IDF appoints first Iran ‘project director’ as northern tensions rise

Source: IDF appoints first Iran ‘project director’ as northern tensions rise – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

The appointment underscores the overwhelming importance that Israel places on the developing military confrontation between the countries.

BY BEN CASPIT/MAARIV
 JULY 3, 2018 10:57
Gadi Eisenkot

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has appointed Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who recently left his role as head of the military’s Operations Directorate, as the first director of a special IDF project to coordinate all issues related to Israel’s battle against Iran.

Alon accompanied Eisenkot on his recent trip to the United States last weekend and participated in meetings with American military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford.

This is the first time that the IDF has appointed a “project director for Iran issues,” who is meant to coordinate all areas of Israel’s battle against the Islamic Republic: with respect to its nuclear program, coordinating intelligence gathering with other countries, and in countering Iran’s presence in Syria.

In the past, the head of the Mossad Meir Dagan was responsible for the “Iran file” under Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, but at that time the battle was restricted to intelligence spheres.

Now that the war between Israel and Iran has come into the open and includes military confrontation, the appointment of a “special project head” underscores the overwhelming importance that Israel sees for these developments.

Within the framework of the role, Alon will also be responsible for coordination between the Israeli and American security establishments. The United States and Israel are in close contact and, on the Iran issue, the two countries are not concealing their interest in overthrowing the regime of the Ayatollahs.

Israeli media recently reported that renewed American pressure on Iran, especially the enforcement of additional American sanctions, are having a significant impact within Iran — much more so than was foreseen.

Part of this effect can be seen in the growing protests in the large Iranian cities in the face of the worsening economic situation and critical water shortage.

The appointment of Alon, who is in a cooling-off period and is vying for appointment as the deputy IDF chief of staff, illustrates the trust that the IDF leadership places in him, including Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Alon was head of the operations division until a little more than a month ago, and he can take part of the credit for the accruing Israeli successes on everything related to Israel’s “war between the wars” against Iran, Hezbollah, and Shi’ite militias.

Now, as as a general-in-waiting, he is coordinating the IDF’s overall Iran efforts and reporting directly to the chief of staff. Alon is also charged with maintaining the connection between the IDF and military intelligence and the Mossad.

Does this appointment strengthen the position of Alon in the battle over the next chief of staff, or at least over the appointment of the next deputy chief of staff? At this point, there is no clear answer to this question.

Alon has been labeled as a “leftist,” which has made him a target of extremist settlers in the West Bank while he served as head of the Central Command. At the same time, settlers spread a rumor that Alon’s wife was an activist with the Israeli left-wing NGO Checkpoint Watch.

Nevertheless, Alon has won considerable and consensual professional acclaim that grew over the course of his appointment in the projects division.

The IDF chief of staff and defense minister, who now have only a few weeks before having to make a decision on the identity of the next chief of staff, are faced with a glut of options: a clear favorite whose fitness and readiness for the position cannot be impinged (Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi); another particularly high quality candidate who has failed in public statements in the past (former deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan), and two younger generals, Gen. Nitzan Alon and Gen. Eyal Zamir, who recently finished a successful stint in the southern command.

Liberman is expected to make his decision after the fall holidays.

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