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December 2011 - Security Digest newsletter is a monthly bulletin covering U.S.-Israel security cooperation. Distributed by e-mail, Security Digest is edited by JINSA Visiting Fellow Gabriel Scheinmann. Each issue features news articles covering all aspects of U.S.-Israel cooperation with a focus on the military as well as an analytical article by Mr. Scheinmann. Look for Security Digest every month in your e-mail inbox. To give us feedback, simply reply to this email. 

What the American Withdrawal From Iraq Means for Israel

Through the Dark Clouds, a Silver Lining 


By Gabriel M. Scheinmann - JINSA Visiting Fellow 

Iran-Israel MapOn October 21, President Obama announced the impending end of U.S. military operations in Iraq, ordering the complete withdrawal of American forces by the end of 2011. Unable or unwilling to strike a deal to secure a long-term military presence, the President confidently declared that "Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country's security" leading to much anxiety amongst American commanders.

Although both governments have pledged to work closely together to continue securing Iraq from both external and internal threats, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq and chief of the Office of Security Cooperation responsible for training and equipping Iraqi forces, has acknowledged that there will be a major "training gap" following the American withdrawal. Following comments made last month by Maj. Gen. Russell Handy, responsible for training Iraq's fledgling air force, that there would be a minimum 2-3 year gap in Iraq's ability to defend its airspace, the United States is leaving Iraq behind at a precarious period when it is not yet able to defend itself.


American allies, such as Israel, are similarly nervous about the precipitous departure. A weak and America-less Iraq will have demonstrably negative consequences for Israel's security environment. First, no country with an American military presence has attacked Israel. U.S. forces stationed in Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf States have deterred or prevented those states from embarking on military action. In fact, the presence of U.S. forces has generally signaled the strategic orientation of those countries, first as anti-Soviet and now as anti-Iranian.


Click here to read the full op-ed 



Iran Watch


DroneIn early December, Iran announced that it had shot down a top secret U.S. drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, 140miles from its border with Afghanistan. While denying that the drone had been shot down-U.S. officials have suggested that it may have crashed-the Obama Administration has asked Iran to return it to the United States. After publicizing the capture on Iranian TV, the drone appeared to have surprisingly relatively little damage and it remains unclear whether Tehran has been able to glean any technological or informational benefits from it. 


Recent weeks have seen a series of large, deadly blasts at Iranian military installations. The first blast killed a top commander of Iran's ballistic missile program as well as 16 troops at a large IRGC base near Tehran. The second blast was  suspected at an Iranian nuclear installation near Isfahan. Satellite imagery confirmed that buildings had been razed and bulldozers were at work at the site.


Russia has transferred a series of  electronic intelligence units to Iran that are capable of disrupting airborne radar over a range of nearly 100 miles. Iran also announced that it had added three Ghadir-class submarines, capable of operating in the shallow Persian Gulf waters, to its naval fleet.


In a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear installations, Israel may first disable Iran's vast air defenses through drone-enabled electronic warfare.  Giant Israeli drones, such as the Heron and the Eitan (Heron-TP), would be able to either jam or "sleep" a wide range of Iranian electronics, from cell phones to air defense radars.

Gulf Watch


Senior Saudi prince and former Intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal announced that Saudi Arabia would be forced to acquire nuclear weapons in light of continued Iranian nuclear development and Israel's existing nuclear arsenal. 


As reported in last month's Security Digest, Iraq is purchasing 18 F-16s jets, with the expected delivery date of 2015-2018. In mid-December, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress that Iraq was seeking to purchase an additional 18 F-16s at the cost of $2.3 billion. If Congress approves, Iraq would have 36 F-16s schedule for delivery over the next 10 years.


Iraq is seeking a joint airspace defense agreement with other Gulf countries in order to help secure its airspace following the U.S. withdrawal. Iraq currently has no ability to defend its airspace.



The Israeli Air Force's "giant UAV" is scheduled to become operational in the coming months. Weighing five tons, the Eitan (Heron-TP) is 14m long and has 26m-long wings. It is capable of flying for over 20hrs at a maximum speed of 143knots and a max altitude of 41,000 feet. Although it will begin participating in combat sectors in Gaza and Lebanon, it is widely suspected that the Eitan was developed to reach Iran and the Sudan. 


This coming April, the IDF will incorporate the Elad Yarok into all IDF units. The Elad Yarok is a device capable of communication across radio and encrypted frequencies, meaning that all existing traditional radio receivers will be able to connect with advanced communication devices capable of delivering media.


The IAF announced that it will base its F-35s at the Nevatim Airbase in the Negev. Nevatim has the longest runway in the Middle East and the move is seen as part of Israel's long-term strategy Granite of transferring many of its bases into the Negev. Israel expects to receive its first F-35 in 2015, although it has been concerned with repeated delays to the U.S. jet. As insurance,  the Defense Ministry announced that it would embark on a major upgrade of its existing F-16s in order to increase its lifespan.


The IDF announced a new Field Intelligence Corps Vehicle, the "Granite." Based on the Ford F550, the Granite has the ability to scan an entire area at all times and focus automatically on every suspicious target, reducing the number of soldiers needed to scout a restricted field from two to one. 

Turkey Watch


As detailed in last month's Security Digest, Israel announced that it was increasing missile boat naval patrols around its offshore Mediterranean gas fields, concerned about threats made by Hezbollah and Turkey. This came as the Turkish energy minister declared that Israeli and Cypriot oil exploration was "illegal." 


U.S. Predator drones have begun flying out of southern Turkey to aid Turkey's fight against the PKK. These drones were relocated to Turkey from Iraq following the American withdrawal. For the moment, they are controlled by the United States, but reports suggest that Ankara may receive full operational control in the near future. In a related development, Israel has returned to Turkey the Israeli-made Heron UAVs that were undergoing repairs in Israel. Israel has also sent a technical team to Batman province in southeastern Turkey, where the drones are deployed, in a quiet bid to restore relations following Turkey's downgrading of relations with Israel earlier in the fall.


This past month, Turkey announced that it had seized material presumably bound for Iran's nuclear program. The Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., in making the announcement, declared that "even if [the U.S came] to terms with a nuclear Iran, we will be against it." This development follows a renewal of Turkish-Iranian tension following Turkey's abandonment of its Syrian ally and its decision to host a U.S. missile defense radar. Iran has threatened to attack Turkey's NATO installations if the U.S. or Israel attack its nuclear sites.

Egypt Watch


Israel has accelerated the construction of a 15ft high fence along the entirety of its border with Egypt. The fence is intended to serve several purposes: to prevent terrorist attacks coming from the increasingly lawless Egyptian Sinai and to stem the flow of illegal African migrants seeking political asylum and greater economic opportunity in Israel.


Israeli media reported that Hamas had established forward bases and rocket production facilities in the Sinai believing that Israel would not strike targets in Egypt for political reasons. Israel has become increasingly concerned by the lack of Egyptian control in the Sinai following the fall of the Mubarak regime in February.


The U.S. has agreed to sell Egypt $395 million of components for 125 M-1A1 Abrams tanks. This is the 11th batch of American tanks assembled in Egypt since the program began in 1992. This latest increment will increase the number of Egyptian co-production-built tanks to 1,130. Deliveries of these tanks are expected in July 2013.

Syria and Lebanon


Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that Israel was closely tracking the transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah. Tensions in southern Lebanon have recently increased as a result of the tottering of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's regime. For the first time in two years, rockets targeting Israel were fired from southern Lebanon, French Foreign Minister Alan Juppe blamed Syria for a roadside bomb that wounded 5 French UNIFIL troops, and Syria test-fired Scud B missiles, which have a range of 300km. 


Russia has delivered two 9M117 Bastion coastal defense systems to Syria, as part of a $300 million arms deal concluded four years ago. The medium-range, shore-based anti-ship missile system is compromised of mobile launchers carrying supersonic cruise missiles capable of striking targets on land and at sea with a range of 300km. These missiles are capable of targeting the U.S. Sixth Fleet patrolling the Mediterranean as well as Israeli naval vessels and offshore gas rigs.


The Israeli Defense Ministry announced that it was considering permanently deploying an Iron Dome system in the Haifa Port to protect the Haifa's oil refineries from potential northern rocket fire. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah targeted the oil refineries, but did not succeed in hitting them, which would have caused significant physical, economic, and environmental damage. Israel currently has three Iron Dome systems deployed to the South with a fourth expected early next year.

Old and New Allies


 Germany has lent to Israel cost-free a Patriot air defense radar while Israel's first of three Patriot radar sets is being refurbished in the United States. This marks a growth in German-Israeli security cooperation; Germany gave Israel two Patriot missile batteries in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. In a related development, Israel received a new Patriot missile battery, which it will dismantle and use the parts to refurbish its existing missile batteries across the country. Germany has also agreed to provide Israel with a sixth Dolphin-class submarine and pay up to a third of its cost. After initially hedging on the deal due to Berlin's displeasure with the lack of a peace process, Chancellor Angela Merkel supposedly approved the deal after Israel agreed to release to the Palestinian Authority $100 million of recently withheld tax receipts. 


Israel hosted the Greek Air Force for a five-day exercise in southern Israel. Israel is expected to host the Italian Air Force in the coming days for a similar exercise. USE PIC Additionally, the Greek Air Force Commander visited Israel in mid-December, touring the Ramon and Palmachim airbases.


Canada's and Israel's Defense Ministers announced a deepening of military cooperation, following the signing of a series of memoranda of understandings between the two countries. Although the details were not announced, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said they involved sharing information and military technologies and cited the volatility surrounding the "Arab Spring" as the reason for closer cooperation.


Odinga-Netanyahu Next year, Israel and India will conduct a system test of the Barak 8 Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MR-SAM) in Israel. Both navies are expected to use the Barak 8, which can provide 360 degree defensive cover for a large battle group. The missile is expected to become operational in 2013.


On a visit to Israel, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga asked Israel for training and support in pursuing al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab forces in Somalia that have attacked Kenyan forces. 



In early December, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon met in Washington as part of the semi-annual U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue. In a released statement, the two agreed that  "Iran is the greatest challenge we face today in the Middle East" and that the international community was critical in "preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability." 


The U.S. Army will soon decide whether it will purchase the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system, as part of a layered defense of U.S. military bases overseas.


Senior U.S. officials acknowledged that Washington and Jerusalem may not have the same timeline and expectations when it came to confronting the Iranian nuclear challenge. In an interview, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed that he believed that Israeli and American assessments and expectations over the right course of action regarding Iran were diverging and that Israeli might not warn the United States of its future actions. In an early December brushback speech, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned Israel of the severe negative consequences of a military strike on Iran nuclear facilities. 


Israel's sustained commitment to a strong military has led it to be a leader in military innovation, efficiency, and achievement. As the United States continues to fight wars and types of enemies that Israel has long dealt with, the U.S. military is increasingly relying on Israeli expertise, technology, and training to accomplish its own goals.  

Odds & Ends

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