Israeli Cabinet Minister Says Netanyahu's Planned War on Iran Would Last 30 Days, Kill Thousands
August 16, 2012
Amy Teibel / Associated Press
An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program could trigger a bloody month-long war on multiple fronts, killing hundreds of Israelis or more, the Israeli Cabinet's civil defense chief warned in an interview published Wednesday. It was the most explicit assessment yet of how the government sees events unfolding in the aftermath of an Israeli attack.
Israel Sees Month-long War after Iran Strike
Amy Teibel / Associated Press
JERUSALEM (August 15, 2012) -- An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program could trigger a bloody month-long war on multiple fronts, killing hundreds of Israelis or more, the Israeli Cabinet's civil defense chief warned in an interview published Wednesday. It was the most explicit assessment yet of how the government sees events unfolding in the aftermath of an Israeli attack.
Matan Vilnai, who is stepping down as the "home front" Cabinet minister to become Israel's ambassador to China, described the scenarios to Israel's Maariv daily at a time of heightened debate about the Iranian nuclear threat.
Vilnai, a retired general who was deputy military chief of staff, has spent the past five years overseeing upgrades of Israel's civil defense systems, including air-raid sirens, bomb shelters and a public alert system.
In the Maariv interview, Vilnai said "the home front is ready as never before." Nonetheless, he said the country must be braced for heavy casualties in the case of conflict with Iran.
Vilnai said the government has prepared for the possibility of hundreds of rockets and missiles falling on Israeli population centers each day, with the expectation of 500 deaths.
"It could be that there will be fewer fatalities, but it could be there will be more. That is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts," he said. "The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts."
Israel is convinced that archenemy Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, dismissing Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes. Israel considers nuclear-armed Iran to be a mortal danger. Iran backs anti-Israel militants with funds and weapons, and its leaders often call for Israel's destruction.
In his latest pronouncement, Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei said Israel will disappear from "the scene of geography." Addressing war veterans in Tehran on Wednesday, he said Iran considers it its "religious duty to save this Islamic country (Palestine) from the clutches of the Zionist occupiers."
Israel's leaders have indicated an attack is a possibility if they conclude the international community has failed to halt the Iranian nuclear program.
Vilnai did not elaborate on how he reached his assessments, but his office relies on intelligence and other assessments about Iranian weapons capabilities and Israeli susceptibility. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has also said the Israeli death toll could be in the range of 500 in such a conflict.
"Just as the citizens of Japan have to realize that they can have earthquakes, so the citizens of Israel have to realize that if they live here, they have to be prepared to expect missiles on the home front," Vilnai said. "It's not pleasant for the home front, but decisions have to be made, and we have to be ready."
Vilnai has made similar comments in other media outlets in recent days.
At a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reaffirmed the U.S. assessment that Israel has not yet decided whether to strike, while the U.S. military chief, Gen. Martin Dempsey, echoed a widely held assessment that an Israeli operation would only set back, not destroy, Iran's nuclear project.
Vilnai was stepping down Wednesday to take up his new post in China. He is being replaced by a former internal security service chief, Avi Dichter.
Associated Press writer Ali Akbar Dareini contributed from Tehran, Iran.
Israel Media Talk of Imminent Iran War Push
Dan Williams / Reuters
JERUSALEM (August 10, 2012) -- Israel's prime minister and defence minister would like to attack Iran's nuclear sites before the US election in November but lack crucial support within their cabinet and military, an Israeli newspaper said on Friday.
The front-page report in the biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth came amid mounting speculation -- fuelled by media leaks from both the government and its detractors at home and abroad -- that war with Iran could be imminent even though it might rupture the bedrock ties between Israel and the United States.
"Were it up to Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran would take place in the coming autumn months, before the November election in the United States," Yedioth said in the article by its two senior commentators, which appeared to draw on discussions with the defence minister but included no direct quotes.
Spokesmen for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Barak declined to comment.
Yedioth said the top Israeli leaders had failed to win over other security cabinet ministers for a strike on Iran now, against a backdrop of objections by the armed forces given the big tactical and strategic hurdles such an operation would face.
"The respect which in the past formed a halo around prime ministers and defence ministers and helped them muster a majority for military decisions, is gone, no more," Yedioth said. "Either the people are different, or the reality is different."
Israel has long threatened to attack its arch-foe, seeing a mortal menace in Iranian nuclear advances and dwindling opportunities to deal them a blow with its limited military clout. Washington has urged Israel to give diplomacy more time.
The war talk is meant, in part, to stiffen sanctions on Tehran -- which denies seeking the bomb and says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes -- by conflict-wary world powers. Israel and the United States have publicly sought to play down their differences, the latter saying military force would be a last-ditch option against Iran.
A Reuters survey in March found that most Americans would support such action, by their government or Israel's, should there be evidence Iran was building nuclear weapons -- even if the result was a rise in gas prices.
But US President Barack Obama, seeking re-election in November, has counselled against what he would deem premature Israeli unilateralism. He recently sent top officials to try to close ranks with the conservative Netanyahu.
Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an old friend of Netanyahu who casts himself as a more reliable bulwark for Israeli security, also visited Jerusalem last month.
The Yedioth article said, without citing sources, that some government advisers in Israel and the United States believed a pre-November strike might "embarrass Obama and contribute to Romney's chances of being elected."
Yedioth said the aim of an initial Israeli attack on Iran could be to trigger an escalation that would draw in superior US forces -- but described Barak as dismissive of this theory.
"He believes that America will not go to war, but will do everything in its power to stop it. It will give Israel the keys to its emergency (munitions) stores, which were set up in Israel in the past. Israel needs no more than this," Yedioth said.
Netanyahu, apparently trying to avoid being seen as meddling in US politics, has voiced gratitude for cross-partisan support of Israel in Washington, while insisting his country remains responsible for its own security.
Haaretz, an influential liberal Israeli newspaper, quoted an unnamed senior official in the Netanyahu government as saying the Jewish state -- widely assumed to have the region's only atomic arsenal -- potentially faced a greater danger from Iran than on the eve of its 1967 war with several Arab neighbours.
That thinking seems to be gaining ground domestically.
A poll published on Friday by the mass-circulation Maariv daily found that 41 percent of Israelis saw no chance of non-military pressure on Iran succeeding, versus 22 percent who thought diplomacy could work.
While 39 percent of Maariv's respondents said dealing with Iran should be left to the United States and other world powers, 35 percent said they would support Israel going it alone as a last resort -- up from previous polls that found around 20 percent support for the unilateral option.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Tim Pearce
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