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Iran &Israel's Armageddon Option?

Prominent Israeli Commentator Nahum Barnea Warns That Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu & Defense Minister Ehud Barak Are Pushing For Israeli Preemptive Strike On Iran's Nuclear Weapons Sites Maybe 'Even Before Winter' (December)

IDF Gen. Amos Gilad:'There Is No Immediate Iranian Nuclear Threat But Iranians Have Great Determination To Acquire The Bomb'

IsraCast Assessment: Israel Will Not Consider Armageddon Decision On Attacking Iran Until Irrefutable Evidence That Iranians Are About To Acquire Nuclear Weapons'

 Is Israel about to launch a preemptive military strike against Iran's nuclear weapons facilties possibly before winter? Nahum Barnea, a leading commentator for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper answers his own question by writing that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are pushing for such an operation, against the advice of their own senior military and intelligence advisers. How much credence should be given the Yediot Ahronot story?

 Columnist Nahum Barnea presented this startling assessment of how Israel's decision-makers are monitoring Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons and the implications for the Jewish state that the Iranian leadership wants 'to wipe off the map'.

'Israel's political-military leadership is split into several camps. One camp contends: the cost-effectiveness of a military operation against Iran is limited, the risk is insane. The Iranians will respond by launching missiles from their territory and also from Lebanon by Hizbollah and by Hamas in Gaza. A regional war would break out that would dessimate Israel. It was advisable to depend on international sanctions and hope for the best. If Iran did acquire nuclear weapons this would not spell the end of the world'.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

'The second camp argues: why rush? The Iranians require at least another two years, or two-and-a-half years before the project ripens. Meanwhile there will be a presidential election in the U.S. Obama during his second terms, or a Republican in his first, might taken upon themselves an operation againt Iran. Moreover the Iranian regime may change. Many things can happen within the space of two years.'?

'The heads of the military arms are graouped in a third camp- IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo, IDF intelligence commander Aviv Kochavi and Shabak Chief Yoram Cohen'. As far as is known, the views of the current top four military and intelligence advisers coincide with those of their predecessors; apparently all four reject an Israeli military strike at present. The difference is their readiness to oppose it: their predecessors arrived at the consultations after years of personal success in each of their organizations, and enjoyed substantial public prestige. They faced the political leadership with considerable determination and self-confidence. However the current military - intelligence echelon is less well known, less determined and less coordinated'.

'This brings us to the fourth camp - Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak who act as Siamese twins on the Iranian issue. Netanyahu and Barak appear to be pushing for a military strike. The Prime Minister formulated his stand at the start of his term in office; Ahmadenijas was Hitler and if he was not not stopped in time there would be another Holocaust. There are those who describe Netanyahu's fervor on the question as an obsession: all his life he has dreamt of being Churchill and Iran provides the opportunity. Barak does not use the same superlatives but he also pushes for a military strike. The Defense Minister is convinced that in the same manner that Israel thwarted nuclear projects in the past, it must now defuse the Iranian nuclear weapons program'.

The Iranian Missile Range

'However just now when the international perception is that Iran's progress has been slowed down, rumors tell of pressure for a military operation. One of the factors is the weather: winter is approaching with its limitations'.

So much for the Yediot Ahronot front page of Oct.28th.

Hours later, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the Director of Political-Military Affairs in Israel's Defense Ministry presented the official position. Gilad is very close to Barak and is often sent by him on delicate missions abroad. In a public address, Gilad said: 'There is no immediate Iranian nuclear threat at the moment but Iran has a great deal of determination to acquire nuclear weapons.' And Gilad noted that it was not only Ahmadenijad but even more important that Supreme leader Al Khamenei has also declared: 'There is no room for Israel in the Middle East!' As for the current threat, Iran had now acquired hundreds of missiles with a range of 1500 kilometers capable of reaching Israel. Those missiles were theoretically capable of delivering nuclear warheads. The general summed up: ' Although the Iranians have the uranium and the technology they have not produced nuclear weapons in order to avoid the international repercussions'.

Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr

One obstacle that has set back the Iranian project has been the the exposure of their clandestine nuclear sites. So there was no doubt Iran could go nuclear; it was simply a question on when they would take the polical decision to do so. In Gilad's opinion the whole world now opposed Iran's nuclear weapons program. The international sanctions were proving to be effective but that has not deterred the Iranians from proceeding with the project. And this appeared to be Israel's bottom line: ' If Iran produces the bomb it will be a major game-changer and as far as Israel is concerned and all the options are open'.

For the record, successive Israeli PMs have declared that Iran's nuclear project poses a threat to Israel's existence and therefore all options were on the table. Moreover, Israel has made no secret that Israel Air Force has continually trained for such an exceedingly complex operation. Over the Mediterranean Sea in June 2008, Israeli pilots reportedly conducted a simulated attack on Iranian nuclear targets. Although most foreign experts seem to think that Iran's nuclear facilities, which are spread underground, would prove to be impregnable, several Israeli experts, including two former Air Force commanders, have indicated that it could be accomplished. President Obama apparently thinks Netanyahu is serious about going it alone as a last resort; he has dispatched several envoys to Jerusalem urging Netanyahu to act with restraint and give sanctions every chance. As for the Yediot Ahronot depiction of the situation, it would be well-nigh impossible for Netanyahu and Barak to order a military strike in the face of stiff opposition from the military-intelligence echelon. There is little doubt that Israel would pay dearly from the lambasting it would take from Iranian, Hizbollah and Hamas missile barrage on her towns and cities. And what might Syria's beleagured President Basher Assad do? It is possible he might also join the fray in order to deflect the intense internal pressure that threatens to topple his regime.

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Although Saudi Arabia, as revealed by Wikileaks, has actually appealed to the U.S. to attack Iran, an Israeli solo attack would likely arouse the ire of the Arab League and possibly jeopardize the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. So despite, the sensational Yediot Ahronot report of an approaching Armageddon, it is doubtful that Netanyahu and Barak would order a military strike on Iran, unless some irrefutable intelligence surfaced. There are rumors that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna will present more damning data on Iran next month. (This amid counter reports of pressure on the IAEA to sanitize some of the evidence in order not to provoke Israel). Although Iran has announced plans to step up its production of enriched uranium it has not broken out to the 90% enrichment required for nuclear weapons. The other key aspect is the development of a nuclear warhead that could be carried on Iran's missiles. At the same time, there have been fresh reports recently that Iran's nuclear computers have been running into more hitches, attributed to the U.S. and Israel, that have further set back the weapons program.

On his retirement last year, former Mossad chief Meir Dagen estimated that Iran would not be capable of producing nuclear weapons before 2014. Therefore Dagen concluded that an Israeli solo strike in the near future would trigger a 'foolish war', a dig that was apparently intended for Netanyahu and Barak. In Dagen's view: 'Israel should never attack Iran unless the Iranian nuclear sword was on Israel's neck and beginning to cut into the flesh!' Barring unforeseen circumstances, that metaphor is the more likely to hold sway. But in the event that Israel's military- intelligence establishment reaches the conclusion, on the basis of future evidence, that the Islamist fanatics are on the verge of acquiring the bomb, the Armageddon dilemma will have to be weighed in a different light.

David Essing

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