Security Digest Banner
January 2012 - 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. 

Reassessment: Why 2011 should force a 2012 American Rethink of its Middle Eastern Military Relationships


By Gabriel M. Scheinmann - JINSA Visiting Fellow 


It is an odd situation when your strongest ally finds itself surrounded by increasingly hostile forces whose militaries you arm and train. And yet, this is exactly the state of U.S.-Israel affairs. 2011 witnessed the decline or fall of many of America's Middle Eastern allies. Islamist groups made major gains in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt. The "partner for peace" Palestinian Authority (PA) concluded a reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group Hamas, Iran extended its domination of Lebanon through its Hezbollah proxy, and the Iraqi government took a pro-Iranian authoritarian turn following the American withdrawal. The common thread to all these regimes: the U.S. has continued its military aid, assistance, or training to all of them despite these substantial negative political changes.


Egyptian F-16s
Egyptian F-16s 

Take Egypt. The United States has been Egypt's prime military benefactor since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, providing $1.3 billion in military aid in 2011 and selling it many of its heavy arms systems including M1 Abrams tanks, which are assembled in Egypt, and over 200 F-16 fighter jets. Following the fall of the Mubarak regime last February, Egypt has permitted passage of Iranian warships through the Suez Canal, been unable to secure the Egyptian-Israeli border from increased terror attacks and arms smuggling into Gaza, and was unwilling to prevent a mob attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Most recently, radical Islamist parties, with an anti-Israel if not anti-Semitic agenda, have won an overwhelming victory in lower house parliamentary elections, promising to put the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord to a popular referendum. Israel could soon face a situation where it is being threatened by radical, Islamist regime whose military is American trained and armed.


Click here to read the full op-ed  



Iran Watch


Tensions rose severely in the Persian Gulf after a series of Iranian provocations. First, Iran held a major, 10-day naval wargame near the Strait of Hormuz, aimed at demonstrating Iranian control of the Persian Gulf. Second, as part of the exercises, Iran test-fired a Qader cruise missile. The missile has a range of 125 miles, which would threaten many American forces in the region. Third, Tehran released a video taken from one its aircraft that was tracking the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, a U.S. aircraft carrier, from close-range as it was exiting the Persian Gulf.  Iran's Army chief publicly warned the U.S. Navy to not return the Stennis to the Gulf.


Following Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's speech last month that warned of the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren lodged a formal diplomatic protest. The White House has assured Israel that it had its own "red lines" that would trigger U.S. military action, but it has been unable to secure a promise from Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel would not attack Iran without U.S. permission. In a subsequent interview, Secretary Panetta  stated that he believed Iran will have a nuclear weapon in less than a year (though his aides subsequently walked back the assessment), than a nuclear Iran was "unacceptable", and that "if they (Iran) proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it." This follows recent remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Iran's nuclear weapons program was nine months away from a "zone of immunity" when it could no longer be stopped.


The IDF has created a new military command, the Strategic Depth Command, which is being referred to in Israel as the "Iran Command". The Strategic Depth Command is commando-heavy, overseeing special forces from Sayeret Matkal, Shaldag, and Flotilla 13. The establishment mirrors the U.S. Special Operations Command and will be primarily responsible for overseeing covert operations in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.


Iran is investing $1 billion in offensive and defense cyberwarfare capabilities in response to the damage its nuclear program suffered from the Stuxnet and Duqu viruses.

Gulf Watch


The last American soldier left Iraq-outside of a minimal force designed to protect the American embassy and consulates. Similarly, NATO ended its training mission of Iraqi security forces after the inability to agree on the immunity status of its troops. Since the full military withdrawal, Iraq has suffered a series of high-casualty, coordinated bombings. Iran's top military commander quickly announced that it was ready "to establish, boost and expand all types of military, defense and security cooperation with the friendly and brotherly nation of Iraq".


The Obama Administration has embarked on a massive, decade-long $123 billion plan to arm Persian Gulf countries. It recently announced a $29.4 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The package, part of the $60 billion agreement announced in October 2010, includes 84 F-15 fighter aircraft, which would more than double its' current fleet, upgrades to its current 70 F-15 aircraft, as well as various spare parts and logistics materiel. In addition to highlighting its' positive impact on the American economy, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro added that "this sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East. It will enhance Saudi Arabia's ability to deter and defend against external threats to its sovereignty. It will advance interoperability between the air forces of our two countries through joint training and exercises." Aircraft delivery is not expected until 2015 at the earliest.


In a related development, the Obama Administration also announced a $3.48 billion sale of missiles to the U.A.E. The deal includes 96 missiles and supporting technology, most importantly the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile weapon system. Initially proposed in 2008, the sale represents the first foreign sale of the THAAD system and is not expected to be fully operational until at least 2016. Similarly, recent sales to Iraq have totaled $11 billion, despite concerns both in Washington and from Sunni and Kurdish leaders over Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's consolidation of power and ties to Iran.



Text MessageThe IDF reported that Iron Dome had a 75% successful missile interception rate, an improvement over its initial performance following the correction of a radar problem. The IDF Home Front Command recently tested an early warning text message alert system that would provide real time warnings of incoming missiles to local residents.


The IDF announced that one of its three Dolphin-class submarines had been undergoing extensive renovations over the last two years and had been out of service. The servicing was kept a secret in order to prevent enemies from knowing it was out of commission. Israel's submarines are its most expensive military platforms. The renovation is expected to be completed shortly.


The IDF has approved a plan to improve communication in all ground forces by 2014. The new, lighter portable transceiver 710 will be installed in all infantry units will allow the units to encrypt information in the field and will connect to control systems.


Developed by Rafael and now being implemented by the IDF, the "Trophy System" is an advanced active armor-defense system to defend Merkava tanks from anti-tank missiles. The system creates a protective dome that detects, tracks, and then neutralizes anti-tank threats.

Turkey Watch


Israel canceled a $140 million defense contract with Turkey, originally signed three years ago, out of fear that the Elbit System-made aerial surveillance systems might fall into Iranian hands. As reported in November's Security Digest, Turkey is close to finishing and will launch in the next two years the Gokturk satellite, which will be capable of taking high resolution photos of Israeli territory that our currently blurred by Israeli and American military satellites. The Gokturk project will severely enhance Turkey's aerial reconnaissance capabilities and even permit it to sell the images to other countries, such as Iran.


On a more constructive note, the IAF and the Turkish Air Force reestablished a coordination mechanism that works to prevent misunderstandings and accidents over the Mediterranean, which Turkey had suspended in September.


Turkey announced that it would buy a first order of two F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, despite its cost overruns and delays. Turkey will begin the reception of the aircraft in 2015. Additionally, Turkey stated that it selected U.S. firm Bell Textron to produce 100 light helicopters for its police force at a cost estimated to be in the range of $100 million.

Egypt Watch


The IDF has erected a virtual "electronic fence" in the Red Sea as part of its efforts to secure its southern border due to the massive increase in security threats coming from the ungoverned Sinai Peninsula. By adding a significant number of electronic sensors along the coast, the Israeli navy can track objects as small as Coke cans floating in the Red Sea. Israel's planned 240km fence along the Egyptian border is currently 40% complete.


PlaneAdditionally, reports surfaced that Israeli Apache helicopters had landed on an island off the Sudanese coast. There have been several reports of Israeli airstrikes in Sudan over the last three years, as Israel attempts to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza strip by Hamas. Passenger planes landing in Eilat have recently changed their landing approach due to the threat of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) emanating from the Sinai. Over the past year, the security situation in the Sinai has seen a massive deterioration due to the fall of the Mubarak and Qaddafi regimes.


Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that once the Egyptian border fence is complete, Israel will begin construction of a similar barrier along its Jordanian border. In 2011, Israel faced a record number of illegal migrants, mostly from East Africa, seeking better living and economic conditions. Jerusalem is concerned that once the Egyptian barrier is complete, the migrants might seek alternative paths of entry, either by sea or through Jordan.

Levant Watch

As noted in last month's Security Digest, the Israeli Navy will deploy its missile boat squadrons to protect its offshore Mediterranean gas fields, including any future drilling rigs, from missile and bomb attacks. Although the IAF will also provide aircraft for surveillance purposes and in case of an attack, the increased responsibility has led the Navy to add two missile boats over the next few years, with more additions likely.


The Syrian military, in the midst of suppressing a popular rebellion against the regime, conducted military exercises in mid-December, including a number of missiles tests. For the first time, Syria fired the Russian-made P-800 supersonic Yakhont anti-ship missile. Last week, a large Russian naval flotilla, led by an aircraft carrier, docked at Syria's Tartus port. The move is seen as a symbol of support for the beleaguered Assad regime.

Old and New Allies    


Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has agreed to sell $1.1billion in weapons, including aircraft and missile technology, to India. This equals IAI's largest sale, which had been to India in 2009. Israel past Asian defense trading partners include Singapore, South Korea, India, and China.   


Romanian AF CommanderAs part of the expanding defense ties between Israel and southeastern European countries, the Commander of the Romanian Air Force visited Israel in mid-December to observe the Israeli Air Force, including visits to the Tel Nof and Nevatim air bases and a flight in an Israeli F-16. Earlier in 2011, the IAF had trained in Romania. Likewise, Cypriot media reported that Cyprus and Israel have signed two defense cooperation agreements during Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's recent visit to the country.  Barak also visited Greece, marking the 4th visit by a senior Israeli official in 17 months.   


The Italian Air Force and the IAF completed a two-week training exercise in Israel in mid-December, including Israeli F-15 and F-16 and Italian Euro-Fighters and Tornado aircraft, following a similar exercise two months prior in Italy. On the final day of the exercise, defense attaches from the U.S., Germany, Canada, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, and Japan observed the exercises and were briefed by top IAF officers.   



President Obama announced a major defense strategic review, which involves a massive reduction in ground forces, continued defense budget cuts, and a "rebalancing" of naval and aerial forces towards the Asia-Pacific region. The review is expected to have far-reaching consequences and has already generated large amounts of commentary expressing concern over the United States' future ability to be the global military leader.  


Commander of the U.S. Third Air Force, Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, was in Israel in mid-December in preparation of the joint training exercise "Austere Challenge 12". He toured various IAF bases as well as an Iron Dome battery. "Austere Challenge 12" will be a major joint exercise, involving thousands of U.S. forces, and will include the creation of U.S. command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany and, among other military operations, will  simulate a regional missile crisis. The U.S. intends to bring its THAAD and ship-based Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel in order to operate them jointly with Israel's three-tiered systems, Arrow, Patriot, and Iron Dome.  


The U.S. announced that it would allocate $235 million to Israeli anti-missile system in 2012, most of it towards the development of the David's Sling system and the Arrow 2 and 3 systems. Pentagon officials had requested $106 million, with Congress choosing to more than double the amount--$25 million more than in 2011. This allocation is not part of U.S. military aid to Israel and comes with the understanding that Israel will commit a similar amount to the systems' developments.  


Israel expressed concern to the U.S. about the viability of its recently purchased bunker buster bombs following a multi-million dollar Justice Department settlement with their manufacturer over allegedly supplying faulty fuses. The initial lawsuit launched by the U.S. alleged that the defective fuses could lead to premature detonations.  


Israel will soon purchase 2,500 Hummers and other vehicles used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan using its U.S. military aid.  


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is expected in Israel over the coming weeks, his first visit since becoming Chairman. 

Odds & Ends
Like us on Facebook                    Follow us on Twitter                    View our videos on YouTube                    Visit our blog