מאמר שנמחק מאתר צה”ל ממליץ לתקוף מטרות אזרחיות בטהראן
In October 2022, a senior IDF officer published a plan to attack Iranian military, government and civilian targets in a planned war against Iran. It appeared in the army’s military strategy publication, Between the Poles, by Brig. Gen. (res.) Meir Finkel, who served in the armored corps. The publication is dedicated to “military transformation and battle training.” It is under the aegis of the IDF research institute, the Dado Center, whose mission is “to develop the IDF’s operational art and systemic thinking.”
The entire issue is devoted to military strategy concerning Iran. But Finkel’s essay, The Military Approach to Attacking Iranian Counter-Value Targets in a Multi-Front War (pdf), is the most sweeping in terms of the targets he envisions attacking. It has been removed from the website presumably because the article advocates a massive Israeli attack not only on Iranian military targets, but on civilian ones as well. Publicly saying (as the article does) you intend to attack Iranian civilians is not good PR for the IDF (or Israel).
The term “Multi-front war” in the article’s title refers to an Israeli attack against Hezbollah that draws Iran and Hamas into the conflict. He foresees such a war being a decisive one that destroys the Islamist group. He implies that the reason Israel has failed to defeat it in those last three wars is that it was reluctant to commit the forces and firepower to defeat it permanently. After the thousands of Lebanese killed in those previous invasions, I shudder to think what Finkel has in mind.
If Israel committed to Hezbollah’s utter destruction, he claims that the other fronts (Gaza, Iran) attacking Israel will see all this devastation and be deterred from further hostile action. It also will strengthen Israel’s stature in the eyes of its allies and strike fear in the hearts of its enemies, or so Finkel claims.
But if that fails and Iran comes to Hezbollah’s defense, launching an attack of its own using primarily ground-to-ground missiles and drones, then Israel should unleash even more destructive power against Iran. Doing so would reduce the latter’s ability to aid Hezbollah militarily. If total destruction is Israel’s aim, then it’s vital that the Lebanese movement have no access to outside assistance.
He suggests that Israel might take advantage of a war against Hezbollah to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. If or when Iran responds with missile strikes, then Israel should activate his plan to level both military and civilian sites.
On the one hand, we should commend Finkel for revealing the full ugliness of Israel’s war-fighting strategy: the willingness to wipe out potentially hundreds of thousands in three different theaters of war. The sheer ambition of it is breathtaking in a horrifying way. But on the other hand, how does he expect the world to react to this regional disaster? Will it sit on its hands as Israel wipes out major portions of three countries?
Oops! We just started a regional war
He alludes to such “dangers” involving adopting his strategic approach:
Not only might the attack on counter-value targets not impose restraint, but it could lead Iran to expand its offensive activity against Israel. A possible way to prevent the Iranian lack of understanding [!] is through the timing of accompanying messages regarding the Israeli operations that explain the logic behind them. Another risk involved in the approach is that the damage to non-military targets in Iran will erode Israeli legitimacy and therefore reduce its freedom of military action.
It’s commendable Finkel admits his strategy might have some, ahem, unforeseen consequences. But his suggestion that Iran might be mollified as its energy infrastructure, government buildings and communications network went up in flames, with a kindly word from Israel explaining why it was forced to do all this. That should work like a charm.
Finkel cites as precedent for his approach, cites US defense secretary, Robert McNamara’s strategy of mutual assured destruction:
McNamara proposed a countervalue doctrine that expressly targeted Soviet cities. McNamara stated that this doctrine of “assured destruction” could be achieved with as few as 400 high-yield nuclear weapons targeting Soviet population centres; these would be “sufficient to destroy over one-third of population and one-half of industry.” McNamara proposed that the guarantee of mutual annihilation would serve as an effective deterrent to both parties and that the goal of maintaining destructive parity should guide U.S. defense decisions.
The difference between McNamara and Finkel is that the former intended never to use nuclear weapons given the immense destruction to both countries, while Finkel clearly intends to use, if not nuclear weapons, then a massive military strike against Iran.
Finkel refers admiringly to a complementary approach advocated by British and US military strategists, which involves:
Aerial operations that directly harm the enemy- industry, transport infrastructure, communications, government centers, and its ‘will to fight‘, while bypassing the land battlefield.
Pardon me for introducing a bit of skepticism–we have spent 20 years attempting by methods hot and cold to bring Iran to its knees. It has been preparing almost as long for precisely the sort of raid Finkel urges. Why would such devastation undermine the nation’s will to fight? Why wouldn’t it have the exact opposite effect: unite the nation to defend itself in the face of naked aggression?
Not to mention that a war strategy involving air strike alone has limited impact. Have repeated air assaults and ground invasions brought Hamas to heel? Why would a purely aerial operation do what the IDF couldn’t do in Gaza? In order to bring an enemy to its knees or induce regime change, requires infantry on the ground. And Israel cannot mount such an operation against Iran. Nor will any ally supply the forces necessary.
Nevertheless, Finkel is enamored of the air-war strategy regarding the Iranian “threat”:
A new strategic approach involves attacking ‘counter -value targets‘ –government targets and dual targets –civilian buildings which have military use.
Attacking such targets would be a projection of Israeli power during a massive war in Lebanon. For example – attacking government buildings in Tehran and destroying them. The combination of the destruction of such buildings and the planes circling over the skies of Iran is, in my opinion, a commensurate response to the surface-to-surface missiles launched on Israel. In this way, Israel will reduce Iran’s asymmetric advantage resulting from the size of the territory and the population.
Note that it’s likely that almost any civilian building in any urban area might be construed as having a military use, and so could be attacked. This means there would without doubt be major civilian casualties, perhaps in the tens of thousands. In fact, he urges that Israel use the same tactics against Iran that it uses in Gaza, a “large-scale attack.” In other words, a no-holds-barred attack against any targets of any value whatsoever. In Gaza, there are no such things as “dual targets.” Everything living, everything moving is a target. Though he appears to be limiting his targeting, if he advocates the same strategy in Iran he’s talking about obliterating every possible thing that is of any value to the state and its population.
Israeli former military source fears immediate threat of attack
Lest anyone doubt the immediacy of the projected attack, Finkel declares:
The issue requires an internal discussion in the IDF and then a military-political discussion. It is essential to do so quickly in order to make informed decisions in building the manpower for the [expected attack]
An Israeli source from a military background adds:
Based on my conversations with various people in the [military] system, I understand these discussions have already taken place, and that an operational plan has been formulated based on this strategy, and is ready to be approved for immediate use, when needed.
He directed me to the article and added this ominous warning:
…I heard from several sources…[that] Netanyahu’s government is planning an attack on Iran that will include not only military targets but also civilian targets, particularly energy production and distribution infrastructures in Iran.
He adds that this is not merely a product of a random researcher at a crackpot think tank. Rather, it is an official IDF document which outlines a concrete operational plan.
CIA fears Netanyahu may attack because of anti-government protests
Even the CIA notes with alarm recent Israeli military exercises aimed at training for such an attack:
“On 20 February, Israel conducted a large-scale air exercise,” the intelligence report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on February 23, states. The exercise, it says, was “probably to simulate a strike on Iran’s nuclear program and possibly to demonstrate Jerusalem’s resolve to act against Tehran.”
It is less than reassuring that the US intelligence agency “does not know” what Israel’s intentions may be regarding an assault on Iran. But that it fears that Netanyahu feels some urgency to launch such an operation. Further, US national security advisor all but gave the green light to Israel for such an attack:
“As President Biden has repeatedly reaffirmed, he will take the actions that are necessary to stand by this statement, including by recognizing Israel’s freedom of action.”
My source explains his motivation in coming forward now by noting his disenchantment with what the IDF has become under the leadership of Bibi Netanyahu:
This radical government is consciously leading us to dangerous moves that will drag the entire region in to a mistaken and unnecessary war, with no moral justification. I am not alone. Other friends who have served for many years in significant, and some even senior positions in the IDF and other Israeli security organizations, are as concerned as I am about what is happening. Together, we joined to work behind the scenes to influence decision-makers in Israel and prevent this catastrophic folly from being realized.
While none of this means such a military operation will happen within a week or a month, remember that Netanyahu faces an enormous threat to his political survival from the pro-democracy movement. His plans to install a fascist system and abrogate what few legal and democratic safeguards exist in Israeli society, have aroused more anger than any prior legislative scheme he has proposed.
Israel’s attack on Gaza earlier this month won him a reprieve. Israelis do not protest against the government when the country is at war. They fall into line like all good soldiers and support the troops. If any opposition arises it happens much later, after the smoke has cleared and bombs have dropped. By then, Israel could have ignited a regional catastrophe.
A similar attack on Iran would elicit even more support from the nation than the Gaza operation did. Netanyahu has been demonizing Iran for all of his five terms as prime minister. This has normalized such a war in the minds of Israelis. They will support it fully because Iran has become, in their eyes, an existential threat. Both Netanyahu and the IDF are betting that the attacks planned against Iranian civilians will be obscured in the smoke of war.
For the past 15 years I have published scores of posts about the threat of Israeli war on Iran. As far back as 2009, I published portions of secret FBI transcripts of wiretapped conversations in the Israeli embassy. The goal of my source, Shammai Leibowitz, was to blow the whistle on just such a catastrophe. Several times since then Israel has been on the verge of war. But always something or someone intervened to stop the threat.
Given the erosion of norms for global order, especially Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza, it seems more likely than ever that Israel could throw whatever small amount of caution it has to the winds, and launch such an attack. The world in chaos emboldens Israel to take advantage.