The Missing Context: Israel’s June War Exercise Directed at Iran

July 9th, 2008 - by admin

Ha’aretz – 2008-07-09 21:15:34

US Analyst: Mullen Made Clear Israel Has No ‘Green Light’ to Attack Iran

TEL AVIV (Jul 9, 2008 ) — A senior US strategic analyst says the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, sent Israel an unequivocal message stating that Israel does not have a “green light” from the US to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Professor Anthony Cordesman of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies foreign policy think tank is considered a leading researcher in the area of US national security. In the past he served in senior positions in the Defense Department, and was Senator John McCain’s National Security Assistant.

Cordesman is visiting Israel this week, and gave a lecture Monday at Tel Aviv University and at Hebrew University on Sunday. He talked about Mullen’s comments last week in Washington when the Admiral said such an Israeli attack would be dangerous and could destabilize the Middle East.

Mullen spoke after returning from a visit to Israel, during which he met with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and other senior IDF officers.

Cordesman said Mullen came to Israel to deliver a message that Israel did not have a green light to attack Iran and that it would not receive US support for such a move.

According to Cordesman, Mullen was expressing the official opinion of the US administration, including that of President George W. Bush and the National Security Council.

Mullen said last week that the president, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff said they are choosing to work for now through diplomatic channels to put pressure on Iran: “The best way to solve it diplomatically is for the United States to work with other nations to send a focused message, and that is that you will be isolated and you will have economic hardship if you continue trying to enrich,” explained Mullen.

Cordesman explained that senior American officers do not make such public statements without permission from the White House.

In his Jerusalem lecture, Cordesman said the US has a plan for a military attack on Iran, but is continuing with diplomatic efforts for now. He estimated that if a change were to be made in the US position on an attack against Iran, it would only be made during the next administration.

Israel Conducted War Games, US Officials Report
Robin Wright / Washington Post

WASHINGTON ( June 21, 2008) — In the latest sign of escalating tension over Tehran’s alleged nuclear program, Israel held a massive military exercise this month that involved the types of warplanes, distances and maneuvers required for airstrikes on Iran, according to senior US officials.

The mock operation reflected a growing policy schism over Iran among major international players at a time when US politics may freeze major decisions until a new administration is in place, its officials are confirmed and a policy review is complete.

More than 100 Israeli warplanes — including F-15s and F-16s, refueling tankers and helicopters for pilot rescue — were involved in the military exercise, which was first reported by the New York Times yesterday. Israeli warplanes flew as much as 900 miles across the Mediterranean and back, US officials said.

Israel refused to comment on the exercise. “The Israeli Air Force regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

Western officials said Israel has carried out maneuvers as part of a program started in the 1990s by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He began acquiring long-range bombers and missiles after warning that Iran’s nuclear program threatened Israel’s existence.

But the latest exercise comes at a tense time, with the standoff in diplomacy fueling divergent strategies. Washington faces growing constraints; Israel feels increasingly threatened; and US allies are determined to avoid military action. Iran is more powerful than at any time since the 1979 revolution, US officials say.

Iran is now producing about one kilogram of low-enriched uranium a day for its energy program, which Tehran has repeatedly stated is only for electricity, not weaponry. By the end of the year, Iran could have 500 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. It would take about 700 kilograms to begin enrichment for weapons-grade uranium for a bomb, according to former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright. In a move that may have been partly fueled by domestic politics, Israeli Transportation Minister and former Army chief Shaul Mofaz said this month that an attack on Iran was unavoidable because international sanctions had been ineffective.

Israel’s exercise sends a signal to Iran and its allies. “It’s a way of saying, ‘If you’re not willing to ratchet up the pressure, you’re going to make force more likely, as the current path is not changing Iranian behavior,’ ” said Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The challenge of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program is complicated by other issues. A lame-duck Bush administration and presidential candidates with disparate positions limit Washington’s short-term options, US officials and analysts said. The US presence in Iraq also might be undermined by military action that could provoke an Iranian response.

“I don’t think the Pentagon is in the business of scaring the Iranians,” said former assistant secretary of state Martin Indyk, now at the Brookings Institution. “They are happy with the way things are going in Iraq and don’t want anything to upset the apple cart in a way that will make the surge look problematic.”

A senior Iranian cleric warned that Iran will respond to external threats. “If the enemies, particularly Israel and its American backers, adopt a language of force against Iran, they can be sure that they will receive a strong slap on the face from Iran,” cleric Ahmad Khatami said in a sermon broadcast on state radio.

The soaring price of oil is another constraint on US military action or on prospects that the Bush administration would give Israel a green light to act. “A raid on Iran would convulse the markets,” said J. Robinson West of PFC Energy. “The price would go into uncharted territory. Pick a number. It could easily reach $200.”

But oil markets may not deter Israel, said energy specialist James Placke, a former US diplomat. “Take Israel’s statements at face value. They really do regard [Iran’s program] as an existential threat, and they will do whatever they feel is necessary.”

The Bush administration said yesterday that it is firmly committed to a package presented last weekend by the world’s six major powers. The deal calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for political and economic incentives, including talks with Washington.

“We’ve told the Israelis, we’ve told everybody who will listen, anybody who asks, what our focus is on in terms of the diplomacy, trying to make that work, trying to find a peaceful resolution to a very serious issue,” said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman.

Russia, one of the six powers involved, warned against military action. “If things happen like threats of force and unilateral sanctions outside the framework of the [U.N.] Security Council, it is distracting from the negotiating process,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations. “A military move would have devastating consequences for the prospect of resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, for the region and internationally.”

Tehran has sent mixed signals on the incentives package, with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki saying Thursday that the offer is under study. Western officials are not optimistic about a breakthrough.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company
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Israel conducts War Games directed against Iran and Syria

Global Research Editor’s Note: The following report suggests that Israel is on a war footing. These war games are not defensive in nature as claimed by the Israeli government. These military exercises are part of the broader US-Israeli military agenda in relation to Iran and Syria.

Israel Readies Largest Exercise Ever to Prepare for Iran-Syria Missile War
Global Research & World

TEL AVIV (April 1, 2008) — Israel plans to conduct its largest exercise ever to set contingencies for massive missile attacks by Iran and Syria. The government has been preparing for a five-day exercise in April that would simulate conventional and nonconventional missile strikes from Iran, Lebanon and Syria. Officials said the exercise would test emergency response as well as evacuation of cities struck by enemy missiles.

The exercise, scheduled to begin on April 6, has been organized by National Emergency Authority. The authority was established in 2007 as part of recommendations in the aftermath of the Hizbullah war a year earlier, in which 4,500 rockets landed in Israel.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i has been responsible for the exercise, meant to integrate efforts by the military, police and emergency services. The exercise also envisioned missile and rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities by the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

The exercise would include a simulation conducted by the government. Officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would convene the Cabinet to order a response to the enemy strike.

Officials said the exercise could take place annually amid an assessment that Iran would assemble a nuclear bomb as early as 2009. In 2007, the military halted an effort to replace gas masks distributed in the late 1990s.

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