, openly accusing former “partners” of inadequacy.

The decision to engage in the Syrian file was based on several factors, and none of them was truly perceived by the West. The first and the most important was terrorism. For Russia, Syria was too close to the borders for comfort to allow terrorist activities to go unimpeded. It was imperative not just to put an end to groups like ISIS and JN but to eliminate the most active terrorists physically so that they would not be able to return to their homeland. Following the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States was not trusted to do good. No doubt, the second reason was the support of the regime, and this is not to mean in in the sense “we like Assad, let him stay.” This was rooted in discouraging the notion of forceful replacement of political rulers per se. The old adage stipulating “what was done by force would be undone by a greater force” was at the forefront of the reasoning. The third factor has, of course, to account for the military presence in the Mediterranean. To lose naval facilities that facilitate operations in the area was absolutely unacceptable, especially since the reasoning seemed sound—if the Americans have the right, then we also have the right. Hard to argue, isn’t it? Then, there was also the display of loyalty to the long-time ally and the necessity of defending Orthodox Christians, bearing in mind that the discourse of Orthodoxy has been a significant part of the domestic political narrative.

However, the Syrian engagement served as a catalyst for the change of status towards Libya.

During the Syrian crisis and as a result of military successes (with occasional fiascos, for sure), the outlook on the Middle Eastern paradigm became more and more “militarized” in the sense that it started to look as though we could achieve by force more than we would achieve by word “in this neck of the woods”. As a result, the military started replacing diplomats in a lot of venues. The argument was clear – there is still a lot of terrorist activity, so we need to be proactive.

With the tangible results in Syria, the Libyan option started to look more and more doable. However, there still was reluctance to engage on the state level. The position of the Kremlin was clear. As we do not know what will come as a result of the Libyan kaleidoscope, we will hedge our risks by talking to everybody without engaging on the part of anybody. If there were a private initiative, we would not interfere. This is plausible deniability which turned out to be not so convincing in the fall of 2019 as world news agencies readily tied the so-called Wagner to the Russian government. Still, it is not a state endeavor and should not be considered as such. At the end, it is definitely private and not very impressive.

During the initial period of official engagement in Syria and the unofficial one in Libya, Russia faced several challenges that it learned to cope with, except for that of Turkey. Ankara became active in the Middle East some time ago, recently arriving in Eastern Mediterranean. This was probably something new for the “front-line” Mediterranean countries of Europe, but not for Russia. Russia had to deal with Turkey through all its recorded history. Nothing changed in principle. It is still the interests of one country and the interests of the other. However, the context is different. Turkey remains a NATO member and, as such, enjoys the support of other member-states.[2] On the other hand, both countries enjoy certain levels of economic cooperation and are reluctant to sacrifice it, at least for now. There are even “optimistic” voices in Russia saying that Turkey is ready to leave NATO and cut relations with the U.S. to foster a new alliance with Russia. This is an interesting albeit unrealistic opinion.

In reality, the two countries have been dancing in close military proximity in Syria, now having to adjust to each other yet again over the frontline in Libya. Both countries have an impact on the U.S. involvement, both negatively, as in Syria (playing hoax on the Kurds and seeding discord in the tribal structure of the Levant), as well as positively, as in Libya (facilitating a new possible track to solution, however improbable it may look).

Still, Moscow appears to take a very cautious approach to the GNU, noting the new circumstances amid which Haftar finds himself. The closeness of Abdelhamid Dbeiba to Ankara is not a secret, while Haftar’s reluctance to cede his domain to anybody is also known. It seems Moscow is waiting for the final outcome, hardly being optimistic of the election’s prospects. If there are no elections, then the unity of the country is questionable and who is to say where the balance goes? The remark of Vershinin pronounced on the margins of the Berlin 2.0 that evacuation of foreign fighters from Libya should be approached cautiously, is telling.

Moscow’s approach to Eastern Mediterranean is based on the new contextual reality. Mediterranean seems to be in transit from a Eurocentric to a Mideastern character. Recently, the leading Gulf nations have shown their keen interest in what is happening in the region. From Moscow’s perspective, this means that the “liberal democratic” construct of the Mediterranean will increasingly be subjected to the stress-test by the “desert warrior” political routine. In this context, Russia feels more comfortable as a historically proven all-road political vehicle, capable of navigating traditional waters of no-man’s land of the Middle East. It might be too optimistic but definitely not without merit. The region is changing, and Russia that replaced the shackles of the socialist ideology of the past with the potent weapon of traditional values feels itself capable of not only participating in this change but also of driving it.

From our partner RIAC

  1. The Palestine Liberation Organization was considered a terrorist group, but for the Soviet people, they were freedom fighters worthy of international support. This legitimized the Kremlin’s decision to approach Arafat. A similar thing is taking place now.
  2. Mind NATO’s position towards Turkish incursions into the Syrian territory in 2012 and 2013, where Rasmussen depicted Turkey as a suffering party.

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Defense

The Future of The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the QUAD) Grouping Explained

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The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) comprises four counties, Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. It was founded in the year 2007 by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan. The initiation of the dialogue was supported by Dick Cheney and John Howard, the then USA vice president and the Prime Minister of Australia, respectively. Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India, also took part in the quad grouping initiation process (Gale & Shearer, 2018). The informal strategic dialogue was formed with a common objective of ensuring and supporting an open, free, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region through the minimization of China’s influence. The paper’s primary purpose is to discuss why the quadrilateral security dialogue is currently common on the news by describing the group’s new activities that have attracted media attention.

Quad Nations and China

United States of America

Given the increasing influence of China in East Asia, United States sees the Quad Nations coalition as a chance to gain back its declining power in the Indo- Pacific. The nation describes Russia and China as tactical rivals in the strategy to promote National security.

Australia

               The country is highly disturbed by China’s growing interests in its politics, land, infrastructure, and influence on its learning institutions. Despite Australia being part of the quad grouping, the country has maintained its commitment to the partnership with China because of its high dependence on China for economic prosperity.

Japan

               Japan has shown concerns about the territorial transgression of China in the region. However, the country cannot break its ties with China because the trade volume between the two nations is the key contributor to the growth of the Japanese economy. Therefore, the country is trying out ways to balance its territorial concerns and economic needs by preserving its relationship with China while at the same time joining the quad grouping.

India

               The violation of international norms by China, especially by constructing military facilities in the South China Sea, affects India negatively. Considering China’s critical role in India’s economic development, the country has preserved its commitment to strategic autonomy to China despite being a member of the quad grouping.

Reasons Behind Quad’s High Media Attention

               Quad groping started attracting high media attention when it came back to life on November 12, 2017, by forming a quadrilateral coalition to counter the aggressive behavior of China in the Indo-Pacific region. The group held its first meeting after the rebirth one day before the ASEAN Summit, which was attended by officials from the Ministries of External Affairs of all member countries. Australia, Japan, and India issued alternate statements citing the Indo-Pacific as the central debate area. The group agreed to expand cooperation to maintain respect for international law and rule-based order in tactically vital regions (O’Neil & West, 2020). The countries agreed that an open, free, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific would positively impact the nations’ interests in the area and those of the entire world. The officials also shared ideas on tackling common propagation linkages and terrorism affecting the region, among other discussions. They also shared views on the best ways to use present-day technology to enhance connectivity. The meeting attracted significant media attention and has activated close follow-up by different media stations of all the group’s activities.

               Director generals from the four countries of the Quad group met officially for the second time in 2018 after the dialogue was reinitiated. The officials discussed ways to meet their shared objectives in development and connectivity, humanitarian assistance, regional security, maritime corporation, and disaster relief. Another complementary meeting was again held between the Quad countries, where joint secretaries heading American and East Asia were the attendees. The participants reassured their support for an open, accessible, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific Region. Members again confirmed their joint commitment, built on shared principles and values to ensure order in the Indo-Pacific.

               News about the Quad grouping was at its peak from March 12, 2021, after the US, Australia, India, and Japan conducted a virtual meeting because of the current Coronavirus pandemic. The leaders agreed to work as a unit to stop China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific and tackle the Covid pandemic. Quad members spoke about their plans to function alongside the World Health Organization to make Covid-19 vaccines available to more than one billion people in the Indi-Pacific region. With the Australian logistics competence, the United States’ technology, Indian manufacturing, and the Japanese financing, Quad members are confident with their plan of creating as many Covid-19 vaccines as possible to supply among their target population (Satake, 2020). Besides China’s aggressiveness and Covid-19, the members also agreed to work together to address climate change. The group also reiterated its assurance to denuclearize North Korea and encouraged the restoration of the democratic election of public members to the government in Myanmar.

Conclusion

               The member states started the quad grouping, majorly to protect their territories and limit China’s dominance. The group has grown to attract significant attention, not only in the media but also worldwide. Besides the limitation of China’s reign, the quadrilateral security dialogue has and is still making substantial contributions in tackling the current Coronavirus pandemic, which has had devastating impacts worldwide. The group has turned out to advocate for a more peaceful, free, prosperous, and inclusive world.

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Defense

United States- Iran Nuclear Crises: Portents for Israel

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ABSTRACT: In response to former US President Donald J. Trump’s unilateral American withdrawal from the July 2015 Iran Pact (JCPOA),[1] the Islamic Republic of Iran accelerated and reinvigorated its military nuclear program. More recently, nuclear talks between the two countries were re-started by President Joseph Biden, but are expected to be placed on hold until after Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahem Raisi, is sworn into office. Also plausible is that negotiations could break down altogether and that a precipitating event, either foreseen or unforeseen, would spark an Iran-US nuclear crisis. Such a crisis could quickly involve Israel.[2]

“Deterrence is concerned with influencing the choices that another party will make, and doing it by influencing his expectations of how we will behave.”-Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (1960)

Background of the problem

For many years, Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs had hoped for an American strike against Iran; ideally, a comprehensive preemptive attack on Iran’s pertinent nuclear infrastructures.[3] Nonetheless, any plausible US-Iran nuclear crisis could have become more costly than gainful for Israel. Any such crisis could have caused Jerusalem to recall too late the succinct maxim: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Explanations are required. If US President Joseph Biden should ever become embroiled in a major security crisis with Iran, all immediately relevant policy issues would center on strategy and tactics, not on considerations of law. These inherently complex policy issues could quickly become overlapping and interpenetrating. At times, therefore, whether witting or unwitting, Washington’s operational crisis decisions could sometimes prove jurisprudentially determinative.

Depending upon which country was to strike first in any belligerent US-Iran context, American military actions could become either law-violating or law-enforcing. Similar legal questions would follow from the particular types of weapons used and from the expressed regard or disregard shown for non-combatant (civilian) populations.

               “Everything is simple in war,” says Carl von Clausewitz in On War, “but even the simplest thing is very difficult.” None of these legal questions are meant to suggest that a first use of force would be ipso facto illegal. This is the case because customary international law (defined at Article 38 of the UN’s Statute of the International Court of Justice[4]) expressly allows for certain residual resort to “anticipatory self-defense.”[5] Following The Caroline (1837), international law need never be taken to represent some form or other of “suicide pact.”[6]

Intersecting jurisprudential and strategic considerations

               There is more. International law is always a part of each individual state’s corpus of domestic or municipal law, an authoritative incorporation most immediately conspicuous for the United States at Article 6 of the US Constitution (the Supremacy Clause) and in various US Supreme Court decisions, especially the Paquete Habana (1900) and Tel Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic (1981).[7]

               Certain antecedent questions now also arise. What, precisely, does US President Joseph Biden have in mind in preparing suitably for a prospective nuclear crisis or armed conflict with Iran? What would this presumptive American expectation mean for the derivative safety of US ally Israel?[8] What related benefits, if any, might be expected from the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords?[9] And what are the precise definitional parameters of “nuclear crisis”?

               This last question has an easy but still-complicating answer. Any US crisis with Iran must be considered per se “nuclear,” even if it takes place before that country becomes an operationally capable atomic power. Still, any crisis with Iran would become more demonstrably and dramatically nuclear where both states were “Members of the Nuclear Club.” This is the case even though a substantial and protracted nuclear force asymmetry would clearly obtain between Washington and Tehran.

               Once a genuine conflict was plainly underway between Iran and the United States,[10] full-scale military engagements could quickly or incrementally involve Israeli armed forces (IDF). In certain manifestly worst case scenarios, these clashes would involve unconventional weapons, and directly impact Israel’s vulnerable civilian populations.[11] The most fearful narratives here would obviously be ones that involve nuclear ordnance.[12]

               In anticipation, capable strategic and jurisprudential thinking is required in both Washington and Jerusalem. Even during a potentially fleeting time in which Israel would remain the only regional nuclear power, an American war with Iran could elicit Israeli nuclear deterrence threats[13] and/or Israeli nuclear reprisals.[14] For Israel, such threats or reprisals could be entirely rational[15]and fully legal.[16]

Plausible scenarios

How might such dissembling circumstances emerge? As a “bolt-from-the-blue” spasm of violence, or in less blatant stages; that is, in variously difficult-to- fathom increments of harm? Most credibly, a “collateral war” would come to Israel as a catastrophic fait accompli, a multi-pronged belligerency wherein even the most comprehensive security preparations in Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv would quite suddenly prove inadequate. What then? What would likely happen next, operationally and legally?

               The only meaningful answer to such inherently problematic queries must include aptly candid affirmations of strategic unpredictability. In science and mathematics, accurate statements of probability must always be drawn from the discernible frequency of relevant past events. In those increasingly dense strategic matters currently dangling before America, Iran and Israel,[17] there are no relevant past events.

               Matters here are made even more bewildering by already ongoing non-nuclear problems in the Middle East. Most urgent of these problems is the increasingly dramatic shortage of water and the growing uncertainty of electrical power. Though military strategists might not ordinarily factor in such “non-military” difficulties as primary to nuclear war avoidance, national security decision-making is ultimately carried out by flesh and blood human beings. Prima facie, such kindred creatures of biology will always be affected by the most elementary primal needs and expectations.

               Strategically, there is more here to ponder. For the moment, at least, Joe Biden has identified no specific military doctrine for tangible application in this theatre. Once confronted with a “no doctrine” war launched against Iran by an American president, whether as defensive first-strike or as retaliation (both could conceivably be lawful), Israel’s senior strategists would need to fashion their own corresponding doctrines – more-or-less ex nihilo.  

               How exactly should Jerusalem/Tel Aviv accurately anticipate Iranian or Iranian-surrogate attacks on Israeli targets? As an antecedent question, how should these decision-makers and planners best identify which of these vulnerable targets would be presumptively “high value”? At some point, such an Intelligence Community/Ministry of Defense (MOD) operational challenge could include the small defending country’s Dimona nuclear reactor. In 1991 and 2014, the ultrasensitive facility at Dimona already came under rocket and missile attack from separate Iraqi and Hamas aggressions.[18]

               In any upcoming conflict with the United States, Tehran would likely regard direct attacks upon selected Israeli targets as proper “retaliations” for American strikes. This is the case whether these strikes were launched as an initial move of war against the Islamic Republic and its surrogates or a variously foreseeable response to Iranian first strikes. Potentially, Iranian forces could gain operational access to hypersonic rockets or missiles. Should such                                       access be obtained, Israel’s critical capacity to shoot down hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and/or hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) might prove sorely inadequate.

               What would happen next? In logical response, considerations of law and justice would likely prove anterior to visceral considerations of victory and survival. Among other things, could mean military escalations that are anything but gainful or “cost-effective.”

               When pertinent options are examined dialectically, as they should, it could be to Tehran’s perceived advantage to drag Israel into any US or Iran-initiated war and to do this ostentatiously. Striking the US homeland would prove vastly more difficult for Iran, and also more likely elicit a range of intolerable reprisals. On its face, any US-initiated war against Iran would strengthen Saudi military power specifically and Sunni Arab military power in general. While such an expected strengthening might now seem less worrisome to Israel than expanding Iranian militarization, this delicate strategic calculus could reverse very quickly.

 Israeli planners would need to investigate a number of previously disregarded military options against specific Sunni Arab adversaries, including legal questions of jus ad bellum and jus in bello.[19]Simultaneously, these planners would need to calculate prospective Iranian activation of Hezbollah and Houthi militias against not only Israel directly, but also Saudi Arabia and/or the United Arab Emirates. Regarding direct Shiite militia attacks against Israel, the main threat would be to Israeli shipping in the Red Sea. At this point, the Houthis maintain a real but still-limited capacity to target Israel from Yemen with long-range missiles and drones. Earlier, Iran played a major role in enabling Gaza terror factions (mostly Hamas) to produce usable weapons; today, the Islamic Republic is exporting valuable technological know-how to expanding Houthi forces in Yemen.

A complex geopolitics

Iran is seeking to become a regional hegemon in a manifestly “opaque” theater of conflict. Over time, both the United States and Israel must do what is possible to curb further Iranian activation of Houthi and Hezbollah militias. Assuredly, once Iran is able to cross the nuclear military threshold, all such inhibiting tactics would become expansively dangerous. Unless the United States approaches these fragmenting sources of Middle East instability in a more suitably coherent fashion, Israel is likely to be left “holding the bag.” Now, of course, in the summer of 2021, American forces are rapidly abandoning Afghanistan to assorted and diverse Jihadi forces. A geo-strategic vacuum will emerge to the palpable detriment of Israel.

It’s a very delicate regional balance of power. For years, a Salafi/Deobandi (Sunni) Crescent has emerged to challenge the Shiite Crescent. The objective is an attempt by Al Qaeda and other Salafi/Deobandi Islamist groups to counter the Crescent created by Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 

Unambiguously, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are in a state of near-collapse –  a result especially of severe water and electrical shortages coupled with pandemic disease. “Salafi Crescent” reflects Sunni ambition to establish a caliphate controlling much of the Middle East and forming the Islamic State “from Diyala (in eastern Iraq) to Beirut.” Al-Qaeda’s hatred of the Shiites was already expressed by its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who called them “the insurmountable obstacle, the prowling serpent…the enemy lying in wait, and ordered his followers to ’fight them.’”

                Should the Biden-led US military ever find itself in a two-front or multi-front war –  a complex conflict wherein American forces are battling in Asia (North Korea) and the Middle East simultaneously – Israel could find itself fighting on its own. For such an exceptionally complicating scenario to be suitably appreciated, Israeli strategists would first need to bear in mind that any “whole” of tangible deteriorations caused by multi-front engagements could effectively exceed the sum of constituent “parts.”[20]

               This means, among other things, that Israeli strategists and planners will need to remain persistently sensitive to all credible synergies. It must go without saying that the former Trump administration (ushered into power at the 2016 Republican National Convention by Keynote “Speaker” Duck Dynasty) was unaccustomed to any such challenging intellectual calculations. For those now-discarded planners in Washington, complex strategic decisions could best be extrapolated from the commerce-driven worlds of real-estate manipulation and casino gambling.

               If only the United States had earlier paid attention to Friedrich Nietzsche’s simple warning in Zarathustra: “Do not seek the Higher Man at the marketplace.”

               Presently, there is still time for Washington and Jerusalem to recall certain timeless insights of Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz. For the author of On War, the determining standard of reasonableness in any military contest must always lie in presumed political outcomes. For a state to get caught up in war – any war – without adequately clear political expectations is always a mistake. Here, both Washington and Jerusalem must concern themselves not only with Iranian power projections and expansions, but also with the perilously uncertain prospects of the “Sunni Crescent,” an array of more-or-less organized Sunni forces intending to combat Shiite adventurism. If this were not complicated enough, planners in Washington and Jerusalem/Tel Aviv must also consider various believable intersections or synergies, consideration’s that will inevitably pose a staggering measure of intellectual challenge.

Recent regional histories

For more years than we may care to recollect, futile American wars remained underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In short time, for Iraqis and Afghans, their once-hoped-for oases of regional stability will regress to what seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes would have called a “war of all against all.”[21] At best, what eventually unravels in these severely fractured countries will be no worse than if these wars had never even been fought. At worst, what unravels will be substantially more unstable.

               Either way, what is now unraveling in Iraq and Afghan will never represent a welcome political outcome.

               Shouldn’t we all now inquire, accordingly: Did Americans and others sacrifice so much blood and treasure to bring about, at best, status quo ante bellum?

               Over the years, with the now obvious exception of North Korea,[22] America’s principal doctrinal enemy has changed, dramatically, from “communism” to “Islamism” or “Jihadism.” This time, however, the ideological adversary is palpable, real and not merely presumptive.  This time it is also a formidable and finely-textured foe, one that requires continuously serious analytic study, not just ad hoc responses or seat-of-the-pants US presidential eruptions. There are times, perhaps, when real or contrived bellicosity can serve American national security policy objectives (e.g., the possible deterrence benefit of pretended irrationality) and objectives of certain close allies (e.g., Israel), but not where it is detached from previously-constructed theoretical foundations.[23]

               There is more. The Jihadist enemy of America and Israel remains a foe that can never be fully defeated, at least not in any measurable final sense. This determined enemy will not be immobilized on any of the more usual or traditional military battlefields.[24]  Never.

               If at some point a particular Jihadi adversary has seemingly been vanquished by US military forces in one country or another, it will likely re-group and reappear elsewhere. After Iraq, after Afghanistan, even after Syria (which now dissembles with Russian support of a genocidal regime that has always been hostile to Israel), America will face resurgent adversaries in hard-to-manage and geographically far-flung places. These locales include Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, and perhaps even Bangladesh or (in  the future) “Palestine.”[25] In the end, the “final” resolution to various conflicts will largely be a matter of will.[26]

               During the Trump Era in the Middle East, an American president and his National Security Advisor sounded alarm bells over Iran –  and this after the United States, not Iran, withdrew from an international legal agreement that was less than perfect,[27] but (reasonably) better than nothing at all.[28]

Preemption and anticipatory self-defense

When all these intersecting factors are taken into suitable intellectual account, there remains a residual argument (one that might quickly be anticipated in Israel) that a US-generated war with Iran would de facto amount to an anti-nuclear preemption[29] or to some similarly purposeful act of “anticipatory self-defense.”[30] Here, and with little reasonable doubt, the American war would be regarded as “cost-effective” or “net gainful” in Jerusalem/Tel Aviv.[31] This visceral assessment, however, could become a matter of what Sigmund Freud called “wish fulfillment” rather than of one of any serious strategic assessment (risks and benefits).

               Realistically, there is only a tiny likelihood that American bombs and missiles would soon be adequately targeted on widely multiplied/hardened/dispersed Iranian nuclear infrastructures.

               In reality, at least for the present, any US war against Iran would be contrary to Israel’s core national security interests and obligations. Glib reassurances to the contrary from Jerusalem/Tel Aviv or Washington (or both) could be prospectively lethal for Israel. Though assuredly genuine, the attack threat from Iran should never be taken as an opening for crudely simplifying political rhetoric. Instead, this threat should be assessed and calibrated dialectically,[32] as reliably as possible according to all normally verifiable standards of enemy force posture estimations.[33]

                If, at any point during crisis bargaining between Iran, Hezbollah, Israel and the United States, one side or the other should place too great a value on achieving “escalation dominance”[34] and too little value on parallel considerations of national safety, the expanding conflict could promptly turn “out of control.” Any such consequential deterioration would be especially or even uniquely worrisome if Israel threatened or launched some of its presumptive nuclear forces. This is the case irrespective of any promised strategic support for Israel from the United States.

The importance of doctrine

               In sum, if Israel should look again to the United States for seamlessly capable geo-strategic leadership, it could be taking unprecedented national security risks. At a minimum, Israel has the incontestable right (and also the obligation – to its own citizens) to expect fully decipherable expressions of US military doctrine. Going forward, unless it should insist more firmly upon maintaining this critical right, Israel could then have to face starkly injurious security outcomes. The considered prospect of a fully-sovereign Palestinian state would need to be taken here as a significant “intervening variable.”[35]

                Every state’s first responsibility is to assure and maintain citizen protection; citizen allegiance is therefore contingent upon such valid assurances.  Most famous in pertinent political theory is the classic statement of seventeenth-century Englishman Thomas Hobbes, expressed at Chapter XXI of his Leviathan: “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last so long, and no longer, then the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them.” Later, Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, described this obligation as binding upon all the nations. Writing his Opinion on the French Treaties (April 28, 1793), Jefferson opined: “The nation itself, bound necessarily to whatever it’s preservation and safety require, cannot enter into engagements contrary to its indispensable obligations.”[36]

               There is more. In law, every state has an enduring obligation to oppose and (if necessary) suitably punish aggression. Punishment of aggression is a longstanding peremptory expectation of international criminal law.  The foundational principle of Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” has its 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, which ispresented in three separate passages of the Jewish Torah

               For Israel, a uniformly continuous concern with certain basic jurisprudential principles could advance its legal as well as strategic objectives, most plainly those that jurist William Blackstone had identified in his Commentaries on the Law of England (Book 4 “Of Public Wrongs”): “Each state is expected, perpetually,” noted Blackstone, “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon the offenses against that universal law.”

                Such ideas did not arise in a theoretic or intellectual vacuum. Ultimately, Blackstone is indebted to Cicero’s description of natural law in The Republic: “True law is right reason, harmonious with nature, diffused among all, constant, eternal; a law which calls to duty by its commands and restrains from evil by its prohibitions….” Natural law is never an adornment. Always, it lies at the very heart of United States Constitutional law and of all that conceivably derives therefrom.

Just wars and cumulative complexities

               As for “just wars” pertaining to both jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria, Hugo Grotius wrote that they “arise from our love of the innocent.”[37] Though it is most unlikely that such legal high-mindedness could ever factor into US President Joe Biden’s possible decision to encourage or initiate a war against Iran, it still remains a promising standard for Israel to bear continuously in mind. This will prove especially good advice if American military actions against Iran should sometime prod the Islamic Republic to “retaliate” against Israel.

More than ever before, the Middle East has become a complicated “neighborhood.” To wit, overlapping Arab-Israel and Iran-Israel hostilities are rapidly changing variants of Sunni-Shia rivalries, including an irremediably core geo-political struggle between “Shia Crescent” and Sunni-Crescent (Salafi/Deobandi) countries. While Israel and the United States continue to have overriding common strategic interests, it remains altogether likely that certain upcoming resorts to military force by Washington could “tie the hands” of relevant policy-makers in Jerusalem. Whether witting or unwitting, any such American “tying” could sometime place Israel in existential peril,[38] This would become markedly true as soon as Iran had crossed the nuclear weapons threshold.

               What is to be done? Above all, the United States must take care to keep Israel “in the loop” wherever possible and Israel must make a reciprocal effort to stay fully informed about America’s regional foreign policy orientations. In this connection, greater subtlety will have to be applied by Israeli assessments than was displayed during the Trump Era. As a still-inconspicuous example, the net effect of the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords could prove sorely negative for Israel. Though these agreements might first have seemed gainful to Israel prima facie, they actually have no tangible bearing on Israel’s core security problems. Simultaneously, the Abraham Accords antagonize and marginalize Iran, a destabilizing effect that can’t possibly prove helpful to Israel.

               Going forward, the United States will inevitably find itself embroiled in various crisis relationships with Iran. To best protect itself from any unwanted collateral consequences, US ally Israel should continue to refine its intellect-based policies of deterrence, both conventional and nuclear.[39] More precisely, to optimize its presumed nuclear deterrent, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv should finally confront the rapidly disappearing advantages of “nuclear ambiguity,”[40] thereby acknowledging that the Jewish state is now able to calibrate a nuclear response to any particular level of military threat.[41] Prima facie, such an acknowledgment would serve not only Israel’s strategic obligations, but its complementary jurisprudential ones as well.[42]

               For Israel, in all pertinent matters, strategy and law must go hand in hand. Yet, even under optimal conditions regarding stable nuclear deterrence, the United States could suddenly find itself in extremis atomicum. The very same steps needed to maximize a credible American deterrence posture could simultaneously enlarge the likelihood of inadvertent nuclear war.[43] For Israel and the United States, one core imperative ought never be minimized or disregarded:

“Be careful what you wish for!”


[1] See https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/trumps-jcpoa-withdrawal-two-years-on-maximum-pressure-minimum-outcomes/

[2] On deterring a prospectively nuclear Iran, see Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely deter a Nuclear Iran? The Atlantic, August 2012; Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel; and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012; and Beres/Chain: Israel: https://besacenter.org/living-iran-israels-strategic-imperative-2/  General Jack Chain (USAF) was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), from 1986 to 1991.

[3]From the standpoint of international law, it is always necessary to distinguish preemptive attacks from “preventive ones.” Preemption is a military strategy of striking an enemy first in the expectation that the only alternative is to be struck first oneself.  A preemptive attack is launched by a state that believes enemy forces are about to attack.  A preventive attack is launched not out of genuine concern about “imminent” hostilities, but rather for fear of a longer-term deterioration in a pertinent military balance.  Hence, in a preemptive attack, the length of time by which the enemy’s action is anticipated is very short, while in a preventive strike the interval is considerably longer. A problem for Israel, in this regard, is not only the practical difficulty of determining imminence, but also that delaying a defensive strike until appropriately ascertained imminence is acknowledged, could prove fatal.

[4] See: https://www.icj-cij.org/en/statute

[5] For early scholarly examinations of anticipatory self-defense, by this author, and 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.

[6] The obvious Israeli precedents for any preemptive moves would be Operation Opera directed against the Osiraq (Iraqi) nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981, and, later (though lesser known) Operation Orchard, against Syria on September 6, 2007. In April 2011, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that the bombed Syrian site in the Deir ez-Zoe region of Syria had indeed been a developing nuclear reactor. Both preemptions were arguably lawful assertions of Israel’s “Begin Doctrine.”

[7]See:  https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/517/542/2386834/

[8] Regarding specific effects of US nuclear strategy on security matters in the Middle East, by this author, see: Louis René Beres: https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/162-MONOGRAPH-Beres-Israeli-Nuclear-Deterrence-CORRECTED-NEW.pdf

[9] See https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/ Also to be considered as complementary to these agreements are the Israel-Sudan Normalization Agreement (October 23, 2020) and the Israel-Morocco Normalization Agreement (December 10, 2020).

[10] Under international law, the question of whether or not a condition of war actually exists between states is often left unclear.  Traditionally, a “formal” war was said to exist only after a state had issued a formal declaration of war.  The Hague Convention III codified this position in 1907.  This Convention provided that hostilities must not commence without “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum.  See Hague Convention III on the Opening of Hostilities, Oct. 18, 1907, art. 1, 36 Stat. 2277, 205 Consol. T.S. 263.  Presently, a declaration of  war could be tantamount to a declaration of criminality because international law prohibits “aggression.” See Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, Aug. 27, 1948, art. 1, 46 Stat.  2343, 94 L.N.T.S.  57 (also called Pact of Paris or Kellogg-Briand Pact); Nuremberg Judgment, 1 I.M.T.  Trial of the Major War Criminals 171 (1947), portions reprinted in Burns H. Weston, et. al., INTERNATIONAL LAW AND WORLD ORDER  148, 159 (1980); U.N. Charter, art. 2(4).  A state may compromise its own legal position by announcing formal declarations of war.  It follows that a state of belligerency may exist without formal declarations, but only if there exists an armed conflict between two or more states and/or at least one of these states considers itself “at war.”

[11] Israel’s anti-missile defense shield has four overlapping layers: The Iron Dome system for intercepting short-range rockets; David’s Sling for medium-range rockets; Arrow-2 against intermediate-range ballistic missiles; and Arrow-3 for deployment against ICBM’s and (potentially) satellites.

[12] On the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018); 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 MA:  Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA; Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed., Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[13] Israel’s presumptive nuclear deterrence posture depends upon several separate but still-intersecting factors. Most important are the country’s significant weapons, infrastructures and missile defense capabilities. Less conspicuously urgent, but still important, are the defining structures of world politics. These structures include the fundamentally anarchic system created after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia (“The State System”) and also (though plainly more transient or temporary) US-Russian superpower rivalry. The carefully detailed essay that follows focuses critically-needed attention on the latter set of explanatory factors, one associated with “Cold War II.” To plan ahead optimally, Israel’s designated strategists should pay increasing attention to this particular expression of geo-political “context.” These strategists will also have to look more closely than usual within pertinent decision-making structures of the United States. This is because (1) America is experiencing steadily expanding levels of intra-national cultural incoherence, epidemic and disorder, and (2) such levels will have major inter-national implications.

[14] The legal problem of reprisal as a permissible rationale for the use of force by states is identified and explained 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)  Additionally, a possible prohibition of reprisals is 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 (codified and customary) by states to necessary self-defense.

[15] In authoritative studies of world politics, rationality and irrationality have taken on very precise meanings. A state is presumed to be rational to the extent that its leadership always values national survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of preferences. Conversely, an irrational state is one that would not always display such a markedly specific preference ordering. On expressly pragmatic or operational grounds, ascertaining whether a particular state adversary such as Iran would be rational or irrational could easily become an overwhelmingly daunting task.

[16] No state on earth, including Israel, is under any per se legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons; in certain distinctly residual circumstances, moreover, even the actual resort to such weapons could be presumed lawful. See generally The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, 1997 I.C.J. (July 8). The final paragraph of this Opinion, concludes, inter alia: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

[17] “Everything is very simple in war,” says Clausewitz, in his classical discussion of “friction” in On War, “but the simplest thing is difficult.” Herein, this concept refers to the 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.

[18] For the crime of aggression under international law, see: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Dec. 14, 1974. U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 UN GAOR, Supp (No. 31), 142, UN Doc A/9631 (1975) reprinted in 13 I.L.M., 710 (1974).

[19] In law, states must judge every use of force twice: once with regard to the underlying right to wage war (jus ad bellum) and once with regard to the means used in actually conducting war (jus in bello). Following the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and the United Nations Charter, there can be absolutely no right to aggressive war. However, the long-standing customary right of post-attack self-defense remains codified at Article 51 of the UN Charter. Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum. The law of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules. Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into all belligerent calculations.

[20] See, by this author: Louis René Beres: https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/

[21] Apropos of Hobbes’ argument that the state of nature is worse among individuals than among states, the philosopher Spinoza suggested that “…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.

[22] Here it also ought to be recalled that North Korea once helped Syria build a nuclear reactor, the same facility that was later destroyed by Israel in its Operation Orchard, on September 6, 2007. Unlike earlier Operation Opera (June 7, 1981) this preemptive attack, in the Deir ez-Zor region, was presumptively a second expression of the so-called “Begin Doctrine.” It also illustrated, because of the North Korea-Syria connection, a wider globalthreat to Israel in particular.

[23] 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 here by the author, from the German: “Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grun des Lebens goldner Baum.”

[24] Under international law, terrorist movements (of which Jihadist groups are a current manifestation) are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615) (“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[25] See, by this author: Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2017/07/louis-beres-palestine-fiction/

For earlier and original writings by this author on the prospective impact of a Palestinian state on Israeli nuclear deterrence and Israeli nuclear strategy, see: Louis René Beres, “Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options,” Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel), ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, “After the `Peace Process:’ Israel, Palestine, and Regional Nuclear War,” DICKINSON JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 15, No. 2., Winter 1997, pp. 301-335; Louis René Beres, “Limits of Nuclear Deterrence: The Strategic Risks and Dangers to Israel of False Hope,” ARMED FORCES AND SOCIETY, Vol. 23., No. 4., Summer 1997, pp. 539-568; Louis René Beres, “Getting Beyond Nuclear Deterrence: Israel, Intelligence and False Hope,” INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, Vol. 10., No. 1., Spring 1997, pp. 75-90; Louis René Beres, “On Living in a Bad Neighborhood: The Informed Argument for Israeli Nuclear Weapons,” POLITICAL CROSSROADS, Vol. 5., Nos. 1/2, 1997, pp. 143-157; Louis René Beres, “Facing the Apocalypse: Israel and the `Peace Process,'” BTZEDEK: THE JOURNAL OF RESPONSIBLE JEWISH COMMENTARY (Israel), Vol. 1., No. 3., Fall/Winter 1997, pp. 32-35; Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why Golan Demilitarization Would Not Work,” STRATEGIC REVIEW, Vol. XXIV, No. 1., Winter 1996, pp. 75-76; Louis René Beres, “Implications of a Palestinian State for Israeli Security and Nuclear War: A Jurisprudential Assessment,” DICKINSON JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 17., No. 2., 1999, pp. 229-286; Louis René Beres, “A Palestinian State and Israel’s Nuclear Strategy,” CROSSROADS: AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIO-POLITICAL JOURNAL, No. 31, 1991, pp. 97-104; Louis René Beres, “The Question of Palestine and Israel’s Nuclear Strategy,” THE POLITICAL QUARTERLY, Vol. 62, No. 4., October-December 1991, pp. 451-460; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Palestine and Regional Nuclear War,” BULLETIN OF PEACE PROPOSALS, Vol. 22., No. 2., June 1991, pp. 227-234; Louis René Beres, “A Palestinian State: Implications for Israel’s Security and the Possibility of Nuclear War,” BULLETIN OF THE JERUSALEM INSTITUTE FOR WESTERN DEFENCE  (Israel), Vol. 4., Bulletin No, 3., October 1991, pp. 3-10; Louis René Beres, ISRAELI SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS, PSIS Occasional Papers, No. 1/1990, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, 40 pp; and 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.

[26] Modern philosophic origins of “will” are discoverable in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas;1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[27] See Louis René Beres, “After the Vienna Agreement: Could Israel and a Nuclear

Iran Coexist?” IPS Publications, Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya,

Israel, September, 2015 See also:   https://www.idc.ac.il/he/research/ips/Documents/iran/LouisReneBeres-Iran2014.pdf

[28] International law remains in essence a “vigilante” system, sometimes also called a “Westphalian” system. Such history-based reference is to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War and created the now still-existing self-help “state system.” See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[29] Such a “life-saving” preemption option could be entirely permissible under international law. Known jurisprudentially as anticipatory self-defense, this potentially lawful option can be found not in conventional law (art. 51 of the UN Charter supports only post-attack expressions of individual or collective self-defense), but in customary international law. The most precise 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).

[30] Professor Louis René Beres was Chair of Project Daniel (PM Sharon) in 2003-2004. The rationale of Project Daniel was to examine the developing Iranian nuclear threat and to make pertinent suggestions about minimizing this threat.  See: http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-ISSUE/daniel-3.htm

[31] Historically, preemption has figured importantly in Israeli strategic calculations.  This was most glaringly apparent in the wars of 1956 and 1967 and in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and later the Syrian facility.  It was essentially the failure to preempt in October 1973 that contributed to heavy Israeli losses on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts during the Yom Kippur war, and almost brought about an Israeli defeat.  Back during January, May, and October 2013, Israel, understandably apprehensive about Damascus’ supply of military materials to Syria’s Hezbollah surrogates in Lebanon, preemptively struck selected hard targets within Syria. For an informed jurisprudential assessment of these undeclared but still-appropriate expressions of anticipatory self-defense, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Striking Hezbollah-Bound Weapons in Syria: Israel’s Actions Under International Law,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, posted August 26, 2013.

[32] The term “dialectic” originates from the Greek expression for the art of conversation. A common contemporary meaning is method of seeking truth by correct reasoning. From the standpoint of shaping Israel’s strategy  vis-à-vis Iran, the following operations could be regarded as essential but nonexclusive components: (1)  a method of refutation conducted by examining logical consequences; (2) a method of division or repeated logical analysis of genera into species; (3) logical reasoning using premises that are probable or generally accepted; (4) formal logic; and (5) the logical development of thought through thesis and antithesis to fruitful synthesis of these opposites.

[33] The de facto condition of Hobbesian anarchy within which Israel must make its pertinent assessments and calibrations stands in stark contrast to the legal assumption of solidarity between states. In essence, this idealized assumption concerns a presumptively common struggle against both aggression and terrorism. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known formally in law as a jus cogens assumption, was already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925) (1690); and Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).

[34] See, by this author: Louis René Beres: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28931

[35] Some supporters of a Palestinian state argue that its prospective harms to Israel could be reduced or even eliminated by ensuring that new Arab state’s immediate “demilitarization.” For informed reasoning against this argument, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Winter 1998, pp. 347-363; and Louis René Beres and Ambassador Shoval, “On Demilitarizing a Palestinian `Entity’ and the Golan Heights: An International Law Perspective,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vo. 28., No.5., November 1995, pp. 959-972.

[36] See: Merrill D. Peterson, The Political Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello Monograph Series, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1993, p. 115.

[37] See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace 70 (William Whewell, tr.), London: John W. Parker, 1853(1625).

[38] Much has been written concerning Israel’s irremediably limited strategic depth. This core security issue was addressed as early as June 29, 1967, when a US Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum specified that returning Israel to pre-1967 boundaries would drastically increase its existential vulnerabilities. The JCS Chairman, General Earl Wheeler, then concluded that merely for minimal deterrence and defense, Israel should retain Sharm el-Sheikh and Wadi El Girali in the Sinai; the Gaza Strip (entire); the high ground and plateaus of the mountains in Judea and Samaria (West Bank); and the Golan Heights, east of Quneitra.

[39] Notes Guillaume Apollinaire, “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” See this poet’s The New Spirit and the Poets (1917). See also, Professor Beres with Ambassador Zalman Shoval: (Pentagon): https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/

[40] See, by Professor Beres, “Changing Direction: Updating Israel’s Nuclear Doctrine,” Strategic Assessment, INSS (Israel), Vol. 17, No.3., October 2014: http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/adkan17_3ENG%20(3)_Beres.pdf   Earlier, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Changing Direction? Updating Israel’s Nuclear Doctrine,” INSS, Israel, Strategic Assessment, Vol. 17, No.3., October 2014, pp. 93-106. See also: 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); Louis René Beres and Leon “Bud” Edney, Admiral  (USN/ret.) “Facing a Nuclear Iran, Israel Must Rethink its Nuclear Ambiguity,” U.S. News & World Report, February 11, 2013; 3pp; and Professor Louis René Beres and Admiral Leon “Bud” Edney,  “Reconsidering Israel’s Nuclear Posture,” The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2013. Admiral Edney served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT).

[41] Elements of essential doctrine could sometimes prove counter-intuitive. For example, the likelihood of any actual nuclear conflict between states could be inversely related to the plausibly expected magnitude of catastrophic harms

[42] The law of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules. Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into all belligerent calculations. Evidence for the rule of proportionality can also be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) at Art. 4. Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights allows at Art. 27(1) such derogations “in time of war, public danger or other emergency which threaten the independence or security of a party” on “condition of proportionality.” In essence, the military principle of proportionality requires that the amount of destruction permitted must be proportionate to the importance of the objective. In contrast, the political principle of proportionality states “a war cannot be just unless the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensure from the war is less than the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensue if the war is not fought.” See Douglas P. Lackey, THE ETHICS OF WAR AND PEACE, 40 (1989). modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[43] On 27 July 2921, US President Joseph Biden opined that the foreseeably greatest risk of a nuclear war would be as the result of cyber-terrorism or hacking. See: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/biden-warns-real-shooting-war-003405801.html

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