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Israel's Last Iranian Resort

Maj. Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliahu: 'No Chance Of Diplomacy Succeeding With Iran Without Military Option'

Maj. Gen.(res.) Yaakov Amidror: 'Air Exercise Does Not Mean Israel Has Decided To Attack Iran's Nuclear Installations, Only That Such A Capability Is Being Developed'

IsraCast Assessment: Israel Has Now Warned Both Iran & International Community That Time Is Running Out

Israeli Air Force F15 (Photo: IDF)

Has Israel carried out a dress rehearsal for a massive air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities? In Jerusalem, officials refuse to comment on the New York Times report that more than 100 Israeli F-15s and F-16s carried out an air exercise over the Mediterranean Sea. According to Pentagon sources the exercise simulated an attack on Iran. IsraCast says the Israel Air Force has sent a message loud and clear in different directions.

Maj. Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu, a former commander of the Israel Air Force (Photo: IDF)

If anyone knows about air exercises and the real thing, it's Maj. Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliahu, a former commander of the Israel Air Force. He says Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to war when it comes to halting Iran from continuing its nuclear weapons program. But he adds: 'There is no diplomacy with Iran without a military option and there is no such option without training and air exercises. The other side must not just hear threats but be made aware there is a military option that is doable and ready for action'.

Writing in the Israeli daily 'Israel Hayom' the former fighter pilot argued that the IAF exercise not only did not cause deterioration in the present situation, but it may advance the important diplomatic effort. This also explains the U.S. leaking the story which it probably knew about in advance. But most Israeli analysts have no illusions that it will dissuade Iranian President Ahmadinejad from halting his nuclear weapons drive. The question is whether the international community will now get serious about imposing meaningful sanctions that could pressure Tehran into halting its nuclear weapons program. So far, EU members, Russia and China have all preferred to benefit from their tens of billions of dollars in annual trade with Tehran. In any case, Ben Eliahu concludes that Ahmadinejad's latest warning that the destruction of the Jewish state is fast approaching vindicates Israel's huge investment in aircraft and the Arrow missile defense system.

The Iranian Missile Range

The Israeli intelligence assessment is that Iran will pass the nuclear point of no return late next year or early in 2010. U.S. President George W. Bush, a firm friend of Israel leaves the White House next January and it is unclear if this will be a factor in Israel's decision making. But the IAF exercise could mean that the Israeli leadership is beginning to doubt the Bush vows that everything must be done to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Maj. Gen.Yaakov Amidror, an intelligence expert, contended that the IAF exercise should not be interpreted as meaning that Israel has now taken a decision to attack Iran - it did mean that Israel was developing such a capability. When planning such an air strike three components had to be taken into account: where and what to hit to achieve the acquired result; planning the attack- mainly selecting the proper weaponry and attack tactics and third, how to reach the targets - the number and type of aircraft. The long and arduous intelligence effort always left room for doubt about what the intelligence did not know. Planning the attack required tests with training and exercises to achieve the best performance possible over a period of time. The third component was made complex by the use of hundreds of aircraft. Flight plans had to be worked out, refueling in the air, on attacking aircraft, evasive tactics and the flight home. In spite of modern simulations, there was no alternative but to conduct an exercise so that everyone, from the pilots to the Chief of Staff, could feel confident about the mission. There were an infinite number of details involved and the exercise helped identify trouble spots.

All this planning was going on simultaneously. The IDF would have to continue this process until the government decided whether or not to attack Iran. Gen. Amidror concluded that the Israel Air force could not be responsible for the government's delaying such a decision or its execution.

David Essing

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