Israeli Politicians Are Playing Number Games With A War Against Iran [View all]
There are a number of ways one could understand the leaked security cabinet briefing that Channel 10 reported Monday night, which detailed expectations of a worst-case scenario of an all-out war with Iran on all fronts, resulting in a three-week bombardment and up to 300 civilian casualties.
For a start, it would seem that the leaked briefing was put out by someone in the cabinet who is interested in allaying the Israeli public's fears of the repercussions of a military strike on Iran. Four months ago, when Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to play down the fears, he said in a radio interview that "war is no picnic but in no scenario is the 50, 000 and not 5,000 and not even 500 killed." So if Barak felt that less than 500 dead civilians was an acceptable price to pay, less than 300 is a bargain.
But where are these numbers coming from? According to Channel 10, the assessment was given by officers of the air-force, but this isn't their job. The Israeli Air Force has an operations-research department whose role, among other things, is to assess how the corps units will perform during warfare. The department has already prepared reports for each airbase assessing the number of missiles that can be expected to hit each of the bases, how that will affect the squadrons and what steps have to be taken to ensure the bases can continue operating. It is the Israel Defense Force Home Front Command's job to make the assessments of how civilian centers will be affected, how many buildings will be hit and the likely number of civilian casualties. Early last year, the local authorities were issued with the likely scenarios and Colonel Adam Zussman, commander of Dan region in the Home Front Command, said in an interview with Haaretz that hundreds of casualties can be expected in and around Tel-Aviv.
The damage-assessments being prepared by both the air-force and Home Front Command are based on the same intelligence reports prepared by the Military Intelligence branch. In any case, the estimations of casualties are not meant for media purposes - to frighten or reassure the public - but to enable the IDF, local authorities, government departments and the civilian emergency services to prepare for the worst-case scenario. But in the hands of politicians, these numbers become part of a cynical game.