Israel's New Strategy in a Post-American Middle East

(Foreign Affairs) Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion - Waning U.S. engagement in the Middle East has emboldened Iran, which is posing a growing threat to Israel and other nations throughout the region. Governments in the region have begun to doubt the resolve of the U.S. as a security guarantor. Even as it continues to benefit from U.S. assistance and backing, Israel has sought new regional partnerships to buttress its security. Iran continues to provide drones, rockets, missiles, military training and support to a growing number of proxy militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Palestinian theaters. Tehran has also stepped up its proxy attacks on Saudi and Emirati targets, U.S. forces in the region, and, occasionally, maritime targets, such as Emirati vessels and merchant ships belonging to Israelis. In addition to the potentially existential threat posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb, Tehran's support for Hizbullah has created a lethal military threat on Israel's borders, with the Shiite militia now equipped with a formidable arsenal of precision-guided missiles, attack drones, and air defense systems. In short, the perceived retreat of the U.S. from the Middle East has unleashed a chain reaction of nuclear proliferation and increased military aggression by Iran and its proxies. The failure to stop Iran's nuclear program could accelerate a regional nuclear arms race. Israel's security alliance with the U.S. was further advanced last year with the inclusion of Israel in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. Israel can increasingly share the burden of some U.S. security missions with its intelligence, air, and cyber defenses. For years, Israel has shared intelligence and cyber-capabilities with the Gulf states. Over the past decade, Israel has also supported Jordan's border security and Egypt's counterterrorism efforts in Sinai, while its Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted incoming rockets targeting both Eilat in Israel and neighboring Aqaba in Jordan. Israel prepares its own military options against Iran to serve as a backstop should all other efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program fail. Concurrently, Israel will likely continue its covert campaign against Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs in order to disrupt and impede its progress toward making a bomb. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is currently a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion, former head of the Strategic Division in the IDF General Staff's Planning Directorate, is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2022-02-24 00:00:00

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