ISRAELI MINISTER MULL PLANS FOR MILITARY STRIKE ON IRANhttp://www.aljazeera.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=130962
17/06/2008 07:53:12 AM GMT
The German daily Der Spiegel said in a report published Monday t (more)
ISRAELI MINISTER MULL PLANS FOR MILITARY STRIKE ON IRAN
The German daily Der Spiegel said in a report published Monday that the Israeli government no longer believes that sanctions can prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. "A broad consensus in favor of a military strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities -- without the Americans, if necessary -- is beginning to take shape."
According to the report, Dani Yatom, a member of the Israeli Knesset and former Mossad chief, was invited to attend a NATO conference in Brussels last year. While reviewing the agenda, Yatom, a retired major general, was surprised to see that the meeting was titled "The Iranian Challenge" and not "The Iranian Threat."
When a speaker with a French accent mentioned that a US military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be the most dangerous scenario of all, Yatom said, politely but firmly: "Sir, you are wrong. The worst scenario would be if Iran acquired an atom bomb."
Der Spiegel added that when Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, expressed similar sentiments 10 days ago, they were viewed, especially in Europe, as the isolated opinions of a card-carrying hardliner seeking to score points with the electorate in a bid to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"In truth, however, there is now consensus within the Israeli government that an air strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities has become unavoidable."
"Most members of the Israeli cabinet no longer believe that sanctions will convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to change course," says Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yaakov Edri.
The one question over which Israel's various political groups disagree is the timing of an attack, according to the report.
"The doves argue that diplomatic efforts by the United Nations should be allowed to continue until Iran is on the verge of completing the bomb, while the hawks, on the other hand, believe time is running out. They stress that there is now a favorable window of opportunity" that will close with the US presidential election in November, and that Israel can only depend on American support for as long as current US President George W. Bush is still in charge in Washington." They are convinced that even if Republican John McCain wins the race, politicians in Jerusalem do not expect him to be ordering an attack as his first official act -- despite his performance, at a campaign appearance last year, of the Beach Boys' song "Barbara Ann" with the lyrics: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."
President Bush, however, has recently been sending out signals that are suspiciously reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war. Then, as today, he insisted that "all options are on the table." And then, as today, he sought to appease the Europeans by saying that all diplomatic channels would be exhausted first. But during his recent visit to Slovenia, Bush said: "There's a lot of urgencies when it comes to dealing with Iran, and the Israeli political folks ... if you go to Israel and listen carefully, you'll hear that urgency in their voice."
According to Der Spiegel, no one knows better than the Israeli leadership just how much power lies in the mere belief that a country has nuclear weapons. After all, Israel itself has used this belief as a deterrent for the past 40 years. It is believed that an estimated 100 to 200 nuclear warheads have been produced at the Dimona reactor in the Negev Desert. Israeli historian Benny Morris, who is not normally considered a hardliner, recently suggested using the weapons: "If the issue is whether Israel or Iran should perish, then Iran should perish."
Israel has already demonstrated that it is not only prepared for, but also technically capable of, frustrating the nuclear ambitions of a "hostile country." In 1981, the Israelis bombed Iraq's Osirak reactor. Flying in tight formation to avoid being detected by enemy radar, eight F-16 fighter-bombers traveled 900 kilometers from Israel to Iraq, where they dropped 16 thousand-kilo bombs, destroying the reactor. Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad agent, revealed that the Israelis had paid a French technician working in the reactor to plant a transponder there.
The report suggests that Iran could be next.
WE WILL SEE A MIDDLE EAST IN FLAMES
The report says that politicians in Berlin have noted with concern signs of the next war brewing in the Middle East. Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who travels regularly to Jerusalem and Washington for political talks, warns that Israel could see the Bush presidency as its last chance to gain American support for a military strike. "Politically speaking, the window for action is now, in the last months of George W. Bush's term in office," Fischer wrote recently. "The Middle East is headed for another major confrontation."
"Israel's main ally, the United States, is still at odds over what constitutes the right strategy on Iran. The Bush administration is divided. Vice President Dick Cheney would still want an attack, says Flynt Leverett, a former official in the US State Department and now a Middle East expert with the New America Foundation. However he believes the secretary of state favors a different approach: Condi Rice is buying time to get the president through his term."
Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert who spent many years working for the CIA, says it would be "very difficult for this administration to start a war with Iran. There would be public uproar and congressional uproar." But the situation is different from Israel's perspective, says Riedel. "There is some risk that Israel thinks it has limited time to act and it has a green light from American politicians."
Besides, the Israeli Air Force is known for its "inventive solutions to military problems," says Riedel, who has strong contacts to Israel, referring to the feasibility of such an attack. "Israeli military planners tell me it is mission doable."
AND THE IRANIAN AIR DEFENSES?
"We know that Iran's air defenses are not among the world's best," says former Mossad chief Yatom. "They can be overcome." Nevertheless, many Israelis still hope that the Americans will do the job for them. "It could still be the case," says Yatom, "that George W. Bush wants to guarantee himself a place in the history books with this last act."