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Israeli Double Bind Over Iranian Nuclear Threat

Al-Hayat Newspaper: 'Prime Minister Netanyahu Told French President Sarkozy That Israel Did Nor Rule Out Preemptive Military Strike Against Iran'

IDF Chief Of Staff Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi: 'There Is No Foolproof Missile Defense System-In Future Wars Enemy Missiles Will Fall On Israel'

IsraCast Assessment: 'If & When Israeli Decision Makers Consider Preemptive Strike On Iran, Main Consideration Will Likely Pit Possibility Of Future Iranian Nuclear Attack On Israel With Certainly Of Being Hit by Thousands Of Conventional Rockets From Iran & Terrorist Allies'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

 The Iranian nuclear threat was obviously high on the agenda of US President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they met in the White House this week. So far, nothing has leaked about what they discussed. However according to the respected Al-Hayat newspaper, published in London, 'informed sources' have said Netanyahu told Sarkozy that Israel did not rule out a military strike against Iran. The French leader stressed the need of pursuing with the current diplomatic effort that has failed to dissuade to halt its uranium enrichment program. Meanwhile, in the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, the IDF Chief Of Staff, Gen. Ashkenazi made some telling remarks that illuminate the nuclear double bind that confronts Israel at this juncture.

IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi

'In future wars, missiles will fall on Israel'- that was the assessment of Lt.Gen Gabi Ashkenazi. The IDF Chief of Staff was briefing on Israel's 'Iron Dome' missile defense system that is due to go operational within another year or so. The system is being designed to knock down short range Qassam and longer range Katyusha and Iranian supplied missiles to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But although Israel has high hopes that 'Iron Dome' will end the rocketing of Israeli population centers, Gen. Ashkenazi cautioned that there was no foolproof defense system against incoming missiles and some of them would get through. He said: 'There is no Iron  Dome for all of Israel and in future wars, missiles will fall on Israel!' In his briefing, the top Israeli commander added that Hezbollah now had tens of thousands of rockets in its arsenal, some with a range of 300 to 325 kilometers (putting all of Israel within its range, including Dimona).

In this context, the Chief of Staff made no direct reference to the Iranian nuclear threat, but it is possible to draw some sensible conclusions. Israel depends on its Arrow long range missile defense defense system to cope with Iran's Shihab missiles that have a range of 2500 kilometers and which conceivably could be armed with nuclear warheads, if the Iran's nuclear weapons program is not stopped. But the problem of missile 'leakage', of some missiles getting through a defense network, has to be a consideration for Israeli decisions makers. The implication, as once pointed out by Ayatollah Rafsanjani in a sermon at Tehran University, was that a tiny country like Israel would indeed be 'wiped off the map' if even one nuclear weapon ' leaked ' though and hit Tel Aviv.  (The Chief of Staff did say IDF is preparing all options and it would be up to Israel's political leaders to decide what to do about the Iran nuclear threat, if President Obama has not succeeded in achieving his goal of a positive diplomatic result by the end of the year). On a more positive note, Gen. Ashkenazi was of the view that if sanctions that endangered the regime's survival were imposed, this might result in halting the nuclear weapons program.

The Iranian Missile Range

'But the Iranians are not crazy!' is the response of some commentators,Israelis included. Surely they realize that Israel might still be able to retaliate by devastating Iran with her own  nuclear weapons, as attested to by foreign sources. Tjis argument is based on "MAD" - mutaually assured destruction theory that kept the peace during the Cold War. This also sounds logical except for one thing: the fanatic, Islamist leadership, and its not just President Achamdenijad, who rule Iran would have their finger on the nuclear button. The eminent Middle East scholar Prof. Bernard Lewis has warned that 'MAD' should not be applied to the Iranian regime which has an almost genocidal mindset when it comes to destroying the Jewish state. In such a state of affairs, Secretary Clinton's talk of a nuclear defense ' umbrella' would be of little value to Israel.

Another argument is that the post-election unrest in Iran is a sign that the days of the oppressive regime in Tehran are numbered. However on this score, time is now of the crucial essence. If Ahmadenijad and his ayatollah masters get their hands on "the bomb", they could decide to use it on Israel during their last days in power. Their religious fanaticism that views the destruction of the Jewish state as a divine mission would surpass any consideration for what might befall the Iranian people. Moreover, in the wake of rigged Iranian election, the regime's brutalization of their people indicates this might be something they would even relish.

On the other hand, ringed with the Iranian proxies, Hamas in the south and Hezbollah to the north, a preemptive Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, would trigger a massive conventional rocket barrage, not to speak of Iranian and, who knows, maybe even Syrian involvement. It will be an excruciating day, if Israeli intelligence officials urgently inform the political leadership they have irrefutable evidence that Iran has taken the final step and is 'breaking out' into the production of nuclear weapons. Uppermost in everyone's mind will be - what will be the damage sustained by launching a preemptive strike as opposed to living under the threat of a nuclear attack.

David Essing

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