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Saturday, Oct. 7, was Israel’s 911. And it’s become President Joe Biden’s biggest national security test.
So far, he’s all in. “Israel has to respond, they have to go after Hamas,” Biden said Sunday on “60 Minutes.”
Done right, American leadership will keep the Abraham Accords peace process on track, slam the door on Iran and prevent China from making cheap diplomatic gains.
“This is no time for neutrality,” as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in Israel Oct. 13.
And it’s work only superpower America can do: dispatching military forces to keep a lid on Iran, while flowing military supplies to Israel.
Here are key areas to watch as Israel prepares for major military operations.
Two aircraft carriers. Sending a second carrier to the Middle East is a big deal. The USS Gerald R. Ford and her crew of 5,000 were already in the area for military exercises with Italy, so it was natural to send her rapidly to the Eastern Mediterranean. Now, as the USS Eisenhower arrives, the pair will be able to conduct day and night operations for as long as necessary. Together their F/A-18EF Superhornets, E-2 radar planes and helicopters plus up America’s air superiority in the region. Cruisers and destroyers with the carriers also extend sea-based missile defense and vigilance. With these moves, the U.S. has plenty of forces in place for reprisal strikes at any time. That’s deterrence.
Deploying more Air Force fighters. Last week the Pentagon sent more F-15s, 16s and A-10s to Middle East bases. F-35 stealth fighters were already in Jordan where they literally have Israel’s back. The stealth aircraft and other high-visibility moves send a loud message to Iran. They also ensure the US can fly military cargo planes into Israel with no interference.
Ready Marines. After the Hamas attack on Israel, Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit left an exercise in Kuwait early, and got back on their amphibious assault ship USS Bataan to be ready for other tasking. Back in 2021, the 26th MEU personnel assisted the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Intelligence. You can bet American intelligence agencies are scrambling to provide imagery, signals intelligence and anything else to help Israel map out Hamas in Gaza. “We can see the world, sense the world, and hear everything that’s happening at any given time,” NRO Deputy Director U.S. Space Force Major General Christopher Povak said in Washington Oct. 10. Pretty useful for Israel right now, I’d say. Satellites and drones also monitor the force posture of state actors like Iran and non-state actors like Hezbollah. They watch to see whether forces are gearing up or just going about routine activity, a key daily crisis indicator essential for escalation control.
Then comes the direct aid to Israel with munitions such as the Small Diameter Bomb. Israel’s air forces fly American-made F-15s and F-35s and have long purchased precision air weapons. This week, Boeing rushed 1,000 Small Diameter Bombs to Israel. The GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb was combat-proven in US airstrikes against ISIS by the F-22 and other aircraft. With combination of dense explosives and precision tracking of moving targets, expect the Israeli air force to use Small Diameter Bomb against Hamas, including moving targets like vehicles. Fortunately, SDB is in production so replenishing stocks is easy.
Of course, Iron Dome will be in action. The superb missile shield is an Israeli system, but the U.S. has helped test and fund its development all along. The U.S. Army has Iron Dome batteries and the U.S. Marine Corps is buying Iron Dome for Pacific island air defense. Right now, that means the U.S. easily transferred additional interceptors to Israel.
“We’re surging additional military assistance, including ammunition and interceptors to replenish Iron Dome,” Biden said on Oct. 10. “We’re going to ensure that Israel does not run out of these critical assets to defend its cities and citizens.”
Are you wondering if America can supply both Israel and Ukraine? The answer is yes.
Israel will get advanced, precise air weapons, while Ukraine needs the artillery to keep up its offensive against Russian forces. The equipment going to Ukraine aid is “mapped out” through January 2024, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General C.Q. Brown on Oct. 11.
Make no mistake. Biden needs to get this one right. The Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Chinese military activity around Taiwan have taken their toll on America’s reputation. Not to mention the Chinese balloon. With Israel, Biden faces an immediate crisis demanding swift action with no margin for error. The risk of failure is emboldening Iran, and that’s just for starters.
Backing Israel’s Gaza operations with American military power will go a long way towards restoring America’s superpower credibility.
It’s a lesson Iran, China, Russia and North Korea all need to see.