Ex-CIA chief: Iran and Hezbollah will not risk major war with Israel
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Iran and Hezbollah will not risk a major war with Israel, ex-CIA director and general David Petraeus said on Wednesday.
Speaking from the INSS annual international conference in Tel Aviv, Petraeus explained that a combination of US and Israeli military power had established deterrence with both Iran and Hezbollah from major risky actions, even as they might risk smaller confrontations.
Petraeus said that, “Iran will not risk a major war because it would put its survival at risk,” stating that Tehran knew Jerusalem would not hesitate to unleash massive force in a broad conflict and that even the US might get involved.
He added that he believed Russia would act to restrain the Islamic Republic from major destabilizing activities.
Regarding Hezbollah, he said, “Hezbollah will not risk a full war” with Israel “unless it is pushed into a corner.”
The former CIA director said that, “we in the US underestimated for years” the significance of the blow Israel “dealt Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War.”
He said Israel’s use of force against Hezbollah in 2006 deters Hezbollah from a larger fight to this day.
In addition, he said Hezbollah may worry that Israel’s three tiered missile defense of the Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome could mitigate its huge rocket arsenal, something which Israel could not do in 2006 when it had no real effective missile defense.
Speaking at the conference before Petraeus, ex-CENTCOM chief, four-star general Joseph Votel said that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force “will not be the same” as it was under Qasem Soleimani.
Votel explained that the new IRGC Quds Force chief, Esmail Ghaani, did not have anywhere near the same stature or capabilities as Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in early January in a move that rocked the region.
Votel, who was in charge of US forces and coalition forces addressing Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and many other countries until March 2019, said that killing Soleimani had helped reestablish a balance of deterrence between the US and Iran.
The former general said that Iran was likely “to look inward” and to “consolidate power” within the country in the near future.
He expressed hope that the act of killing Soleimani, the Quds Force loss of his unique capabilities and Iran’s embarrassing mistaken shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner might get the Islamic Republic to back off from some of its more aggressive and risky activities in the region.
Votel added that “Soleimani was deserving of his fate,” but urged better coordination with Baghdad of US military activities in Iraq going forward.
Both Petraeus and Vogel urged the US not to withdraw from the Middle East and leave a vacuum for Russia and others to step in.
Earlier at the conference, US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Lt. Gen. (ret.) H.R. McMaster warned Israel about allowing China to run its port in Haifa.
He said that “when China runs ports and places with infrastructure at a discount…it comes at a hidden price.”
McMaster was explaining his view about how China uses a combination of initially generous economic offers and some coercive moves to gain control of strategic locations and steal intellectual property across the globe.
Israel and the US tend to part ways on China, with the US viewing Beijing as a competitor for dominance in a variety of areas and Jerusalem aspiring to expand its business with China in a variety of ways.
Regarding the Haifa port, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overruled some objections from the Shin Bet and from the US about Chinese management of the port, and instead put in place a special mechanism for reviewing similar transactions in the future.
Also, at the conference, Nadav Zafrir, former IDF Unit 8200 (“the Israeli NSA”) chief and head of cyber security company Team 8, discussed the national security implications of balancing new big data capabilities and privacy rights.
Zafrir said that, “When we see data as the new oil” for economic and technological development, if the right balance isn’t struck to protect privacy rights, “data will become the new plutonium” – meaning it could endanger the world like plutonium-based nuclear weapons.
The former Unit 8200 head also dismissed recent objections by some Microsoft employees about becoming to closely intertwined with Pentagon or US government projects, saying that the public and private sector distinction in the cyber sphere is no longer relevant.
“It was relevant in 2019, but it is not relevant anymore in 2020,” he said.