I was recently approached for security guidance regarding travel to the Palestinian Territories. I myself have traveled thru Gaza, but that was way back when Israeli paratroopers were still patrolling the place, so I reached out to my contact in Israel; his assessment is that the PA is clearly enemy territory and its probably safer to travel to Iran or North Korea than it is to go to the Gaza Strip. My professional advice regarding the West Bank is to restrict travel to only that which is absolutely necessary. My perception is that PA is not as challenging a destination as Gaza, although it is DEFINITELY deep inside Indian country. - S.L.
Ramallah, capital of the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory
Hello Sean -
Thanks for your contributions to security measures to be taken while traveling to the Middle East. I am still concerned over the Israel/Iran uranium purification issue that has gotten the attention of the P5+1 countries with the disclosure that enrichment has reached 27 per cent. Hopefully, talks will continue and the rather significant build up of US troops in Israel is not a sign of an imminent strike. Any thoughts of whether a visit to Israel and the West Bank over the next two weeks should be avoided? I welcome your perceptions.
Very best regards for a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend,
Iran Uranium Purification:
There is no indication at this time that Iran has weaponized any of its nuclear material. Historically nuclear weapons serve as an effective deterrence, and Israel possesses a formidable arsenal. Despite Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, the clerical rulers of Iran are aware of Israel’s capability and willingness to respond - plus the certainty of a US response - to any offensive move on their behalf. However, Iran has come to appreciate the powerful value of a potential nuclear capability, and continues to play this issue to gain leverage toward their primary geo-political goal, which is to become the major regional power as the United States withdraws from the Middle East.
“Significant Build-Up of US troops in Israel”:
This appears to be a reference to a missile defense exercise announced in January, scheduled for this spring, and subsequently postponed indefinitely. This is not a sign of an eminent strike, or even an escalation of regional tensions. Considering that the US has few if any troops in Israel at any given point in recent history, the presence of a single Patriot missile battery could be considered a “significant build up of US troops”. Given the base facilities available to the US – Diego Garcia, carriers in the Gulf, etc – any likely US strike on Iran would not necessarily be launched from Israel.
Iran has a considerable inventory of medium-range missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv:
• Shahab-3A/B/C - strategic MRBM (range 1,200 km to 2,100 km).
• Ghadr-110 MRBM (range 2000–3000 km).
• Ashoura missile 2 stage MRBM (range 2,000 km).
• Sajiil 2 stage solid fuel MRBM (range 2000–2500 km).
It is significant that in the 32+ years of the Iran Revolution, Iran has not launched a single strategic missile at Israel from its own territory (there have been tactical short-range missile launched out of southern Lebanon by Iranian proxies i.e. Hezbollah). At this time Iranian strategic missiles are only equipped with conventional warheads; i.e. non-nuclear explosives, and as such represent terror weapons at best. In other words, it is possible to be under missile attack, one city block away from a missile strike, and remain completely unharmed.
Worst Course of Action:
In response to indications that Iran has developed nuclear weapons, and mated them onto strategic missiles, Israel and/or the United States launch pre-emptive strikes against Iran. Iran responds with whatever nuclear weapons survive initial strikes, and one or more warheads reach Israeli and/or European cities. Israel and/or the United States - and possibly NATO allies - conduct limited nuclear response against Iran, followed up by conventional military engagement.
Most Likely Course of Action:
Iran continues to “tightrope walk on a tripwire” - betting against a pre-emptive Israeli and/or US strike as it flexes its muscle throughout the region. Continuation of limited actions designed to mitigate the Iranian threat, such as the sabotage of a missile production facility in February of this year, and the Stuxnet virus cyber attack in 2010.
In February of this year, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta stated that “Israel has indicated that they’re considering this . . . . (a strike against Iran in April, May or June) . . . and we have indicated our concerns.” Although the upcoming US elections provide for some room for speculation; i.e. if poll numbers swing downward will a desperate incumbent launch a pre-emptive strike in order to ensure re-election? This is an extreme contingency, has no precedent in US history, and in any case the polls are not anywhere near levels required to initiate such a desperate political ploy.