Insight into the news // Ben FrankelSudan attack demonstrates new U.S.-Israel counter-Iran policy

Published 26 March 2009

Israeli aircraft, with U.S. logistical and intelligence support, attack and destroy an Iranian arms convoy in Sudan; arms were part of an effort by Iran to resupply Hamas’s forces in Gaza

It has been reported today that in late January, a convoy carrying Iranian arms from a military base in Sudan to the the port city Port Sudan was attacked and destroyed by Israeli aircraft, with U.S. logistical and intelligence support.

The attack is a demonstration of a new U.S.-Israeli approach to Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East — and also a demonstration of Israel’s ability to destroy targets hundreds of miles from the country’s borders.

One of the reasons Israel launched its campaign in Gaza on 27 December 2008 was to destroy the large weapons stores of Hamas, and to prevent Hamas from rearming itself. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have been supplied by Iran. Iran has not only supplied these two organizations with vast amounts of rockets, explosives, and other weapons, but hundreds of officers from these two organizations have received extensive training in Iran by the Iranian military. In the case of Hezbollah, Iranian engineers built an intricate system of bunkers and tunnels in south Lebanon for use by Hezbollah fighters, and Iranian officers are integrated in Hezbollah formations.

Since 1996 Iran has been funding Hezbollah to the tune of about $1 billion a year. Among other things, Iranian engineers built thousands of residential buildings in Shi’a towns and villages in south Lebanon and in the Shi’a sections of Beirut — but what they also did was build fortified rooms and underground facilities into these residential building in which Hezbollah hid the Katyusha and Fajr rockets it had received from Iran.

Iran as a revolutionary power
Iran, to use Henry Kissinger’s terminology, is a revolutionary power. In his academic writings about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, Kissinger distinguished between status quo and revolutionary powers.

  • A status quo power is generally satisfied with the current international arrangements, and to the extent that it works to advance its interests and strengthen its position, it does so within an accepted framework of rules and practices.
  • A revolutionary power is dissatisfied with the current international distribution of power and benefits, and it works energetically to upturn the current system, destroy it, and replace it with a system in which the distribution of power and benefits is more to its liking. A revolutionary power is characterized not only by its rejection of the current power arrangements, but also by its rejection of the current rules of the international game.

Napoleon’s France was a revolutionary power, as were Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Saddam’s Iraq. The