All posts in “Israel”

Russia to Proceed with Supersonic Cruise Missile Sale to Syria

Russia has evidently opted to proceed with sales of the SS-NX-26/Yakhont ASCM to the Syrians. The intent was voiced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov over the weekend.

“The contract,” he told journalists in Vladivostok, “is in progress.” The minister added his country was also bent on carrying through on promises to deliver several Bastion anti-ship missile systems to Syria.

SS-NX-26/Yakhont Ranges (Syria - red) (Lebanon - yellow)

SSC-5 Bastion CDCM launcher

Anti-ship ballistic missiles may be the newest, sexy thing on the anti-access/area denial (A2AD) block, but the simple fact of the matter is that ASCMs far outnumber ASBMs and constitute a significant challenge to all surface ships.  The SS-NX-26 is part of a new generation of fast, smart ASCMs designed to penetrate the latest air defense systems. Designed for launch from air- (above with the Su-33), surface and subsurface platforms, the SS-NX-26 can fly a hi-lo profile for max range (300 km) or a lo-lo profile (120km), also supersonically (2.5 Mach), to avoid detection by the target, maximizing surprise in delivering its 300 kg warhead.  It also is used in the SSC-5 Bastion coastal defense cruise missile system, reportedly also part of the deal.

The Israelis – and the Israeli Navy in particular (no stranger to ASCM threats) have not surprisingly demurred on Russia’s offering to regional stability:

Security officials warned that the Russian cruise missiles “are potentially dangerous weapons and they may come fall into the hands of Hezbollah, just as other weapons systems came from Syria.”

Not like they haven’t seen the Syrians do this with other systems.  Still, all indications would seem to point to Syria retaining control of the missiles, especially as they would have the necessary over-the-horizon targeting capability to employ the missiles at their full range (e.g., drones, MARPAT, etc.). In light of their experience with (presumably) Iranian-supplied C-802 cruise missiles off the Lebanese coast are that the Israeli navy’s freedom of operation will be further limited while ratcheting up the demand signal for detection and intercept assets — and another spiral in the region’s on-going arms race

Worth noting is that the SS-NX-26/Yakhont forms the basis of the joint Russo-India BrahMOS cruise missile – which is also being developed by the Indians in a LACM (land attack cruise missile) version.   And nothing good could come of that if Syria goes down that path…



perâ‹…specâ‹…tive (per-spek-tiv)-noun: A technique of depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface. The state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship; the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship.

Perspective requires context.  These days we see and hear a great deal about the Gaza Bank residents’ lives under the Israeli attack.  Such perspective has been fully expounded upon by the media, Western especially.  What has not received much play is that of the Israeli’s who have lived through the thousands – yes, thousands, of indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks over the last several years that have originated from Gaza.  So here is a little more perspective – from the target zone if you will:

For eight years, approximately 5000 rockets have been sent deliberately into Israeli population centers by the Hamas terrorists. The rockets are extremely inaccurate. The good news is that they often hit an empty field. The bad news is that, when they do hit buildings and people, they kill, maim and destroy. It is a very ugly game of Iranian Roulette.

But the most significant fact is that the undisputed purpose of the rockets is to kill civilians in a random manner. Since they miss entire towns, they could not possibly be aimed at military or strategic targets. No claim is made by Hamas of anything other than a deliberate attempt to kill civilians within Israel. The world knows about the rockets but rarely mentions that they are aimed only at the civilian population and at nothing else.he Hamas media, and especially its independent TV station, carry daily children programs (including programs for kindergarten age) depicting the Jews (and not only the Israelis) as pigs, dogs, scum of the earth and creatures that must be killed. One of these programs features a rabbit which eats Jews. There is plenty of documentation of these programs, including animations and programs with child presenters. Major western news media never report on this phenomenon, while some of them publish op-ed pieces by declared Hamas leaders.

The favorite hour of launching the daily Hamas rockets during the last eight years was 7:45 in the morning, but only on weekdays. Why? Because this is the time in which the streets are full of Israeli children, on their way to school. No one wants to waste rockets when no children are in the streets, during the weekend.

Read further – and expand your perspective.

Missile Defense – It’s Not Just for ICBMs

It began in 2001.  Crude, homemade and unguided.  Indiscriminate as to objective or target – not meant to do anything but inspire terror.  It has a name – صاروخ القسام‎ ṢārÅ«kh al-Qassām;


Comprised of a  simple steel rocket filled with explosives, powered by a homebrew mixture of sugar and potassium nitrate (fertilizer) with warheads made of TNT and urea nitrate. Four hits in 2001, 35 in 2002 and by 2007, it was measured in the thousands.  As low tech as the rockets are, they are giving the IDF fits in attempting to thwart them.  Efforts to build a shield based on a variety of kinetic options, under the rubric of “Iron Dome” have met with desultory success.  This is due in no small part to the fore shortened battlespace.  A Qassam launched from the Gaza travels roughly  9 seconds before landing at or near its current max range of 12km (20km for the later models):


To effect an intercept in the terminal stage requires the right weapon positioned for effective coverage with an exceptionally quick detect to launch cycle.  Absent the wonders (and suspension of physical laws) of Hollywood f/x, for a conventional missile or gun-based system, the odds for a miss are high  and in this scenario, so is the penalty for misses.  Consider:

The upshot is that the prime minister, who just two months ago declared that “we will not fortify ourselves to death,” was compelled to approve recommendations to fortify 8,000 homes in Sderot and the communities of the “Gaza envelope,” to the tune of NIS 300 million. Such protection is necessary because these homes lie within 4.5 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.

But a mere day later, it turned out that the plan was too ambitious and that budget shortfalls meant that only 3,600 homes in Sderot and the Gaza envelope can be fortified within the next two years. The solemn declarations to fortify the homes, revoked only hours later, are just the latest chapter in a gloomy saga replete with deception, lies, concealment of the truth from policymakers, groundless promises to Sderot residents, the unexplained rejection of the arguments for examining additional defense systems other than Iron Dome, and bizarre decisions made in the Defense Ministry. (

So two of the three pillars of missile defense are already accounted for, under current conditions – active and passive defenses.  Each is found wanting so leaving the IDF with the third leg, offensive measures which, it would seem, came under consideration some several months before the current operation – ostensibly while taking onboard the “lessons learned” from the 2006 campaign in Lebanon.  Still, with all that behind them, parallels – justified or not, are being drawn in the Western media and the Arab street over “disproportionate response” and so while Israel may benefit in the short-run from decapitating strikes against Hamas leadership, in the longer run it isn’t too hard to foresee a resurgence of the antebellum status quo, absent a breakthrough in defensive weaponry.

What lessons might we draw from this scenario?  That missile defense is necessary at levels lower than we commonly think of (metropolitan vice intercontinentalal) to afford national decision-makers options other than a bunker mentality or having to resort to use of massive conventional forces – definitely.  That development of said capability at the local, as at the intercontinental range, is hard and if anything, probably more pressing because of the disruption, damage and loss of life it can incur. 

There is also a Navy quotient in here as one ponders the access denial possibilities that the deployment and employment of literally hundreds of these crude weapons entails in the opening or continued operations of  an SPOD or APOD, that is defendable from the maritime environment.  Suppose you are the CO of an LCS given charge to provided air- and missile defense to a contingent of Marines and Seabees ashore to open or keep open an APOD for further staging of forces when the first waves of Qassam’s (or their successors) are inbound.  How will you counter them?  Are the right mission modules being designed and built for this contingency?  Food for thought…


An Israeli Tipping Point?

Shahab-3 F-16I Safur

The term tipping point describes a point at which a slow gradual change becomes irreversible and then proceeds with gathering pace. It is derived from the metaphor of a rigid solid object being tilted to a point where it begins to topple.

Couple of observations from the region…

Iran to launch 1st domestic satellite soon – Ahmadinejad

(16 August 2008, IRNA)  Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added in his press interview in Istanbul Friday that Iran would in near future launch its first domestic satellite to the space.  According to IRNA, President Ahmadinejad said addressing the audience, “I want to inform you of a first hand news today. The Americans sanctioned us 28 years ago, but that is not the whole story.”

“They also imposed a number of sets of embargoes, whose single purpose was the block the path of our progress. But thanks to all those sanctions, we are now a nuclear country, and will by grace of God very soon launch our first Iranian made satellite.”

The Iranian president reiterated, “This satellite, the rocket that would launch it, and the land station from which it would be launched are entirely made in Iran, by the talented Iranian scientists and technicians.”  He pointed out that the Islamic Iran is today also among the top five world countries with advanced bio-technology expertise, the top in nano-technology field, and that the Iranians have achieved all such high objectives thanks to the US, and US backed sanctions, which our nation is decided to resist against.

Shahab 3Safir (via Rueters)

Presumably a modified version of the Shahab-3 would be used to loft a nominal 35-40 lb object (ostensibly named Safir – Persian for “emissary’) into low orbit.  Recall that America’s first  satellite, Explorer, was about 53 lbs and was launched on the Jupiter-C,  a derivative of the Redstone MRBM which itself was derived from the V-2.  Ironically, the Shahab is a derivative of the SCUD which itself was derived from…the V-2.  We would expect the launch to be fairly soon. Still, given Iran’s past history, there is a reason they call it rocket science.

Update: Iran says it launched satellite into space

or maybe not

And the Pentagon says “not so fast…”:

“The Iranians did not successfully launch the rocket,” a senior U.S. defense official told CNN Monday. The two-stage rocket could have been capable of launching a satellite into space, but the U.S. intelligence assessment shows that the second stage “was erratic and out of control,” said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the intelligence. The rocket “did not perform as designed,” (more)

Meanwhile, over in Israel:

Israel Takes Delivery of First F-16I Sufa (‘Storm’)

The long-awaited Israeli F-16I Sufa (‘Storm’) rolled off Lockheed Martin’s production line in Texas last week into the waiting hands of Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who was on scene to receive the new aircraft, the first of 102 ordered by Jerusalem in 1997.

The F-16I is a heavily modified two seat version of the U.S. Air Force’s F-16D Block 50/52-series fighter. In addition to the new and more powerful Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine, the F-16I boasts numerous internal and external advancements and modifications. For example, the Sufa has been customized with new avionic technologies, internally mounted FLIR (forward looking infrared) viewers, and cutting edge weapon system hardware provided by the Israeli defense company Lahav – a division of Israel Aircraft Industries.

Complementing the upgraded weapon systems is a dorsal compartment containing enhanced mission avionics and chaff and flare dispensers, enabling it to conduct either pilot training or combat missions. In addition, removable conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) have been added along the fuselage and above the wing roots, freeing-up underwing hard points for additional armaments. The F-16I has an unrefueled combat strike radius well in excess of 500 miles. The extended flight range allows Israeli forces to attack targets well within Iran and Libya without having to refuel.

Three squadrons of the new aircraft are expected to be operational from the Ramon airbase deep inside the Negev by 2008 with the first strike aircraft arriving next month.

An Israeli opinion…

And while the world has been focused on Beijing and South Ossetia/Georgia:

IRAN: The United States said yesterday that Iran had left the United Nations Security Council no choice but to increase sanctions on the Islamic republic for ignoring demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities.

The US declaration came a day after an informal deadline lapsed for Iran to respond to an offer from the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia for talks on its disputed nuclear programme. “It is clear that the government of Iran has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium and isn’t even interested in trying,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the US mission to the UN.

“They leave the Security Council no choice but to increase the sanctions, as called for in the last resolution passed.”

Tehran has not formally responded to the offer. But Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday that Tehran would not back down in its nuclear dispute with the powers, which have supported three rounds of Security Council sanctions.

“In whichever negotiation we take part . . . it is unequivocally with the view to the realisation of Iran’s nuclear right and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights,” he said.

A successful space launch with the implicit declaration of an operational MRBM able to loft a nascent nuclear payload.  More stalling on the nuclear front.  The US distracted and entwined elsewhere.  Israel’s vow not to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons and an expanded long-range strike capability being added to its inventry….

Not a matter of weeks, but perhaps a few short months.  Time will tell…

The Missiles of Summer – Updated

“War Is The Unfolding of Miscalculations”
That quote, attributed to author Barbara Tuchman, is generally ascribed to the events that ran up to the First World War. However, it, along with other illuminating principles such as the Rule of Unintended Consequences find a wider, and sadly, more common range of applications including those events presently underway. We offer this observation in light of the following items:

From the 08 Jun 2008 edition of Middle Eastern Times:

“Ahmadinejad is a former member of Al Quds, the revolutionary guards special forces that have been smuggling mortars, rockets and components for EFPs — explosively formed projectiles — that fire a slug of molten metal that penetrates armored vehicles.

Alarming, too, was last week’s deal that followed the Syrian defense minister’s visit to Tehran. Syria’s missile units are to be integrated under Al Quds’ missile section.” (emphasis added)

This, of course, from the same leader who that same week declared:

“I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion, and betrayal, is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene. Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.” (via the Mehr News Agency, affiliated with the Islamic Propagation Organization)

Following soon afterwards was the Israeli exercise over the Mediterranean, consisting of some 100-plus long-range strike F-15’s (the F-15I, a variation of the F-15E Strike Eagle), F-16’s (used in the Osiraq reactor strike) and SAR helos. The public details of the exercise, released by the US late in June, would seem to describe a practice or “mirror image” strike into Iran.

As these things are wont to do, each action has spurred a corresponding reaction – this past week the top IRGC commander, Mohammad-Ali Jafari, told the Iranian daily,Jam-e Jam, in an interview that “Israel is located entirely within the reach of our missiles. Our missile power is such that the Zionist regime, despite all its capabilities, would not be able to confront us.” In the same inteview he mentioned Iran’s intent to shutdown the Straits of Hormuz, cutting off the flow of oil out of the Gulf. On its part, the US has responded both verbally and via capabilities demonstrations.

Today comes word of a new round of major exercises, ‘Noble Prophet III’ (aka ‘Great Prophet Manoeuvres III’) under the auspicies of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, began yesterday. It is worth noting that the last such round of exercises saw a substantial play of SR- and MRBM firings, including an updated variant of the SHAHAB III.

This all, of course, centers mostly on Iran’s dogged pursuit of its domestic nuclear development program – for energy independence and/or to obtain a nuclear weapons capability. And while the NIE released late last year appeared to point in a different direction, recently the trend both in the US intelligence community and overseas seems to point to continued pursuit.

Which brings us back to the quote by Tuchman. When JFK assumed the Presidency, he read Tuchman’s book on WWI and encouraged his cabninet officers to read it to provide context to the emerging crisis in Cuba. Now, although recent research is starting to peel back the mythos surrounding the performance of the EXCOM during the crisis (and should be instructive as to the ability to manage crises), it still strikes us that the historical lesson from that enormous tragedy at the opening of the previous century would still find application today. However, as the author also ruefully noted elsewhere -“Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practiced.” Let us hope that is not the case as we head into a summer that, global warming claims aside, promises to be significantly hotter.

Updated – 9 July 08: Well, here we go again…and again.

CIA in 1974: “Israel Has Nuclear Weapons”

(h/t ArmsControlWonk)



In a curious action, the 1974 National Intelligence Assessment on foreign nation’s nuclear arms development programs was released by the Bush Administration on the eve of his trip to Israel and the Gulf States.  The NIA contains some rather stunning wording – in prticular, the assessment by CIA that:

We believe Israel already has produced nuclear weapons. . .We do not expect the Israelis to provide confirmation of widespread suspicions of their capability, either by nuclear testing or by threats of use, short of a gravethreat to the nation’s existence.  Future emphasis is likely to be on. . .manufacturing missiles more capable in terms of distance and accuracy than the existnig 260-mile Jerhico, and acquiring or perfecting weapons for aircraft delivery.

(The extract attached above is part of a 1975 State Department paper that was obtained in 2006 under a FOIA request by scholars Avner Cohen and William Burr which purports to disagree with CIA’s conclusions.  In fact, in 1974 State as well as several other agencies were said to have agreed with CIA’s assesment…)

Some may ask about the "so what?" factor — afterall, Israel and nukes is one of the more poorly hidden "secrets" in the region.  Still, US offical policy has been to deny the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons, a policy that serves to complicate matters when trying to staunch proliferation in the region where other states, like Iraq and Iran are concerned.  The fact tht now apparently twenty-six yers ago the US intelligence community agreed that was the case underscores this apparent double standard. 

Haaretz (Jerusalem) broke the story and possessing the full copy of the assessment, write in the same article, this item about Iran’s  nuclear program –pre-Revolution:

On Iran, the 1974 NIE said, "there is no doubt of the Shah’s ambition to make Iran a power to reckon with. If he is alive in the mid-80’s, if Iran has a full-fledged nuclear power industry and all the facilities necessary for nuclear weapons, and if other countries have proceeded with weapons development, we have no doubt that Iran will follow suit."

The Shah’s ouster in 1979 (and death a year later) apparently slowed down Iran’s nuclear project.

The authors of the NIE wrote that the U.S. helped France expedite its nuclear program, France in turn helped Israel, and much like France and India, Israel, "while unlikely to foster proliferation as a matter of national policy, probably will prove susceptible to the hue of economic and political advantages to be gained from exporting materials, technology and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons programs."

More to follow, we’re sure – and we’re looking for the full NIA as well...


Found it!  Relevant text is on page 27 of 51, paragraph 37.  For reference we found it at the CIA FOIA site (where was all this when we were doing our Master’s???) 

A Four Party Perspective on the Recent S300 Missile Sale to Iran

S 300PMU1

Unlike most sales, arms sales have a wider impact beyond the primary parties (buyer/seller) and indeed, the recent announcement of the long sought sale of an improved S300 system to Iran by Russia has a wider circle of interested parties and corresponding impact beyond those two. First, though, we begin with the buyer.

Iran – Filling a Gap

Sometime in the mid-1990’s Iran came to believe its chief future protagonist would be an Israeli-US alliance. To counter such an alliance it formulated a defense policy that centered on three-pillars: a massive land force with recallable reserves in excess of 20 million men, a large ballistic missile force consisting of short-, medium- and intermediate- range weapons that could hold targets in the Middle East and as far way as Europe at risk and a “surge” capability to generate nuclear weapons from stockpiled reserves. In at least two of these three areas, Iran has shown demonstrated success and resolve. Annually, 600,000 are inducted into training under a revised national service program. The ballistic missile program has shown continued growth as an indigenous industry with continued aid from China and North Korea – the unveiling of the 1300km Shahab III MRBM during the “Noble Prophet” exercise in 2006 being just one of the latest examples. And while the recently released NIE on Iranian nuclear weapons development still leaves some disputing its assumptions, the image of the aforementioned missiles arriving over downtown Tel Aviv, Riyadh or Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain with a massive conventional, chemical or biologic payload vice nuclear won’t necessarily temper concerns.

Still, Iran has demonstrated one major shortcoming over the years – laid bare for the entire world to see during the Iran-Iraq war and heightened in light of US capabilities demonstrated during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has a notoriously poor counter air system, from radar, to command and control to missiles to aircraft. A recognized shortcoming by the Shah, it was being addressed with the purchases of significant amounts of US equipment in the 1970’s that included the F-14/AIM-54 weapon system and HAWK surface to air missiles along with the supporting radars and C3 infrastructure. The Khomeini Revolution put short shrift to that modernization, leaving Iran with a patchwork of capabilities manned by poorly trained personnel and a system short of parts. The war with Iraq exacerbated those shortcomings and attempts to supplement with third party sources (North Korea, China, Russia, and Brazil) never quite measured up. Absent an effective air force then, the next best defense is the latest, or near latest, SAM technology. 

Here, through a confluence of events, Ahmadinejad has been successful where his two mullah predecessors, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami had failed. Coming on the heels of obtaining a $1B contract for the TOR-M1 in December 2005, the agreement for the S300PMU1 adds another layer of defense for Iran’s air defenses. With the wide area defense S300 added to the point defense TOR-M1, and both being mobile, making them more difficult to target, the stakes for an air strike or air campaign against Iran will be substantially increased.  So what changed such that Ahmadinejad succeeded where his predecessors failed? The party line hadn’t changed all that much – indeed, some might argue that it had turned more hard-line. Was that the reason? Or does the answer lie farther to the north, in Moscow perhaps?

Russia – It’s Just Business?

Emerging from the economic and social chaos of the 1990s, the Russia of the new century is a different creature and not to be mistaken as a re-emergent Soviet Union. Whereas ideology, even as cold and lifeless as Communism was, resided at the core of the Soviet state, the new Russian state has little interest in or patience with ideology. Indeed, according to Dmitri Trenin writing in the Spring edition of Washington Quarterly, the Russian state of today under President Putin is very much a bureaucratic capitalistic state where “what is good for Gazprom is good for Russia”[1] Those in positions of power in Russia have not arrived there through inheritance or as Party apparatchiks, but instead via a hard fought system. Not a one is a public politician, but instead a businessman who is used to dealing with a ruthless domestic business and political climate – and is willing to take that same mindset to the world stage. In some respects, one wonders if they were to meet up with some of the more infamous robber barons of the late 19th century if a certain comrade-in-arms kinship wouldn’t be formed.

Nevertheless, the fact that this new found ruthlessness comes via the levers of the hypersensitive petroleum industry doesn’t sit well with Europe and to a lesser extent, the US – but that is of little concern to the Russians.  In this post-Soviet, post-modern world all comers can be partners or competitors equally, be they George Bush or Mamoud Ahmadinejad. Agreements turn on interests, the core of which are Russia’s. And Russia’s interests no longer lie in the Gorbachev view of some alliance or union with Europe or the EU. They are as an independent, strong geopolitical entity on the world stage – modernized and more Western, as Trenin puts it, but still strengthening its relations with Asian and Latin American countries while remaining at peace with the Muslim world.

And if the price of that peace is selling more advanced military equipment to the Muslim world at the price of upsetting the US and the West? Well, it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. After all, the US barely raised an eyebrow with the sale of the TOR M-1 to Iran in 2005. That certainly had to have signaled a change in the environment to the Russians over sales of other modern equipment to the Iranians. Besides – that equipment requires supplies and “advisors” to help operate it, both of which have proven to be vulnerabilities in the past should they be temporarily or more permanently withdrawn.

Israel – Preemptive Concerns

Presumably, plans are in place for a variety of long-range strike options based on previous Israeli actions (Osiraq) and declared policy regarding a potentially nuclear armed Iran. Centerpiece of those strikes (again this is informed speculation) would come from elements of the IAF which have demonstrated those capabilities in the past (and even, some say, the recent past).  Certainly the sale of the S300 system to Iran had to have been met with concern in the Israeli MoD. Long acquaintance with the capabilities of the earlier S200 system as well as the TOR M-1 via exposure to the Syrian integrated air defense system (IADS) would have provided extrapolation as to the S300’s enhanced capabilities (if not collection from their own sources). 

The addition of a highly capable, area defense SAM system like the S300 would significantly impact the planning of said strike packages, requiring the addition of aircraft to account for attrition and extra ECM for penetration and other support. The larger the strike package, the less covert it becomes and the less covert it becomes, the more difficult it becomes to move it through airspace that is more monitored now than it was in the early 1980’s during the Osiraq strike and do so over longer distances. Absent a significant submarine fleet armed with cruise missiles that might be launched submerged to support such a strike effort, which leaves as one of the only alternatives the possibilities of a preemptive ballistic missile strike.

Israel does posses the wherewithal in the form of the capable and tested Jericho II IRBM ballistic missile to do so. With a range out to 1500 km and a payload of 1,000 kg, the Jericho II (of which there are presumed to be 50+ deployed). As for the warhead, although Israel has never confirmed possessing nuclear weapons, one would be hard pressed to believe that they do not, especially given the close work in a variety of areas they had with the South African government for a number of years (including work that led to the Jericho II). By now one expects that given nominal Israeli scientific and engineering capabilities, that warheads similar to the early US W-49, used on the Thor and Jupiter MR/IRBMs with a yield of 1.4M will have been developed for the Jericho. Of course the escalatory issues all that brings to the fore is fodder for yet another column – suffice to say the introduction of the S300 will greatly raise the bar for the Israelis which in turn, brings pressure back to bear on the US.

US – Failure of Vision

The sale of the S300 system comes at the very least as a failure of vision on the part of the US. Wrapped up in the Iraqi war, the Administration failed to serve notice to Russia of the severity with which it took notice of delivery of the TOR M-1 system, or any other major upgrade to Iran’s defense capabilities during a time when there was significant question as to their intent and pursuit of nuclear weapons, counter to IAEA convention. Bringing pressure to bear early in the process would help expose Russia’s motives – was it really just business as purveyor of arms to a needy client? Or was it a more likely case of looking to exploit a weak spot to gain leverage, a geopolitical quid-pro-quo for somewhere else, say Kosovo? For one thing Russia has made clear – it fully expects to draw full cost for any concessions it geopolitical concessions it might be inclined to make.  This is in addition to the the fact that while there is little interest in re-establishing the old Soviet Empire, there is ample interest in protecting the “near-beyond” or what basically constitutes the border of the old Commonwealth of Independent States. There is clear interest in getting the US out of the ‘stans, in keeping Georgia out of any integration or union with the West, and in preventing or turning back any further encroachment eastward by NATO. 

Is the agreement to selling the S300 then a tit-for-tat for American GBI’s in Poland and missile defense radar in the Czech Republic? Perhaps – but the fact remains that Russia has clearly signaled an intent to play hardball on the world stage with this sale. And more than the resumption of flights over the Arctic by a handful of Cold War bombers or an epochal voyage by a one-off carrier group, this signals Russia’s future intent and willingness to be a forcing function to a multi-polar world. And come whatever the next administration, it had better be prepared to play hardball when necessary, because rest assured, the Russians will without hesitation.


 [1] Dmitri Trenin, “Russia Redefines Itself and Its Relations with the West.” Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007


Iranian Link to Russia’s MiG-31 Sale to Syria?

 (Picture from

Reports at the Paris Airshow this week that something was afoot between Russia and Syria over sales of MiG-31’s (and thereby updating Syria’s aging fleet of MiG-25’s) has generated a certain amount of heat over allegations that Iran is secretly funding the deal.  More below the fold:

Continue Reading…

History – IAF in Lebanon War (1982) …Here’s one …

History – IAF in Lebanon War (1982)

…Here’s one from the historical archives during the last dust-up in the region. For fellow Hawkeyes, what primary rule do you see the IAF crew violating?

Israeli Exit Strategy in Lebanon?

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer posits:

There is crisis and there is opportunity. Amid the general wringing of hands over the seemingly endless and escalating Israel-Hezbollah fighting, everyone asks: Where will it end?

The answer, blindingly clear, begins with understanding that this crisis represents a rare, perhaps irreproducible, opportunity.

The opportunity? Well, the liberation of southern Lebanon (and it’s repatriation) by Israel following a Gulf War I style campaign:

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing.

Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded — implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.

All well and good, one supposes, except Israel’s been there before. Like anything else in history, not a perfect reprise of 1982, especially since the Hezbollah actions have generated the unprecedented, if somewhat muted, condemnation from the Arab League and prompted even Russia to join in condemnation at the G8 summit. Nevertheless, a 40+ day air campaign against Lebanon-based Hezbollah with nightly footage of Lebanese victims and their outraged countrymen would likely turn world opinion against the Israelies. One can already sense the drift in the reporting by the MSM from the ground in Beirut (no surprise there). The reality is the window of opportuity is probably only another week or two, absent action by Syria or another miscalculation by Hezbollah. Expect to see a growing campaign for a ceasefire and a “diplomatic soluiton.”

It will be interesting to see how nations line-up in the coming weeks. Will Egypt and Jordan’s outspoken criticism of Hezbollah withstand the restlessness of sympathizers in their own countries? Will continental Europe with its large (and growing) indigenous Moslem population press for an early termination of ops by Israel? And the US, already with much on its plate in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, how long before “quiet overtures” are made to the Israelies to wrap things up? How much pressure will there be for Secretary Rice to return from her trip to the region waving a document that promises peace?