June 06, 2020

Maine experts disagree on Israeli intent > Retaliation against Iraq poses risks

A Bowdoin College lecturer who spent much of his career working for the Central Intelligence Agency in Israel said Friday that there was no doubt in his mind about Israel retaliating against Iraq’s missile attacks.

“There is going to be some sort of deterrent action,” said John Hadden, who lives in Brunswick. “To allay American feelings on this, they may wait a little while. But, the longer they wait, the harsher the eventual lesson will be,” he said.

Hadden suggested that the Israeli Cabinet met Friday to debate when and how to retaliate, not whether to do it. “They can’t let him (Saddam Hussein) survive, not now, not after this.”

The history of Israeli retaliation goes back to 1935, Hadden said. Orde C. Wingate, a junior officer in the British military, was assigned to turn Jewish farm workers into police force.

At the time, Jewish farm communes in Palestine were being sabotaged by Arabs who resented increasing numbers of Jews settling in their territory.

Wingate organized “night squads,” teaching them to “wait for something to happen that is going to give you grounds for retaliation, then make sure it will never happen again,” Hadden said.

Two of the young men who received training from Wingate were Yitshak Rabin, who later became prime minister of Israel, and Moshe Dayan, soldier and statesman.

Yitzhak Shamir, the current prime minister, is a strong advocate of retaliation, according to Hadden.

Even if he weren’t committed to the idea, Hadden said, “No Israeli administration could survive not taking some reprisal.”

Israeli native Alexander Grab, an associate professor of history at the University of Maine, had a different view of the likelihood of retaliation. He said that Israel doesn’t have a lot of retaliatory options.

The value of firing their own missiles or sending in their airplanes might be “psychological for the people of Israel and the government — to show they are doing something,” Grab said.

He speculated, however, that Israel didn’t know where the missile launch sites were located. If they did, they would have turned that information over to the United States military so the sites could have been bombed on the first day of the attack.

“I believe that the U.S. is doing everything to get rid of those mobile launchers,” Grab said.

The other retaliatory option is to “bombard Baghdad indiscriminately, but that is just what Hussein wants,” Grab said. Missile attacks resulting in death and injury to Iraqi citizens would give Hussein plenty of propaganda to use in trying to realign the Arab nations that have now sided with the United States against Iraq, he said.

Grab said he thinks that the Israelis have been persuaded to hold off because the damage in Israel from the Iraqi missiles was relatively small.

Grab is hopeful that the warfare won’t escalate because his parents live in Tel Aviv. He spoke with his father by telephone about four hours after the missile attack and learned that his parents heard the warning sirens and a couple of explosions.

“I really opposed any military action” against Iraq. “I really hoped there would be some kind of a solution. The attack on Israel strengthens my questioning of the decision to attack,” he said.

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