When Iran, Israel, and Turkey worked together (& The novel, that enchanting beast)

May 16, 2015

 

* LA Times: “Amos Oz (above) is a committed left-leaning Zionist, criticizing anyone who questions Israel’s right to exist. ‘Nobody presented this question in Germany during the days of Hitler or in Russia under Stalin,’ said Oz. ‘But the question is being presented more and more often about Israel, and I don’t like it.’ He added there is ‘something dark, looming underneath’ the antipathy toward Israel that is ‘based on the assumption that Jews are not like everybody else.’”

 

* Yossi Alpher: “The Trident alliance, through which, between 1956 and 1979, Israel shared intelligence with Iran and Turkey on a scale not seen since, was one of Israel’s most far-reaching and comprehensive foreign policy accomplishments…

Iran and Turkey voted against the creation of Israel by the United Nations in 1947, and neither supported Israel’s request for UN membership in 1949. Nevertheless, both proceeded to recognize Israel on a de facto basis, establishing low-level or thinly concealed relations through trade missions. Iran and Turkey had a number of motives to enter into relations with Israel and maintain them at low and often deniable levels. For one, those countries’ relations with their Arab neighbors were often tense, and warming or cooling to Israel was useful leverage…

Trident also wrought regional geostrategic incentives. Israel’s achievements in the 1956 Sinai campaign, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s erratic regime in Egypt, the Iraqi coup in 1958, and growing fears of Soviet incursion all brought Iran, Israel, and Turkey into an intelligence relationship that took form in a series of separate meetings in Europe, Ankara, and Tehran from 1956 to 1958. At the first triangular meeting, heads of each national intelligence organization established an impressive array of cooperative intelligence ventures, some leading to subversion projects directed against Nasserist and Soviet regional influence…

From Israel’s standpoint, Trident was a lopsided intelligence alliance under a gloss of pompous protocol: Israel provided far better information and more intelligence know-how than it received in return. Despite its lack of real substance at the trilateral level, Trident sent an important message to the Americans, the Soviets, and the Arabs: Israel was not alone; it had important regional allies. From the point of departure of Israel’s acute isolation in the 1950s, this was of huge importance. It projected deterrence, permanence, and stability in a period where Israel found itself lost in a broader landscape of enemies.”

 

* Tom Gross: contrast this with the situation since Islamist leaders took over Iran and Turkey. “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel,” Mojtaba Zolnour, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s deputy representative to the Revolutionary Guards, told Iranian media three days ago. “The Noble Koran permits the Islamic Republic of Iran to destroy Israel,” said the government whose nuclear weapons program is moving ahead.

Today Israel has a developing intelligence relationship with some of the Sunni Arab powers.

 

* Robert Farley: “Since 1948, the state of Israel has fielded a frighteningly effective military machine. Built on a foundation of pre-independence militias, supplied with cast-off World War II weapons, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have enjoyed remarkable success in the field. In the 1960s and 1970s, both because of its unique needs and because of international boycotts, Israel began developing its own military technologies, as well as augmenting the best foreign tech. Today, Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced military stockpiles in the world, and one of the world’s most effective workforces. Here are five of the most deadly systems that the Israeli Defense Forces currently employ…”

“When considering the effectiveness of Israeli weapons, and the expertise of the men and women who wield them, it’s worth noting that for all the tactical and operational success the IDF has enjoyed, Israel remains in a strategically perilous position.”

 

Below, I attach 3 articles concerning Middle East background developments, each of a different nature. There are short extracts of the articles above, for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.


CONTENTS

1. Trident’s Forgotten Legacy: When Iran, Israel, and Turkey Worked Together (By Yossi Alpher, Foreign Affairs, May 7, 2015)
2. Israel’s 5 Most Deadly Weapons of War (By Robert Farley, The National Interest, May 12, 2015)
3. Amos Oz makes his words count in Israel (By Jeffrey Fleishman, LA Times, May 9, 2015)

 

WHEN IRAN, ISRAEL, AND TURKEY WORKED TOGETHER

(Tom Gross: Yossi Alpher is a retired Israeli intelligence officer.)

Trident’s Forgotten Legacy: When Iran, Israel, and Turkey Worked Together
Yossi Alpher
Foreign Affairs
May 7, 2015

The Trident alliance, through which, between 1956 and 1979, Israel shared intelligence with Iran and Turkey on a scale not seen since, was one of Israel’s most far-reaching and comprehensive foreign policy accomplishments. The program represented the vanguard of Israel’s doctrine for dealing with its neighbors and provided the nation with a grand strategy for the first time since its creation. Jerusalem’s relationship with Tehran lasted more than 20 years, until the fall of Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. Israel’s strategic relationship with Turkey continued on and off for several decades, ending with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s acerbic comments at the Davos summit in 2009. Although ambitious, Trident was just one in a series of Israeli attempts to find common ground with non-Arab allies – most of which yielded only fleeting success.

Iran and Turkey voted against the creation of Israel by the United Nations in 1947, and neither supported Israel’s request for UN membership in 1949. Nevertheless, both proceeded to recognize Israel on a de facto basis, establishing low-level or thinly concealed relations through trade missions. Iran and Turkey had a number of motives to enter into relations with Israel and maintain them at low and often deniable levels. For one, those countries’ relations with their Arab neighbors were often tense, and warming or cooling to Israel was useful leverage. Additionally, there was the U.S. dimension: Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion marketed Trident to Washington as an asset to the West against Soviet inroads into the Middle East and as a force to fight Arab radicalism. Both Iran and Turkey understood Jewish influence in the United States and perceived that a close relationship with Israel would mean that the U.S. Jewish lobby would convey their needs to Washington.

Although ambitious, Trident was just one in a series of Israeli attempts to find common ground with non-Arab allies – most of which yielded only fleeting success.

Trident also wrought regional geostrategic incentives. Israel’s achievements in the 1956 Sinai campaign, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s erratic regime in Egypt, the Iraqi coup in 1958, and growing fears of Soviet incursion all brought Iran, Israel, and Turkey into an intelligence relationship that took form in a series of separate meetings in Europe, Ankara, and Tehran from 1956 to 1958. At the first triangular meeting, heads of each national intelligence organization established an impressive array of cooperative intelligence ventures, some leading to subversion projects directed against Nasserist and Soviet regional influence.

In those days, the Israeli-Iranian aspect of the trilateral relationship was generally more active than the Israeli-Turkish dimension; Iraqi Jews who fled the Baghdad regime to Iraqi Kurdistan were then able to migrate to Israel and elsewhere via Iran. Israeli officers trained Iranian forces, and Israel sold arms to the shah. Israel’s relationship with Turkey was based on historical cooperation: Turkey sheltered Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazi occupation of Europe. Ankara’s decision to enter the agreement, however, was rooted in Cold War fears of regional communism and anger over Arab support for Greece in Cyprus.

To be sure, however, from the earliest days of Trident, Ankara and Tehran would temporarily downgrade their ties with Israel whenever Arab pressure became problematic. Both Turkey and Iran allowed themselves to offend Israeli sensibilities; they believed that Israel needed secret ties with them much more than they needed Israel. While Trident flourished quietly, Turkey raised and lowered the profile of its overt relationship with Israel in accordance with sensitivities to Arab pressure over the Palestinian issue. During both the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, Turkey refused to allow U.S. military resupply efforts to use Turkish bases or airspace in order to aid Israel. In 1975, Ankara even voted for the “Zionism is Racism” resolution in the UN General Assembly; in 1991, when the resolution was revoked, Turkey abstained. Even when Turkey finally raised relations with Israel to ambassadorial level in 1991 – long after Trident – it balanced this by recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as a state.

By 1979, attitudes shifted in Tehran, and Trident was all but dead. During the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the shah joined the OPEC oil embargo, punishing countries linked with Israel and cutting off oil shipments to Israel. In 1975, Pahlavi gave a revealing interview openly acknowledging Iran’s military and intelligence ties with Israel, rationalizing them in terms of Arab hostility during Nasser’s time. “But now the situation has changed,” he added. “Israeli media are attacking us energetically…We advised Israel that it cannot conquer the entire Arab world. For that you need a population of at least 20–30 million… Israel commands the attention of all the Arab nations. I’m not certain there is a final solution for the problem of this confrontation.”

After the fall of the shah and the collapse of Trident, Israeli-Turkish relations maintained their early roller coaster of high and low points, corresponding with Turkey’s crises and successes with the Arab world. After a low point in the late 1980s, senior Israeli officials invested heavily in rebuilding the relationship, including helping Turkey counter the Armenian lobby in Washington. A major strategic upgrade in Israeli-Turkish relations took place during the 1990s, spearheaded by the all-powerful Turkish armed forces. Ankara concluded arms sales with Jerusalem, and Turkish leaders visited Israel. Eventually, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party’s ascent to power in 2002 under Erdogan heralded yet another downward swing for relations with Israel. The relationship’s nadir culminated in the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, in which Israeli naval commandos, in self-defense, killed nine Turkish Islamists in international waters in the course of an ill-conceived interception of a Turkish aid ship headed for the Gaza Strip.

From Israel’s standpoint, Trident was a lopsided intelligence alliance under a gloss of pompous protocol: Israel provided far better information and more intelligence know-how than it received in return. Despite its lack of real substance at the trilateral level, Trident sent an important message to the Americans, the Soviets, and the Arabs: Israel was not alone; it had important regional allies. From the point of departure of Israel’s acute isolation in the 1950s, this was of huge importance. It projected deterrence, permanence, and stability in a period where Israel found itself lost in a broader landscape of enemies.

 

ISRAEL’S 5 MOST DEADLY WEAPONS OF WAR

Israel’s 5 Most Deadly Weapons of War
By Robert Farley
The National Interest
May 12, 2015

Since 1948, the state of Israel has fielded a frighteningly effective military machine. Built on a foundation of pre-independence militias, supplied with cast-off World War II weapons, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have enjoyed remarkable success in the field. In the 1960s and 1970s, both because of its unique needs and because of international boycotts, Israel began developing its own military technologies, as well as augmenting the best foreign tech. Today, Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced military stockpiles in the world, and one of the world’s most effective workforces. Here are five of the most deadly systems that the Israeli Defense Forces currently employ.

MERKAVA

The Merkava tank joined the IDF in 1979, replacing the modified foreign tanks (most recently of British and American vintage) that the Israelis had used since 1948. Domestic design and construction avoided problems of unsteady foreign supply, while also allowing the Israelis to focus on designs optimized for their environment, rather than for Central Europe. Around 1,600 Merkavas of various types have entered service, with several hundred more still on the way.

The Merkava entered service after the great tank battles of the Middle East had ended (at least for Israel). Consequently, the Merkavas have often seen combat in different contexts that their designers expected. The United States took major steps forward with the employment of armor in Iraq and Afghanistan (particularly in the former) in a counter-insurgency context, but the Israelis have gone even farther. After mixed results during the Hezbollah war, the IDF, using updated Merkava IVs, has worked hard to integrate the tanks into urban fighting. In both of the recent Gaza wars, the IDF has used Merkavas to penetrate Palestinian positions while active defense systems keep crews safe. Israel has also developed modifications that enhance the Merkavas’ capabilities in urban and low-intensity combat.

Indeed, the Merkavas have proved so useful in this regard that Israel has cancelled plans to stop line production, despite a lack of significant foreign orders.

F-15I THUNDER

The Israeli Air Force has flown variants of the F-15 since the 1970s, and has become the world’s most versatile and effective user of the Eagle. As Tyler Rogoway’s recent story on the IAF fleet makes clear, the Israelis have perfected the F-15 both for air supremacy and for strike purposes. Flown by elite pilots, the F-15Is (nicknamed “thunder”) of the IAF remain the most lethal squadron of aircraft in the Middle East.

The F-15I provides Israel with several core capabilities. It remains an effective air-to-air combat platform, superior to the aircraft available to Israel’s most plausible foes (although the Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafales entering service in the Gulf, not to mention Saudi Arabia’s own force of F-15SAs, undoubtedly would provide some competition. But as Rogoway suggests, the Israelis have worked long and hard at turning the F-15 into an extraordinarily effective strike platform, one capable of hitting targets with precision at long range. Most analysts expect that the F-15I would play a key role in any Israeli strike against Iran, along with some of its older brethren.

JERICHO III

The earliest Israeli nuclear deterrent came in the form of the F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers that the IAF used to such great effect in conventional missions in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War. Soon, however, Israel determined that it required a more effective and secure deterrent, and began to invest heavily in ballistic missiles. The Jericho I ballistic missile entered service in the early 1970s, to eventually be replaced by the Jericho II and Jericho III.

The Jericho III is the most advanced ballistic missile in the region, presumably (Israel does not offer much data on its operation) capable of striking targets not only in the Middle East, but also across Europe, Asia, and potentially North America. The Jericho III ensures that any nuclear attack against Israel would be met with devastating retaliation, especially as it is unlikely that Israel could be disarmed by a first strike. Of course, given that no potential Israeli foe has nuclear weapons (or will have them in the next decade, at least), the missiles give Jerusalem presumptive nuclear superiority across the region.

DOLPHIN

Israel acquired its first submarine, a former British “S” class, in 1958. That submarine and others acquired in the 1960s played several important military roles, including defense of the Israeli coastline, offensive operations against Egyptian and Syrian shipping, and the delivery of commando teams in war and peace. These early boats were superseded by the Gal class, and finally by the German Dolphin class (really two separate classes related to the Type 212) boats, which are state-of-the-art diesel-electric subs.

The role of the Dolphin class in Israel’s nuclear deterrent has almost certainly been wildly overstated. The ability of a diesel electric submarine to carry out deterrent patrols is starkly limited, no matter what ordnance they carry. However, the Dolphin remains an effective platform for all sorts of other missions required by the IDF. Capable of maritime reconnaissance, of sinking or otherwise interdicting enemy ships, and also of delivering special forces to unfriendly coastlines, the Dolphins represent a major Israeli security investment, and one of the most potentially lethal undersea forces in the region.

THE ISRAELI SOLDIER

The technology that binds all of these other systems together is the Israeli soldier. Since 1948 (and even before) Israel has committed the best of its human capital to the armed forces. The creation of fantastic soldiers, sailors, and airmen doesn’t happen by accident, and doesn’t result simply from the enthusiasm and competence of the recruits. The IDF has developed systems of recruitment, training, and retention that allow it to field some of the most competent, capable soldiers in the world. None of the technologies above work unless they have smart, dedicated, well-trained operators to make them function at their fullest potential.

CONCLUSION

When considering the effectiveness of Israeli weapons, and the expertise of the men and women who wield them, it’s worth noting that for all the tactical and operational success the IDF has enjoyed, Israel remains in a strategically perilous position. The inability of Israel to develop long-term, stable, positive relationships with its immediate neighbors, regional powers, and the subject populations of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip means that Jerusalem continues to feel insecure, its dominance on land, air, and sea notwithstanding. Tactics and technologies, however effective and impressive, cannot solve these problems; only politics can.

(Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs.)

 

THE NOVEL. THAT ENCHANTING BEAST.

Amos Oz makes his words count in Israel
By Jeffrey Fleishman
Los Angeles Times
May 9, 2015

The novel.

That enchanting beast.

“It’s not made of ideas or concepts or plots or intrigues. It’s made of words,” Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, said of how he makes a living. “This is never easy because words have no color. They make no sounds. They produce no smell. They are very abstract. If I use the word ‘sunshine’ in one of my books, I will have to rely on you, the reader, to recruit all the sunshines you have experienced for anything at all to happen.”

He paused. “Otherwise,” he said, “these words are just black ants on a white field of snow.”

Oz writes in longhand. He uses two pens, one black, one blue, which sit on a desk in a home in Tel Aviv. His best work is done before 9 a.m. His words unspool in eloquent threads. They can also be terse. Sharp. They can dance. They absorb and give off light, and even the omitted ones summon deep meaning. He has been writing since he was a boy, and now, at 76, Oz, one of most provocative voices against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, is a man energized by fitting words to the travails and joys of a scarred land.

His novels and essays have been translated into dozens of languages; he is often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His fiction – a term he doesn’t like – includes “My Michael,” the tale of a disintegrating marriage, and “A Perfect Peace,” about passions and ideological struggles on a kibbutz before the 1967 Six Day War. The film version of his autobiography, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” was directed by Natalie Portman and is expected to be released this year.

Oz was in Los Angeles this week to accept the UCLA Israel Studies Award for contributing to a “greater understanding of Israel.” In remarks during the ceremony, Portman praised the author for “putting words to our longings and for never losing to cynicism and your insistence on peace, even when it is not as popular as it should be.”

Born in Jerusalem, Oz has lived and written through the founding of a nation, wars, intifadas, the rise of Hamas, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and a Middle East landscape upset by Arab uprisings. He has been labeled a dove for his persistent calls for a two-state solution to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but is a committed left-leaning Zionist, criticizing anyone who questions Israel’s right to exist.

“Nobody presented this question in Germany during the days of Hitler or in Russia under Stalin,” said Oz. “But the question is being presented more and more often about Israel, and I don’t like it.” He added there is “something dark, looming underneath” the antipathy toward Israel that is “based on the assumption that Jews are not like everybody else.”

Oz, who spent many years on a kibbutz, is accustomed to enemies. He chafes at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line policies and opposes the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He was vilified last year by right-wing groups and others for comparing militant Jewish settlers to neo-Nazis. Others have questioned his patriotism, which in Israel is set against intense political maneuvering and daily concerns about security.

“I regard the title traitor as an honorary declaration, and I wear it [as a] badge because I am in excellent company,” he said, noting that Abraham Lincoln, the prophet Jeremiah and many writers and intellectuals were branded traitors. “It may be a more respectable club than those who have never been called traitors by anyone.”

Oz is slight. He moves like an aging wrestler. His blue eyes glow behind glasses, his gray hair is a bit mussed, but the face – evolving in photos over time like carvings on stone – is rugged and handsome. It is a face of the elements, of the desert. His voice is accented and clear and, at times, a finger rises to emphasize sentences that flow with foreboding and mischievous delight.

“Oz and his contemporaries were influenced by American and European writers and believed in art for art’s sake,” said Avraham Balaban, an author and professor of modern Hebrew literature. “But writing in Israel of the late ‘50s and ‘60s, he could not detach himself from what was going on in society and politics. His work is structured so that the powerful personal psychological struggles correspond with the broader struggles characterizing Israeli society.”

The writer and his nation are entwined. Oz is as animated talking about politics as he is about the spin and whirl of words, their nuances and cadences. He is a realist; he believes many nations, including Iran, will eventually build nuclear weapons and that mutual deterrence will emerge based on a “balance of horror.” But he also senses possibilities – perhaps too wishful – in a region inured to strife.

“Israel stands at a unique opportunity to reach a comprehensive peace with neighboring Arab countries and with secular Palestine,” he said. “Not because the Arabs are suddenly turning Zionists and not because their eyes have been opened to see the light of the Jewish state but simply because every one of the Arab regimes has a more immediate and dangerous enemy right now. Israel is an ally in the battle of the Arab governments against fundamentalist Islam.”

At such a crucial time, Israel’s relationship with America is strained, highlighted by the rancor between Netanyahu and President Obama over Iran’s nuclear program.

“It’s a very bizarre relationship,” Oz said. “Israel has the sanction of the screaming baby, and it’s quite an effective sanction. America has the sanction of the angry parent, and this latter sanction is not fully exercised yet, but it might be one day.”

Animosity between friends, a possible peace between enemies. The stuff of great stories. But Oz said Israeli writers may be slipping away from the Judeo-Slavic tradition in which poet and author were regarded as prophets “to provide a sort of vision, to show the way.” It was easier to fill such a role decades ago, when Israel was in the throes and tremors of becoming a country.

“Israeli writers are normalized,” he said. “They write about everyday life: love, jealousy, solitude, ambition, longing, loss, the great and simple topics. Everyday existence in Israel is no longer ... the epic of the birth of a nation. The nation is born for better or worse. So you will find fewer and fewer Israeli writers dealing with the birth of a nation, dealing with the question of where do we go from here.”

He paused and took a breath. “Instead,” he said, “you will find more and more about the tragicomedy of everyday life in a beleaguered, besieged country.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.