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|John Chapin||April 20th 2009|
Israel appears to gird for war as its defense establishment prepares the greatest military exercise in the history of the Jewish state. This exercise is expected to take place on June 2 and will involve testing the U.S.-Israeli developed missile defense system “Arrow” intended to deter missile attacks.
An Israeli strike on approximately one dozen targets in Iran could come with hours or days of receiving orders, according to an Israeli defense official quoted in the The Times of London. The military is apparently awaiting the final go-ahead by the country’s new civilian leadership under Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. This comes despite assurances issued just days before on April 15 in which Israeli President Shimon Peres had backtracked on earlier rumors of war, saying, "The solution in Iran is not a military one." Indeed, Peres has recently been quoted as confirming that if a diplomatic solution is not found soon, "we will strike."
According to The Times of London, a senior Israeli defense official stated, “Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words.” The Times is known to receive reliable forewarning of Israeli defense measures when the Israeli press is otherwise constrained from doing so.
Iran is engaging in some sword-rattling of its own while President Ahmadinejad reviewed thousands of parading troops, ballistic missile batteries, and armoured vehicles in Teheran. The leader of the Islamic Republic said that his country is the strongest in the world and would not be intimidated by anyone. However, the missiles that Iran would presumably use against the Jewish homeland were not on display in Teheran.
Israel was already taking initial defense measures in preparation for a retaliation by Iran and its other enemies should the Israeli military make its airstrikes. Two nationwide civil defense drills are expected within days to prepare the public for strikes on the Jewish homeland. Israel will conduct the exercise with U.S. forces to test the ability of Arrow, its U.S.-funded missile defense system. The exercise would test whether the system could intercept missiles launched at Israel. Adding a sombre note to preparations, Colonel Hilik Sofer told Haaretz, a daily Israeli newspaper, that the drill would “train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning ... We want the citizens to understand that war can happen tomorrow morning”.
A raid by Israeli air forces could be risky and would require very accurate bombing runs intended to cripple Iranian nuclear facilities and defenses, such as its Russian-made S-300 radar-guided missile systems--not yet operational. The operational status of the S-300 was first reported as pivotal to Israeli military planners in The Cutting Edge News. Aircraft launched against Iran from Israeli airspace would have to cross over both Jordan and Iraq, where the United States has significant presence, observers theorize. Israel will probably rely on its three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft for the actual attack.
Once given the go-ahead by its civilian leadership, Israel’s airforce could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tons of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.
The distance from Israel to at least one of the sites is more than 870 miles, a distance that the Israeli force practised covering in a training exercise in August 2008 year over Greece and the Aegean Sea that involved F-15 and F-16 jets, helicopters and airborne refuelling tankers. Greece has S-300 air defenses that are similar to Iran’s, adding further realism to preparations for the blow against the Islamic Republic. The test of Greece's S-300 system was first reported The Cutting Edge News.
Other preparations by the Israelis included a January 2009 air attack on a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip. According to Ronen Bergman, author of The Secret War with Iran, “Sudan was practice for the Israeli forces on a long-range attack…”, “They wanted to see how they handled the transfer of information, hitting a moving target ... In that sense it was a rehearsal.”
Many believe any strike on Iran cannot be compared to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. That strike destroyed the facility in under 100 seconds and was completed without Israeli casualties. Iraq’s plans for a nuclear weapons future were stopped cold. But Iran's robust nuclear program is massively decentralized, substantially underground or masqueraded, and carries with it the likelihood of a massive missle retaliation by Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza. In his book, "The Plan," author Edwin Black, predicted that if Israel attacked Iran over its nuclear ambitions, Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, causing an oil interruption which would throw the U.S. and Weestern economies into chaos. The United States has no contingency plan for such an oil interruption and despite the threat has not begun planning for one.
Within the U.S. military establishment, there is some concern that such an attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities would be ultimately unsuccessful. There are predictions that a strike on the approximately one dozen sites in Iran would only delay is nuclear program by two or three years.
A senior Israeli defense official expressed the opinion that a raid on Iran would be unlikely without approval of the Obama Administration that, even now has sent senior envoy George Mitchell for talks in Jerusalem. According to an Israeli defense official, “Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli Intelligence they will have the bomb within two years ... Once they have a bomb it will be too late, and Israel will have no choice to strike — with or without America.”