Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, director of military intelligence, IDF at 2012 Herzliya Conference: „We are facing a Middle East which will be more hostile”
The Middle East’s leading security & policy gathering concludes today at the IDC Herzliya Campus
Speaking at the opening session of the final day of the 2012 Herzliya Conference, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, director of military intelligence, Israel Defense Forces said that he saw the new reality in the Middle East as „a sort of storm” adding, „More than ever I think that this turmoil storm has created new contexts within which we have to analyze this reality.”
Continuing on this idea, Kochavi went on to describe the six „main moldings” that illustrate the current situation namely: „the rise of the voice of the Arab mass and population;” the rise of Islam; religion, congregation and tribe; a decrease in the power of the radical axis; the economy; and bipolarity.
He explained that for decades the citizens of the Middle East „couldn’t explain their aspirations” but that suddenly they had „found their voice” and this was the „essence of the change and revolution… the population has learned that it can bring down the regimes.” He went further to say that of the population of 100 million, most young people lived at home until at least the age of 30 because of their economic profile. These same Arab youth were more educated, more connected to the world through the internet and more exposed to the world around them. Because what they’re seeing is so different to their own reality, their feelings of frustration increased. „This combination of frustration and corruption” was the „combustion material” that pushes them to act. „The result of all these things is a very clear picture – the central leader has lost his power” and the central power [the people] has become stronger. No longer can the leaders led by way of fear. „The public dares so much more, the regime dares so much less.”
The general stressed the point that Islam was not the „motivating factor of the revolution” adding that the youth did not go out into the squares to protest with copies of the Quran in hand. This being said, the religious Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis were taking the revolution and „translating this infrastructure into political power.” Kochavi said that on the background of the general „Islamitization process,” it was „only natural” that these organizations would take power in these countries owing to the lack of „meaningful leadership” and „clear leadership” that followed the turmoil of the protests. The former, he said, was still lacking.
Looking ahead, he predicted that the „Islamic leadership model” that would be created in Egypt „will probably greatly impact the Middle East.” He added that „the national component that characterized Islamic regimes for the past decades” may be seeing a penetration which is religiously based and not national. He added though that at the end of the day, it was the economies within the Middle East countries that would be their „central test.”
With regard to „religion, congregation and tribe” Kochavi said that within the national regimes, conflicts and frictions between these three components were reduced, but the moment they lost their power, these frictions came out. Within these he used the example of tension between Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as „each aspires to regional hegemony.”
On the bipolarity front, Kochavi noted that the face of the military conflict had changed. Aside from Israel having enemies with thousands of rockets and missiles with the ability to hit Israel, „entire systems of rockets and missiles have been integrated into an urban environment.” He said that in any normal suburban environment, every second home housed and protected a missile. This, he called, a „great change” and said that it compelled the intelligence to change. „Intelligence needs to give more intelligence to different areas.”
Within the current Middle East situation, Kochavi stressed the two main areas of Iran and Syria. Iran, he said, continues to advance its capabilities, the basis of which is to achieve nuclear power. He said that the country was driven by three things: „regional hegemony;” „deterrence;” „to become a regional and world player.” Kochavi shared that some information that Israel has proves that Iran continues to deal with and build nuclear arms. „We believe it will take Iran a year to complete its goals.” He said that all the current pressure on Iran was not deterring it from continuing on its path but that overtime, that would be the result. With regard to Syria, Kochavi called it „the vortex of this Iranian turmoil” and added that „events are closing in on Damascus” but that the Assad regime would carry on until its inevitable end.
All of the proceedings are broadcast live with a VOD option on the Conference’s website: www.herzliyaconference.org/eng.