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Moshe Yaalon: IDF Has Capability To Knock Out Iran's Nuclear Installations - Israeli Military Strike Would Delay Iranian Bomb For Years

Israeli Officials: Has Former Chief Of Staff Gone Crazy - He Should Keep His Mouth Shut

Acting PM Olmert: Israel Will Not Tolerate Iran Acquiring Nuclear Weapons

Moshe Yaalon

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon startled Israel by declaring publicly: 'The IDF has the military capability to destroy Iran's nuclear installations and setting back Tehran's quest to acquire the bomb for years'. The subject of the lecture was Halting Iran's Nuclear Program, Is there any Israeli Option? Reacting in Jerusalem, Israeli officials severely reprimanded the general for just about detailing how it could be done. However, speaking shortly before Yaalon's briefing, Acting PM Ehud Olmert also declared that 'Israel will not tolerate Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons'.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'Israel has the military capability to deal a severe blow to Iran's nuclear installations and set back its nuclear weapons program for several years' - that revelation comes from none other than the IDF's former Chief of Staff General Moshe Yaalon.

Iranian nuclear reactor

General Yaalon noted that an Israeli air strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 had succeeded, preventing Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons. But Israel's former top soldier also stressed two points: Iranian nuclear weapons were a headache for the entire West and not just Israel; secondly, the current diplomatic effort to isolate Tehran politically and economically should first be exhausted. The retired general noted that more than one strike would be required to knock out the several dozen Iranian nuclear sites. He had no doubt the combined air forces of Europe, the U.S. and Israel could carry out such a mission. Israel was also capable of 'disrupting Iran's air defenses'. General Yaalon added that Israel had several options at its disposal and not just an air strike. He did not elaborate but the Israel Navy operates a small number of highly sophisticated submarines. Moreover, an Israeli operation could be as accurate as a targeted killing of a terrorist in the Palestinian areas. In fact, Yaalon said it could even be easier that taking out a solitary terrorist in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The target was not mobile and there would be no collateral damage.

Iranian Reaction: Iran would likely respond by launching its Shihab missiles at Israel. Hezbollah in south Lebanon could also be counted on firing its Katyusha and Scud missiles into Galilee while the Palestinians would step up their Qassam rocketing of Israel. Yaalon said Israel has an answer. Its Arrow anti-missile missile system was now fully operational and could cope with incoming Iranian rockets. (During Israel's Defensive Shield Operation in the West Bank, I asked the then Israel Air Force Commander Dan Halutz if he had an answer for the more than ten-thousand rockets that Iran and Syria have supplied Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Halutz said yes).

Iran's Nuclear Time-line: Yaalon, Chief of Staff until last summer, estimated that if not stopped, the Iranians would acquire the nuclear know-how for building the bomb within six to eight months. The road would then be open for them to produce nuclear weapons within three to five years. Israel hoped that others would do the job but could not rule out a military operation if Iranian President Ahmadinejad wanted to wipe the Jewish state off the map'.Israeli Reaction: On learning of Yaalon's expose, one Israeli official was flabbergasted. He snapped: 'Has Yaalon gone crazy, he should keep his mouth shut!' The more formal reaction was that Israel must stay focused on the international community's diplomatic effort to block Iran and not shift attention to a preemptive Israeli air strike. In addition, the Americans obviously had a military option but they didn't go talking about it in public. In an interview before Yaalon's lecture, Acting PM Ehud Olmert said: 'Under no circumstances can Israel agree to Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel has joined in the effort to bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council for action'. Olmert refused to discuss possible scenarios adding: 'There are things that cannot be said and we must work a lot and talk a little'.

Bottom Line: Well in Yaalon's case, the Israeli position has been made very forcefully and publicly. For the first time, an Israeli spokesman in the know has put the life and death issue on the line by discussing the nuts and bolts of an Israeli preemptive strike if all else fails. It may serve to present some Security Council members with the stark alternative if they get cold feet about imposing sanctions on the Ayatollahs when push comes to shove. Actually, despite apparently rapping Yaalon's knuckles, isn't Olmert saying the same thing with a different emphasis? Moreover, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was once asked if Israel had a military option for Iran, Sharon replied 'Yes'.

David Essing

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