Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought”
YnetNews, February 18, 2011
The seismic developments in Egypt and throughout the Arab Middle East highlight Israel’s unique contribution to vital US interests.
The significance of Israel’s strategic added-value is underlined by uncertain and shifty Arab ideologies, policies, alliances and allegiances, by the increasing vulnerability of pro-US Arab regimes, the intensifying unruly nature of Arab societies, the exacerbation of Islamic terrorism, the Iranian nuclear threat, the deepening penetration of the Arab Middle East by Russia and China, the recent erosion of the US posture of deterrence and the expected US evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Israel’s reliability, capability, credibility, stability, democracy and non-conditional alliance with the USA are anomalous in the Middle East.
Egypt – a beneficiary of billions of dollars and state of the art US military systems – enhances strategic ties with North Korea, Russia and China, agitates the Horn of Africa and Sudan, consistently votes against the US at the UN and institutionalizes hate-education. A post-Mubarak regime could overtly join an anti-US axis.
Iran‘s Shah had access to the most advanced US military systems. However, the Shah was toppled; from a staunch US ally, Iran was transformed into the most effective anti-US regime in the world.
Libya‘s King Idris granted the US, in 1954, the use of Wheelus Air Base, which became the largest US Air Force base outside the USA. In 1969, Colonel Qaddafi overthrew King Idris and Wheelus serviced the Soviet Air Force.
Turkey shifted, in 2002, from a corner stone of the US and NATO posture of deterrence to a major pro-Russia supporter of the anti-US Iran-Syria axis.
Jordan –a recipient of US foreign aid – was one of only two Arab regimes which supported Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Jordan’s port of Aqaba became Saddam’s most critical route of supplies during the preparations for the 1991 US-Iraq War.
Iraq was pro-Western until the1958 anti-Western coup. However, Saddam Hussein – who ruled Iraq since 1979 – gained the confidence of the US. Therefore, he benefitted from a shared-intelligence agreement, the transfer of sensitive dual-use American technologies and $5BN loan guarantees, until his invasion of Kuwait.
Yemen was assisted by the US in its war against Aden and has benefited from US foreign aid. Still, Sana’a supported Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait and hosts anti-US Islamic terrorists, while occasionally fighting them.
Saudi Arabia depends on the US for its survival in the face of lethal regional threats. The 1991 and 2003 US Gulf Wars were largely induced by the concern of a Saddam takeover of Saudi Arabia. However, Riyad bankrolls the operations of anti-US Islamic organizations in the US and anti-US Islamic terrorists.
Israel, on the other hand, was described by the late General Alexander Haig, who was a Supreme Commander of NATO and a US Secretary of State, as “the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require even one US soldier, cannot be sunk, is the most cost-effective and battle-tested, located in a region which is critical to vital US interests. If there would not be an Israel, the US would have to deploy real aircraft carriers, along with tens of thousands of US soldiers, which would cost tens of billions of dollars annually, dragging the US unnecessarily into local, regional and global conflicts. All of which is spared by the Jewish State.”
For example, in 1970, pro-Soviet Syria invaded Jordan, threatening a domino scenario into the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The US military was preoccupied with Vietnam and could not deploy troops to Jordan. Israel was asked to mobilize its military, and the Syrian invasion was rolled back. Thus, Israel denied the USSR a major coup and spared the US a potential economic disaster, without deploying a single US soldier.
General John Keegan, a former chief of US Air Force Intelligence determined that Israel’s contribution to the US intelligence was “equal to five CIAs.”
Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and former Chairman of the Intelligence Committee: “The intelligence received from Israel exceeds the intelligence received from all NATO countries combined.” He assessed that Soviet military hardware which was transferred, by Israel, to the USA (P-12 Soviet radar in 1969, Mig-21 and Mig-23 Soviet fighter aircraft in 1966 and 1989 respectively, etc.) tilted the global balance of power in favor of the USA and amounted to a mega-billion dollar bonus to the USA.
In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, thus sparing the US a nuclear confrontation with Iraq in1991 and 2003. In 1982 and 2007, Israel demolished Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries operated by Syria and a Syrian-Iranian-North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. The battle tactics – which were the first ever to penetrate such advanced Soviet/Russian defense systems – were shared with the US Air Force, enhancing the US military edge over Moscow.
In 2011, US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan benefit from Israel’s experience in combating Improvised Explosive Devices, car bombs and suicide bombers.
The Jewish State constitutes the most advanced battle-tested laboratory for US military systems. The F-16 jet fighter includes over 600 Israeli-induced modifications, which saved the manufacturer billions of dollars and many years of research & development. Hundreds of additional US military systems, operated by Israel, generate similar benefits, according the US defense industries a global competitive edge and expanding US export and employment.
Upgrading the current mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation is required in light of the aforementioned benefits, and in response to the turmoil in Egypt and its potential regional ripple effects, while the US lowers its military profile in the region. For example:
*Upgrading the port facilities of Ashdod for use by the Sixth Fleet;
*Pre-positioning, in Israel, US homeland security systems, combat aircraft, missiles, tanks and armed personnel carriers, which would expedite US missions to preserve pro-US Arab regimes;
*Constructing, in Israel, US military facilities;
*Establishing a bi-national defense industrial cooperation fund, leveraging each country’s competitive edge.