Quick takes // By Ben FrankelThe Israeli military prepares for a new type of war

Published 21 December 2011

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has created a new military command – the Strategic Depth Command; this new command, and the new, commando-heavy, look of the IDF’s higher echelon, should tell us that Israel is preparing for a new type of war; adversaries of Israel who have been entertaining the thought that sheer distance from Israel would offer them some protection, may want to think again

At times it is not enough to read a given text — you have to read between the lines as well to get at the deeper meaning. This is the case with the news from Israel that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has created a new military command – the Strategic Depth Command.

During the past five years the United States, too, has created new military commands to meet new security challenges in new theaters or domains. Thus, the U.S. Cyber Command is now responsible for developing defensive cyber policies which will protect U.S. military and infrastructure assets against cyber attacks. The Cyber Command is also working on information warfare, that is, offensive cyber measures the United States may take to undermine the military and economy of an adversary during a conflict.

The U.S. Africa Command was created to address to growing presence of Islamic terrorists in the continent’s failed states, such as Somalia, and in weak states such as Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, and others. Another mission of the Africa Command is to develop policies for protecting U.S. interests on the continent in the event that climate-driven droughts and water shortages will generate mass migration of people across borders.

The IDF’s new Strategic Depth command should be considered in this light: an organizational and doctrinal response to new security challenges.

Some journalists referred to the new command as the “Iran Command,” but the challenges Israel faces in areas far from its borders are not limited to Iran. Two recent examples:

  • A few months ago, during the height of the anti-Qaddafi rebellion in Libya, Israeli commandos killed two Hamas operatives in Sudan. These operatives were on their way back from Libya after negotiating a deal with some rebel leaders to sell Hamas chemical warheads from Qaddafi’s arsenal. Iran was paying for the chemical weapons to be delivered to Hamas.
  • A couple of years ago a Syrian general was assassinated in his vacation home in north Syria. The general was in charge of Syrian-Iranian cooperation on ballistic missile and nuclear weapons, and Israel decided that that cooperation had gone far enough and needed to be slowed down.