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Israel's Nuclear 'Yes We Can!'

Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu: 'Israel Air Force Can Wipe Out Iran's Nuclear Sites Day Or Night - But I Recommend Against Going It Alone Without International Cooperation!'

French President Nicole Sarkozy: 'A Unilateral Israeli Attack On Iran Would Be Catastrophe - Israel Is Not Alone'

Dr Uzi Arad: 'There Is Still Ample Time For International Community To Prevent Iran From Getting The Bomb'

Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu

The G-8 summit in Italy has set a deadline of September 25th for progress in the U.S.- nuclear dialogue. A former Israel Air Force Commander, Maj.-Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Elihu states unequivocally that Israel has the military capability to take out Iran's nuclear weapons installation. French President Nicole Sarkozy warns Israel not to do it on her own declaring that Israel is not alone. Back in Jerusalem Dr. Uzi Arad, a senior defense advisor to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has reckoned that the international community still has sufficient time to stop Iran while the idea of 'living with an Iranian bomb' is absurd. An IsraCast analysis attempts to join the dots.

'Yes we can!' - that was the unequivocal answer by Maj. Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu, a former Israel Air Force commander, when asked if Israel has the capability to take out Iran's nuclear sites. The former fighter-pilot knows a thing or two about such a mission. As a young airman, Ben Eliyahu flew as a fighter escort in the 1981 air strike that destroyed Saddam Hussein's French supplied nuclear reactor.* Ben Eliyahu stated: 'We have been training for it, we have the aircraft and the pilots and we can fulfill the mission day or night and in all weather conditions. But I would still recommend against going it alone without international cooperation'.

'We have been training for it, we have the aircraft and the pilots and we can fulfil the mission day or night and in all weather conditions'

Although this was not the first time a knowledgeable Israeli military or political figure declared that Israel could destroy Iran's nuclear installations, it was the most emphatic statement so far. Indirectly, it took issue with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and some foreign experts who have raised doubts that Israel could carry out such a mission on its own.

Iranian missiles (photo: MEHR)

Ben Eliyahu was not speaking in an official capacity, but French President Nicole Sarkozy naturally was when he was asked another question at the G-8 summit news conference in Italy. Sarkozy, perhaps the most outspoken European leader against the Iranian bomb stated just as emphatically: 'A unilateral Israeli attack on Iran would be a catastrophe! I call upon Israel to act with a cool head - Israel is not alone'. The G-8 had just decided to set a September 25th deadline for Iran to show progress in the proposed nuclear dialogue with the U.S.  This as business reps from the E.U. , including Germany, Russia and China literally bump into one another while trying to sign lucrative trade deals with the oil rich regime that brutalizes its own people and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

'Primarily, Iran wants the bomb to achieve hegemony over the Gulf states and the Islamic world. Can Obama offer that!'

Be that as it may, Jerusalem obviously welcomes the setting of this deadline after U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the end of the year. But after the Iranians  stonewalled E.U. nuclear negotiators for years, Israeli officials harbor  no illusions that the Iranians, notorious for their diplomatic double-talk, will do it again. As one veteran Iran watcher has put it: 'Can President Obama really make Iran the offer she cannot refuse? Primarily, Iran wants the bomb to achieve hegemony over the Gulf states and the Islamic world. Can Obama offer that!'

So barring unforeseen circumstances, American diplomats will likely shadowbox with their Iranian counterparts while  Iran's nuclear weapons project continues unabated. If past experience is any indicator, look for the Iranians to take one step forward and two steps backward, as they waltz the Americans around the diplomatic ballroom. Then it will be up to President Obama to decide when time's up.

The Iranian Missile Range

What happens then? Will the U.S., Russia, China and the rest decide to really get serious with severe sanctions or perhaps a naval blockade of Iran? Or will it be more of the same following in the footsteps of the floundering, futile methods that have characterized the North Korea threat? Anything is possible. One thing does appear clear at this point.

A unilateral Israeli strike on Iran will not be an 'unforeseen circumstance' that upsets the U.S. current attempt to resolve the Iranian menace by political means. Dr Uzi Arad, the chief of Israel's National Security expert and a close aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said; ' There is still ample time for the international community to prevent Iran from getting the bomb'.

However Arad, a nuclear expert in his own right, is not holding his breath when it comes to prospects for the U.S.- Iran nuclear dialogue. In an interview with Haaretz newspaper, Arad depicted the prevailing thinking among many of Israel's decision-makers. He stressed that a nuclear armed Iran would not only threaten Israel's survival. It would set off a wide- scale nuclear arms race in the Middle East or as he described 'burst the dams holding back nuclear arms proliferation in the region'.

Foreign experts have pointed to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as having some nuclear capabilities. Syria, Lybia and Algeria have already tried to go nuclear. Whoever was aware of this should realize the absurdity comparing a nuclear armed Iran with the nuclear standoff which existed between the U.S., Russia and China during the Cold War. (In the U.S.and elsewhere, voices are being heard about the need to accept the reality of an Iranian nuclear weapon and ' to learn to live with it').

Israel will not strike Iran on its own, unless and until it feels it has been abandoned by the international community

Aside from the aggressive aspirations of radical Iran, a multi- layered nuclear Middle East would emerge. The proliferation of nuclear weapons would create a number of states comparable to nuclear armed Pakistan which is threatened by Muslim fanatics eager to get their hands on the bomb. In Arad's words: 'This would be a nightmare - it would a nuclear armed region about as stable as a pyramid turned upside-down and balancing precariously on its apex'.

What does it all boil down to? It would appear that Israel with its official policy of ' not being the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,' will continue to prevent any other regional player from doing so. Second: convinced it does have the  military capability to prevent the introduction of nuclear weapons into the region, Israel  will not strike Iran on its own, unless and until it feels it has been abandoned by the international community.

*Senior IDF officers after active service are not referred as 'retired' as is the practice in other armies. Their ranks are then referred to as 'reserve', because they may be called up for reserve duty or as consultants. In time  of emergency they may even be appointed key command positions.

Footnote: It appears risky to underestimate Israelis when they say they can do something extremely difficult - take the Davis Cup tennis tournament. The underdog Israeli team hosted Russia, long a power-house in international tennis. The Russian team arrived with international star Marat Safin publicly pooh-poohing Israel's chances in the best of five series. The fact is that although Israeli tennis players have been improving gradually, Dudi Selah reached the men quarter finals at Wimbledon last month, not many Israelis, aside from the players, thought they had any chance of beating Russia. Selah and his team-mates said diffidently: 'We've been training hard, we'll do our best, it will be very tough but we won't give up. We believe we have a chance to beat the Russians'.  Oh yes, there were also the undaunted 11,000 ecstatic fans who cheered the Israeli players on to a remarkable three-nothing game sweep of the series. It was one of the most unexpected and sensational upsets in Davis Cup history.

David Essing

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