The IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate yesterday (Tuesday) issued its security estimate for 2020, with the Iranian threat at its center. “There is a low probability of our enemies starting a war in 2020”, the estimate said, but added that there is “a moderate-to-high probability of maintaining a response equation on the northern front, while maintaining readiness for risk, up to and including a war.” What the MID is saying here is that according to its view, if Israel attacks targets in Syria or Lebanon, the other side will retaliate rather than avoiding a response.
The MID believes the killing of Qasem Soleimani will have a restraining effect on Iran in the short term, and have positive consequences for Israel. The MID recommends increasing attacks on Iranian targets in Syria in 2020. It believes Israel can take advantage of Soleimani’s death to push Iran out of the war-torn country.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, The MID believes Iran is taking provocative action in order to coax the United States back into negotiations and forge a new agreement, after the US backed out of the JCPOA. These provocations include the downing of a US drone; attacking oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz; and of course, the drone-and-missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in September of last year.
The MID’s report said that by the end of 2020, Iran could have enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb, if it keeps enriching it as a provocation to the White House. However, themed added that it estimates it would take the Iranians two more years to actually prepare the uranium to be used in a bomb. So far, the report said, Iran has avoided expelling UN nuclear overseers, and is interested in a renewed nuclear deal.
A crucial year for Khamenei
According to the MID, the Iranians do not have a plutogenic track, and instead are continuing to enrich uranium. The MID believes Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei will have to make some tough choices in 2020 – regarding the country’s nuclear policy, its continued involvement in countries and conflicts across the Middle East after the death of Soleimani, as weel as political and budgetary problems.
Iran is currently reassessing its Middle east positions following the Soleimani killing. Soleimani was consideredthe architect of Iran’s ME expansion, and his replacement, Esmail Ghaani, is seen as less charismatic. This is likely, said the MID report, to make Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, a more significant figure as far as Iran’s ME efforts are concerned.
The MID defined 2020 as “an age of acceleration”, during which intelligence bodies have trouble coming up with a truly reliable year-long intelligence prediction. The MID believes the extremist Shiite axis led by Iran in the Mid-East will continue to be Israel’s most significant battleground in 2020. The MID estimates that Iran has notably weakened economically since the imposition of US sanctions, with its oil exports going from an average of 2.8 million barrels per day to about 300-400 thousand.
The MID sees this period highly challenging for Iran’s leaders. The public’s interest in religion is declining. It took just two days for marchers to turn from mourning Soleimani to angry at the government. Food prices have doubled. According to the MID, Iran’s economy “is surviving on reserves and faith.”
The report estimates Iran offering anti-Israel terrorist organizations its support – with Islamic Jihad in Gaza being a chief beneficiary. The project is headed by Said Izadi, head of the Palestine division of the Quds Force. Iran sees the Golan Heights and the Israel-Lebanon border as areas in which it can prepare military maneuvers. According to the MID, Iran is attempting to establish bases in Iraq ad Yemen.
Hezbollah is ready for war
According to MID estimates, Hassan Nasrallah was displeased when Qasem Soleimani attempted to recruit Lebanese fighters in order to perpetrate a revenge attack on Israel last year. Nasrallah told Soleimani to “use your own people to take revenge.”
The MID believes that last year’s drone strike on the Dahieh region of Beirut – which Nasrallah blames on Israel – cracked the feeling of immunity Nasrallah felt he enjoyed, previously believing Israel would not strike at him while he’s in Lebanon. Nasrallah himself would be willing to react to this strike, even if it meant escalating to war with Israel. His order to fire rockets at an IDF ambulance in September is an example of this. Hezbollah is considered to be Qasem Soleimani’s most successful project, but at the moment Lebanon’s economy is floundering, unemployment is at 25%, and the MID report said there are “sprouts of a rift between Hezbollah and Iran.”