Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
Yesterday COL Lang wrote about Israeli Defense Force's Chief of Staff Lt. General Gantz's remarks pertaining to Iran. I wanted to take a few lines and focus on some other portions of Lt. General Gantz's remarks, specifically those about Iranian strategic decision making. Lt. General Gantz, told his interviewers from Haaretz, that "If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people." While he still sounded a cautious note in regards to potential Iranian nuclear ambitions - "But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous", his caution was tempered by his evaluation of both the Iranian Supreme Religious Authority and leadership.
This is a very important point that we need to be cognizant of, just as the Haaretz reporter was, for two reasons. The first is that Lt. General Gantz's remarks echo those made by GEN Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he was visiting Israel. The second is that it starkly differentiates the professional views of Israel's senior military officer, as well as its past Intelligence Chief Meir Dagan, from that of Israel's leadership, as well as a number of elected American officials and pundits. If, as GEN Demspey, Lt. General Gantz, and Director Dagan assert, that the Iranian leadership, and therefore its decision making, is rational (and we should caveat this as within the Iranian context), then normal incentives such as economic sanctions and diplomatic initiatives, may bring about the changes in Iranian behavior that most would like to see.
The issue going forward is whether the professionals', both military and intelligence, assesments carry the policy arguments going forward or whether the war feverish among Israeli and American politicians and American pundits win the day. It also sets up some very interesting potential Israeli Civil-Military (Civ-Mil) relations follow ons as things continue to develop. Lt. General Gantz's remarks, unlike GEN Dempsey's which were in line with official US/Administration positions pertaining to Iran, place him at odds with the Israeli civilian leadership. That too is a developing situation that bears watching.
*Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College (USAWC). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of USAWC and/or the US Army.