Defense Minister’s aide: Strategic improvement may not last

Minister of Defense military secretary Brigadier General Mike Herzog: There are forces opposing US policy in the region.

Brigadier General Mike Herzog, who is military secretary to Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, yesterday expressed pessimism about the chances for a lasting improvement in Israel’s strategic position in the Middle East. He said that while 2003 would be remembered as a year of profound change in the region, which benefited Israel, “The situation could be reversed. There are forces opposing US policy in the region.”

Speaking at the “Globes” conference on economic growth, Herzog noted that the US was acting counter to the fundamental processes taking place in the region, and was arousing counter forces. “While the threat from Iraq, the chief power developing weapons of mass destruction, one of the causes of the arms race, and a radical power center, has been eliminated, Israel still faces threats of conventional war, strategic weapons, and terrorism,” he added.

According to Herzog, the US is moving to a declared policy of replacing regimes. The US will invest a great deal of money in promoting this policy, and is sitting on the borders of two intractable countries: Iran and Syria. Trade is being employed as a weapon, and European countries, including Russia, and even Japan, recently joined the US in asking hard questions about Iran’s nuclear program, such as why it needs enriched uranium. Japan has even frozen its investments in Iran, pending answers on this issue.

”The main point is whether the US succeeds in Iraq not just in winning the war, but also in establishing security and founding a pragmatic, liberal regime. The US must reconstruct the Iraqi oil industry, and leave after having achieved full victory. A US retreat from Iraq due to many casualties, or for some other reason, will be regarded as a debacle. Iran’s goal is to get the US away from its border. If the US fails, the entire region will regress,” Herzog explained.

Herzog said he was not expressing the views of Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz. He predicted that the Iranian regime would fall soon, and described it as “a regime in decline. The Iranian government is no longer legitimate in the eyes of its citizens. I don’t know how long it will take to replace it, or who will replace it. The question is what will happen first: the achievement of nuclear capability, or the replacement of the regime. The process is beneficial for us, because it’s hard to find Middle Eastern countries today that sponsor terrorism. Even Iran and Syria are finding it difficult. Lebanon seems to be the best place for the terrorist organizations.”

Herzog also said that the confrontation with the Palestinians was far from being resolved. “We have reached a new stage in the conflict with the Palestinians a quasi-ceasefire. Both sides are weary. The Palestinians have not halted terrorism because of moral qualms. They simply realized that terrorism does them more harm than good.”

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on July 31, 2003

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