The February 2010 visit to Israel by Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, sheds light on the larger context of US-Israel relations, which transcends the Arab-Israeli conflict, leverages Israel’s unique capabilities, and benefits both the US and Israel. The visit reaffirms that US policy toward Israel is based, primarily, on regional and global strategic interests and not on domestic politics. US-Israel relations do not resemble a one-way-street (the US gives and Israel receives), but a mutually-beneficial two-way street.
Admiral Mullen’s visit to Israel centered on a series of aggravated mutual threats and on the implication of the expected US withdrawal from Iraq related to those threats: Iran’s nuclearization, global Islamic terrorism, domestic and regional war in Iraq, escalation of the ballistic threat, Iran’s subversion of the Gulf and the Middle East, al-Qaeda’s entrenchment in Yemen which controls key sea lanes for oil tankers, the war on the Saudi-Yemen border, the intensification of Iranian-Syrian cooperation, the enhanced Middle Eastern profile of Russia and China, Turkey Islamization, etc.
The evacuation of US forces from Iraq could trigger a political-military volcano, with boiling lava sweeping Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Jordan, further deteriorating the region, highlighting Israel’s contribution to the national security of its most critical ally, the USA.
For example, in 2010, US special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan leverage Israeli battle tactics and 61 year counter-terrorism experience. US Marines benefit from the Israeli-developed “Pioneer” unmanned aerial vehicle, which provides intelligence otherwise unobtainable, preempting terrorists, thus saving many lives. A US special operations colonel told me – in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – that his battalion benefited in Iraq from Israel’s unique contribution in the areas of training, urban warfare, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, booby-traps, suicide bombers, roadblocks and checkpoints, interrogation of terrorists and anti-tank missiles.
According to Brig. General Michael Vane, Deputy Chief of Staff at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Israeli experience played a role in defeating terrorists in Iraq’s “Sunni Triangle.”
According to Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense and a veteran of the Intelligence Committee, “Israel’s contribution to US military intelligence is greater than all NATO countries combined.”
In September 2006, Israel demolished a nuclear plant in Syria, thus dealing a blow to the anti-US Syria-Iran-North Korea axis, while upgrading the posture of deterrence and joint interests of the US and Israel.
In 1982, Israel’s Air Force was the first ever to destroy a Soviet built surface-to-air network. Israel destroyed 23 of the most advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries, employed by Syria and considered impregnable. Israel’s battle tactics and lessons, electronic warfare and other technological innovations were shared with the US, thus tilting the global balance of power in favor of the US.
In 1981, Israel devastated Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in defiance of brutal US and international pressure – including a military embargo – thus according to the US the conventional option during the 1991 war against Iraq. It spared the US and the world a nuclear confrontation, along with its mega human losses and mega-billion dollar cost.
In 1970, a Soviet proxy, Syria, invaded a US ally, Jordan, aiming to topple the Hashemite regime and activate a pro-Soviet domino scenario into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. US forces were overly-involved in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but Israel mobilized its military, forcing a Syrian evacuation of Jordan, thus preventing a collapse of pro-US regimes, a setback to US national security, havoc in the Arab oil-producing countries and a blow to the US standard of living. Israel’s capability of snatching roasting chestnuts out of the fire – with no US involvement – transformed President Nixon into a supporter of enhanced US-Israel strategic cooperation, in spite of the fact that only 12% of US Jews voted for him, and irrespective of severe US-Israel disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Former Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig, a former Supreme Commander of NATO, refers to Israel as “the largest, most battle-tested and cost-effective US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US personnel, cannot be sunk and is located at a most critical area for US national security interests.”
If Israel did not exist in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean – adjacent to most critical oil resources and water lanes, in the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa – the US would have to deploy a few aircraft carriers to the region, along with tens of thousands of military personnel, costing scores of billions of dollars annually and risking involvement in additional regional and international confrontations.
The Jewish State constitutes a battle-proven laboratory, which has improved thousands of US-made military systems and technologies, sharing with the US such improvements, thus enhancing the competitive edge of the US defense industries, expanding US employment and export base, upgrading US national security and saving many US lives and mega billion of dollars in terms of research and development cost. For instance, the current generation of the F-16 includes over 600 modifications introduced by Israel.
If there had been an Israel-like nation in the Persian Gulf, there would not be a need to dispatch hundreds of thousands of US military personnel to the region!
The US-Israel strategic cooperation surged meteorically during 1949-1992, despite rocky disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict, entirely due to a series of mutual threats and joint interests, which are much more pertinent to US national security. In hindsight, such disagreements have been merely bumps on the road toward unprecedented strategic cooperation. On a rainy day – in the battle against Iran and other threats – Admiral Mullen prefers a “tough nut” over a “punching bag” as an ally!